"We've never bitten the bullet to remove the $1 bill as every other Western economy has done," Diehl said. "If you did, it would have the same success the Canadians have had."
Beverly Lepine, chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, said her country loves its "Loonie," the nickname for the $1 coin that includes an image of a loon on the back. The switch went over so well that the country also went to a $2 coin called the "Toonie."
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., affirmed that Canadians have embraced their dollar coins. "I don't know anyone who would go back to the $1 and $2 bills," he said.
That sentiment was not shared by some of his fellow subcommittee members when it comes to the U.S. version.
Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said men don't like carrying a bunch of coins around in their pocket or in their suits. And Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the $1 coins have proved too hard to distinguish from quarters.
"If the people don't want it and they don't want to use it," she said, "why in the world are we even talking about changing it?"
"It's really a matter of just getting used to it," said Diehl, the former Mint director.
Several lawmakers were more intrigued with the idea of using different metal combinations in producing coins.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, said a penny costs more than 2 cents to make and a nickel costs more than 11 cents to make. Moving to multiplated steel for coins would save the government nearly $200 million a year, he said.
The Mint's report, which is due in mid-December, will detail the results of nearly 18 months of work exploring a variety of new metal compositions and evaluating test coins for attributes as hardness, resistance to wear, availability of raw materials and costs.
Richard Peterson, the Mint's acting director, declined to give lawmakers a summary of what will be in the report, but he said "several promising alternatives" were found.