Britain and Canada did it. So did Australia and at least four other countries.

Now should the United States follow suit?The trend we're talking about is the one that involves a country replacing its lowest-value paper currency with coins.

Washington made a stab in that direction last year with a measure to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America by issuing a dollar coin in his honor in 1992. The measure went nowhere.

Now Rep. Jim Kolbe of Ariz. is back with a new version of the same idea. He has introduced legislation calling for a dollar coin that would honor U.S. veterans - not just those in the Persian Gulf but all veterans.

Though the Kolbe measure revives memories of the ill-fated Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, it still makes sense.

The trouble with the Suzie, which bore a likeness of the famed feminist, is that it was the same size and color as a quarter and was constantly confused with the 25-cent piece. No wonder it was rejected by the public and withdrawn from circulation in 1982.

The proposed new dollar coin would look and feel different. And it would save the taxpayers some money.

The dollar bill costs about 2.6 cents to print and lasts an average of only 16 months, after which it is shredded. By contrast, the proposed coin would cost six cents to mint but would stay in circulation for 20 years or more - at a savings of $318 million a year.

But, human inertia being what it is, such savings would not be realized unless the dollar bill was phased out as the new coin was phased in. That has been the experience elsewhere.

Then consider the convenience. The new dollar coin would make life easier for bus riders, for motorists parking at a meter, for consumers using vending machines, for the blind, for those buying a Sunday newspaper from a coin-operated rack, and for those making long-distance calls from a pay phone.

Congress should approve the new coin. The $318 million to be saved each year certainly could be put to better use than it is now.