LaWare Sees Virtue in Dollars that Jingle

WASHINGTON -- Bankers, merhants, and shoppers hated the darned things, but some of the people responsible for manufacturing the nation's money still think $1 coins are a good idea.

With the bill for printing currency rising 25% next year, swapping a durable dollar coin for the flimsy dollar bill could save a bundle, Federal Reserve Governor John LaWare told his colleagues at a Fed meeting Wednesday.

"The average life of a $1 bill is 18 months. For a $1 coin, it's 18 to 20 years," Mr. LaWare said. "Maybe it's time to think about switching."

Cost of Printing Money Rising

The Fed will spend $325.8 million in 1992 to print nine billion Federal Reserve notes, compared to $260.2 million in 1991. Each bill will cost 3.5 cents, versus 3 cents now. Coins cost about a nickel each.

Currency costs are rising for several reasons. Paper costs more. New security features are being phased in, starting with $100, $50, and $20 bills. And the price of ink jumped 16% in Washington and 36% at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Texas shop.

Legislation would be needed to implement a $1 coin, and Congress has turned up its nose at the idea year after year. But Mr. LaWare's remark may have started the ball rolling.

The Susan B. Anthony

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan jumped in first: "What's holding that process up?" Answering his own question, he added, "The Susan B. Anthony coin -- so many people mistook it for a quarter. There's great skepticism."

About half the $700 million in unpopular Susan B. Anthony coins are sitting in Federal Reserve vaults.

"You have to say that this is the way it's going to be," Mr. LaWare said. After Britain replaced the one-pound note with a coin, "it wasn't a popular move there, either."

Need a |Nice' Coin

Governor Wayne Angell raised an aesthetic objection: "If you're going to have a dollar coin you ought to have a nice coin."

"You could get the pocket manufacturing industry lobbying," Mr. LaWare replied. "Think of all that money jingling."

Said Governor Lawrence B. Lindsey, "I don't like the darn things jingling in my pocket."

"I wouldn't have brought it up if I knew," Mr. LaWare said.

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