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Denver • Worried that the U.S. dollar may not be good as gold, some Colorado lawmakers are pushing a bill to legalize gold and silver coins as usable currency.
The bill would not lead to folks carrying gold nuggets in their purses and would have little practical effect.
Rather, the policy proposal from a small group of conservative lawmakers reflects anxieties about the nation's financial stability, the domestic consequences of the European debt crisis and chronic deficit spending in Washington, D.C.
"There are lots of concerns about the U.S. monetary system," said the bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs. "Individuals and states ought to be increasing their gold reserves. There's no way to maintain the value of anything if countries start a race to the bottom by inflating their currency to get out of debt."
Utah legalized gold and silver as a currency option last year. And lawmakers in more than a dozen other states have proposed similar legislation on gold currency, said Rich Danker of the American Principles Project. The Washington-based conservative think tank favors a return to the gold standard.
But the proposal pending in the Colorado Senate faces long odds.
Currently, people who want to spend gold and silver coins must convert them to paper dollars first. Minted U.S. gold and silver coins retain their face value, even if the value of the coins' precious metals rises. So a $20 gold coin minted in the 1800s is still legally worth $20, even though its real value may be thousands of dollars in today's market.
The U.S. largely abandoned gold-backed money during World War I in order to pay for the war. In 1971, President Richard Nixon formally abandoned the gold standard.
Lambert said his bill is designed to provide alternatives in case the dollar falls precipitously. The bill cleared a Senate committee with bipartisan support and awaits a vote in the full chamber.