Information Collection on Public’s View of Circulating Coins
ACC responded this week to the U.S. Mint’s plan to use opinion surveys and focus group interviews to solicit the public’s views on the nation’s circulating coins. The Mint request for public comment is geared to provide information for inclusion in the Mint’s anticipated December 2014 Report to Congress on the metal content of U.S. coins, required under the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010.
In its Mint letter, ACC encouraged the Mint to broaden the scope of their review of public perceptions about circulating coins. More specifically, ACC asked the Mint not to focus exclusively on the penny when many of the issues to be examined – such as negative seigniorage and consumer’s use of coins – implicate the nickel as well.
“Any focus group discussion or polling on the cost to produce the penny does not provide respondents with the full picture unless the nickel is part of the conversation,” said ACC Executive Director Mark Weller.
ACC also noted that questions about the penny should be in the proper context. National polling over the past two decades has consistently shown that between two-thirds and three-fourths of Americans support keeping the cent in circulation. The ACC letter encouraged the Mint to ask polling questions about support for the penny or penny elimination in context of the alternative to the penny, which involves rounding final transactions to the nickel.
Potential topics suggested by ACC for the Mint to explore included:
1) Price rounding – The alternative to the penny – rounding to the nickel – harms consumers and simply cannot be done fairly. ACC polling has shown over three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) are concerned merchants would raise prices without the penny.
2) The penny as a hedge against inflation – Eliminating the penny will have an impact on inflation, both real and perceived. Even a small increase in inflation mounts to considerable sums since virtually all government outlays (e.g. Social Security, welfare programs, interest on the public debt) and many private sector costs (e.g. wages) are tied either formally or informally to the Consumer Price Index.
3) Consumer behavior with the use of coins – ACC has found that consumers and charities benefit greatly with a low denomination coin. The penny is important to the economy and without it working families and America’s many charitable organizations will be harmed. Organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Taco Bell Foundation and Salvation Army, among others, thrive on the penny and rely heavily on donations from the collection of pennies. These collections prove the penny’s value as money.
In their concluding remarks, ACC said the alternative to the penny, rounding transactions to the 5-cent coin, is bad for consumers and our economy. Under the current economic climate, elimination of the penny would automatically increase inflationary impacts after a period of recessionary pressure.