Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAN BACKS USING $1 COIN TO HELP NATIONAL DEBT; He Said the Coins Are Durable Enough to Last 30 to 50 Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAN BACKS USING $1 COIN TO HELP NATIONAL DEBT; He Said the Coins Are Durable Enough to Last 30 to 50 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS - Charlie Smith isn't a person who nickels and dimes his friends, but when it comes to dollars, that's another issue.

The St. Marys lawyer and former state representative is urging everyone he knows to stop using $1 bills and start using the $1 coin that has been in circulation since 2000.

Smith estimates he has circulated 10,000 of the coins since he started his campaign this year.

He drops them in the collection plate at church. He buys meals with the coins. He recently spent 300 of them at the Kentucky Derby. He even pays his water bill with them.

Smith will encourage civic leaders to follow his example Monday when he speaks to the St. Marys Kiwanis Club.

"It's failed, pretty much," he said of the government's attempts to get the public to accept the coin. "Most people aren't aware they exist.

Smith insists he isn't doing this for notoriety or publicity. He estimates the federal government could save $500 million a year if dollar bills were replaced with coins.

The gold-colored coins made of an alloy of copper, nickel, zinc and magnesium cost the U.S. Mint about 12 cents apiece to make, but they are durable enough to last 30 to 50 years.

The mint prints about 4 billion $1 bills each year, and they have a life span of about 19 months, Smith said.

"I'm going to ask them to try it out to help the national debt," he said. "What if Camden County led the nation using these? What if national media picked this up?"

Smith said the U.S. Mint will mail the coins at no cost to consumers if they purchase at least 250 of them. He sells them for cash at face value to help get the coins in circulation.

Smith said some people don't like the coins because they believe it's too easy to mistake them for quarters. But it's easy to tell the difference, even in the dark, because quarters have milled edges that are easy to feel and the $1 coins, which are larger, only have a slight indentation on the edges where "In God We Trust" is inscribed.

"A blind person could tell the difference, easily," Smith said.

Others argue the coins wear out pockets, and vending machines won't take them. …

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