I hate coins and I wish they would die a molten death.
They jangle in my pockets attracting unsavoury attention from ne'er-do-wells, rub the material in my pockets causing holes and fall out when I sit down.
Constant pressure from inflation means that the cost of living is now ten times higher than our parents’ generation, just one generation ago. Coins are from an era where you could get a huge mixed bag of lollies for just 10 cents.
Coins have no place in modern society.
Let’s look at some of the problems with coins. Do you like to lazily sip hot coffee on a Saturday morning whilst slowly relaxing with a newspaper, an empty plate beside you covered in crumbs from scrambled eggs on toast?
Have you ever then sprung up out of your chair like a Maasai warrior, leaping across the room in a wide-eyed state of panic screaming NOOOOOOOOOO!!! as your 1yo puts a $2 coin in their mouth to taste it before swallowing? Over 1700 children were admitted to Victorian public hospitals between 1987 and 1995 after ingesting a coin.
You get the point - the Royal Melbourne Show puts a lot of effort into show-bag testing to ensure there are no small parts that kids can swallow; how are coins still allowed in society?
If you’ve ever closed up shop and counted the till at the end of the day, you’ll know how stinky your hands get afterwards. This stink comes from touching coins that are covered in beer, coffee, snot, poo (really!
There was a study done on the incidence of faecal bacteria on bar snacks from grubby people not washing their hands after going to the toilet) and disease. Another recent study from the Future Microbiology journal concluded that contaminated coins are a public health risk.
The Royal Australian Mint told a Senates Estimates hearing recently that it now costs $110 million a year to replenish the supply of coins in circulation.
That’s just to maintain the supply of coins because the population keeps losing them down the back of couches.
There are also huge security costs involved with moving coins around, use of clearing houses and theft prevention that banks and governments simply pass on to consumers. How many new police officers or nurses would these savings pay for?
Other countries heave recognised these problems and are leading the way into the digital age.
The government of Ecuador, a country of 16 million people, will shortly operate an electronic money system for its people that will allow citizen and resident access to making payments from mobile devices.
They hope to recoup just $3 million from the replenishment of coins and think the benefits outweigh the costs.
The Philippines are also trialling the creation, adoption and perfection of electronic pesos, according to a bill approved by their House of Representatives last year.
Bitcoin in its current form might not work for the Australian government because citizens probably wouldn’t trust what the government would do with its new power and information. Bitcoin is also a global currency rather than an Australian one.
There are, however, a number of features of digital money that are attractive.
These include the elimination of counterfeit currency, the fact that a government-backed system would mean the elimination of merchant fees and also increased tracking of criminal payments.
One possible solution for Australia would be to begin printing $1 and $2 notes again and bring them back into circulation, then ditch all coins and promote digital payments.
This doesn’t fix the disease problem because we’d still be using notes but it does save the country the extraordinary expense involved with minting new coins every year and reduces the risk to small children.
One problem is how to purchase smaller goods or services that cost less than $1.
The alternatives would be to simply pay an accurate amount electronically with a credit card or otherwise increase the number of goods to be sold when paying with a $1 note. Two stamps for a dollar, you get the idea.
I know that this will also not make me popular with collectors of shiny coins and my father will be rolling in his grave for even suggesting we kill the coin.
However the truth is that scarcity creates demand and their collections will actually grow in value if coin production is stopped.
As Monty Python famously asked, 'What have the Romans ever done for us?'
The Romans copied and improved the idea of coins when they conquered most of Europe and alongside bartering, used coins to trade goods and services fairly.
I’d like to think we’ve moved on a little since then and as a first-world country, can see that the future lies in digital currency.
Dropping the use of coins won’t move us all the way to digital currency as we would still be using notes but it is the quickest and most rewarding step forward on the path to the future.