Coins or Bills?
by Sean Carroll
For months now, many
Wal-Mart stores have quietly started handing the
one dollar coins back to customers as change
instead of dollar bills.
Some wonder if this is proof that dollar coins
are making a comeback.
Shoppers at the Wal-Mart in Henrietta were just
beginning to notice the dollar coins they were
given as change.
"I think they're heavier, I wouldn't want to use
them," shopper Jessica Turner said.
"It's alright; it's money,” Lester Nelson, of
Rochester, said. “It's still money, just going
back to the old ways.”
The motivation for putting more dollar coins
into circulation is, well, money. It costs the
U.S. Government more to make coins than dollar
bills, but they last longer.
According to the U.S. Mint, a dollar coin costs
about 20 cents to make, but lasts in circulation
for an average of 30 years.
According the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and
Printing, the dollar bill costs about 4 cents to
make, but only lasts in circulation for about 20
Using that math, it takes 18 dollar bills to
last 30 years for a total cost of 72 cents and
52 cents more that it takes to make one dollar
George Conboy of Brighton Securities speculates
that same reasoning also makes sense for a large
corporation like Wal-Mart.
"Wal-Mart is a business focused highly on
efficiency,” Conboy explained. “It is quite
likely that dollar coins can be much more easily
handled mechanically, or by employees, without
tearing them or losing them.”
Considering the amount of cash passing through
Wal-Mart stores on a daily basis, those little
losses can certainly add up, Conboy said.
But at the “customer’s always right” in the end,
and Conboy doesn’t think Wal-Mart’s use of the
dollar coin is ever going to lead to the
disappearance of the paper bill.
"The mint likes them, some retailers like them,
the vending companies love them,” Conboy said.
“The only people who don't like these coins are
the American public."
Wal-Mart spokespersons were not able to give a
specific reason as to why, and for how long,
they’ve been distributing dollar coins in many
of their stores. They did say they’d continue to
look for answers and get them to us soon.
Customers and some store clerks said dollar
coins have been passed out at the Henrietta
Wal-Mart for the last few months.
Back in 2000, the U.S. Mint actually released
half of all its new Sacagawea dollar coins to
Wal-Mart days before the Federal Reserve
received the coins. It was an effort to promote
the coin, but one that never took with
A spokesman from the U.S. Mint says there is no
such agreement with any major retail agency
concerning the distribution of the 2007-2008
Presidential Dollar Coins.