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Dollar coins can save U.S. money

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Stacey Vanek-Smith: We throw around a lot of big numbers on this show — millions, billions, trillions. But this next bit of news is a little more on the level of most of us: dollar coins. Andrew Jackson’s visage will grace the new ones coming out next month. Maybe the former president will have better luck filling our pockets than Sacagawea did.

The dollar coins had a lot of trouble catching on. But the U.S. Mint is hoping to change all that and make dollar coins . . . well, a dime a dozen. Jeremy Hobson reports.

Jeremy Hobson: There actually is a good reason why the Mint is trying to get us to use dollar coins instead of bills. The Government Accountability Office says Uncle Sam could save $522 million a year in production expenses if we did. That’s because the coins last 30 years, while the bills don’t even last 30 months.

But no one seems to use the coins — not even this coin proponent:

Robert Whaples: I haven’t used a dollar coin in who knows how many years.

Wake Forest University Economist Robert Whaples says there are logical places to use the coins:

Whaples: The place that I’ve seen it be in circulation the most usefully has been, you know, when I go to some large cities and they’ll be using it in their subway system or something like that.

The U.S. Mint is launching an effort next month to expand the dollar coin’s usage above ground at cash-heavy businesses like fast-food joints and retail mega-stores like Wal-Mart. Spenders in Charlotte, Portland, Oregon, Austin and Grand Rapids will be the guinea pigs for the Mint’s latest trial.

In Washington, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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