Having just returned to America having visited Australia I'm struck once again by how poorly designed American money is. By this I don't just mean the design of the money itself, although that is pretty woeful, but more importantly the monetary spacing between coins and notes. In both cases they're pitched way too low given the value of today's money. You routinely end up with a pocket full of worthless metal and a wallet full of near-worthless paper. I recently had the feeling of considerable wealth as my wallet was full of cash but upon counting it it turned out to be 14 $1 bills. The notes themselves are dull and easy to destory.
Compare this to Australia. Australian bank notes are plastic which is untearable and can withstand going through the wash. They are actually quite beautiful, each with distinctive colours and design. But, more to the point, Aussie money is spaced out to be more convenient to consumers.
Useless 1c and 2c coins have been eliminated and it was recently announced that 5c coins would no longer be minted either. There are $1 and $2 coins, meaning that when you have a bunch of coins in your pocket you almost always have enough for a cup of coffee or even lunch. This leaves the lowest value note as $5, so if you have several notes in your wallet you know you have real money to get you through the day.
The American penny is being redesigned in 2010 but a more much logical course of action would be to eliminate it all-together. Apart from its general inconvenience it actually costs more than 1c to mint each penny, so the government is losing money on them, and since 1982 they have been 97.5% zinc, a highly toxic metal. This means pennies can cause damage to the stomach if swallowed and can actually kill dogs.
To break it down:
Australian coins: 5c (being eliminated); 10c; 20c; 50c; $1; $2.
American coins: 1c; 5c; 10c; 25c.
Australian notes: $5; $10; $20; $50; $100.
American notes: $1; $5; $10; $20; $100.
While I have no hope this is ever going to happen: get it together America. It's the 21st Century with both 21st century printing technology but also 21st century prices. You can't go down to the shop for 1c candy anymore, and it actually costs more to make pennies than they are then worth, so why have them at all?
Images from Sean Hackbarth and Joshua Aaron via flickr, both on attribution no-derivates Creative Commons license.