From time to time you read about the U.S. Treasury department considering doing away with the $1 bill. They say it would be much better, for many reasons, to replace it with a coin. These stories usually also contain many reasons why it would be a bad idea, not the least of which is the failure of the Susan B. Anthony and Sachajawea $1 coins to "catch on".
Apparently, almost every other industrialized nation has already made the switch. And, here in the U.K., there is no 1 Pound note, only a coin. This coin is small in diameter but pretty thick and easily identified both visually and by touch. They’re also heavy and a pocketful of them is pretty weighty. There’s also a 2 Pound coin which is widely-used and reduces the bulge in your pocket.
So, as a newcomer here making the monetary system transition, has it been a shock not having a 1 Pound note? Not at all – I’ve not noticed any operational inconvenience as a result of having to use only 1 Pound coins. In fact, I think I find it rather more convenient to be able to make most small purchases without having to haul out my billfold.
I chalk up the poor acceptance of the Susan B. and Sachajawea dollars to their sizes (one’s too big and the other’s too close to a quarter) and the continued presence of the competing $1 bill. In addition, cash register drawers here are designed so that coins get most of the real estate, which is just the reverse in the U.S. making it difficult for cashiers to find a place to put the $1 coins that do come their way.
I think the U.S. would find that doing away with the $1 bill would not be the end of the world and that retail commerce would very quickly adjust. Coins apparently last 5-10 times as long as bills, are cheaper to produce, and are harder to counterfeit. Go for it, U.S.!
While we’re on the topic of handling money to buy things, every now and then I find myself still surprised by the fact that you pay the exact cost of an item. There is no sales tax on most consumer goods, so the if the price is 6.99, you hand over 6.99. I suppose it’s the same in states that have no sales tax, like Florida, but decades of dishing out an extra 4-5% in Virginia has made an impression, and it’s a pleasure not to have to do so here. They do, of course, have the dreaded Value Added Tax (VAT) on lots of stuff here and that’s 17.5% of the item cost!