Last year, the Treasury Department didn’t even bother printing any new $10 bills.
NYT reports the number of $5 bills the Treasury made fell to a 30 year low, and the number of George Washingtons also hit a new bottom. It’s all about supply and demand. More and more people are opting to use plastic for even small purchases, so there’s not as much need for the paper.
What about coins? Metal currency production is down, but for a different reason. It’s Coinstar. These machines that let you dump in a bucket of coins and get cash back have helped get a massive amount of coins back into circulation, whereas before they would just sit in people’s jars and between their couch cushions. With so many coins coming back into the stream, the Mint doesn’t have to make as many of them.
I prefer to use cash because I think I spend less when I have to use physical money. But sometimes it’s definitely easier to whip out the plastic, even if it’s just for a $2.50 gallon of milk.
Now, the Treasury “printing money” through quantitative easing is a whole other story…
As Plastic Reigns, the Treasury Slows Its Printing Presses [NYT]
Yes, Coins Too [Economix Blog]