Few Americans realize it, but there’s a stash of more than $1 billion sitting in Federal Reserve vaults that apparently almost no one wants.
Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in breathtaking numbers (see above photo), thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007, according to NPR.
And even though the pile of coins recently passed the $1 billion mark, the US Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate, it added.
“The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year,” according to NPR.
The coins, which represent the third failed congressional effort to get Americans to embrace dollar coins in daily commerce, were the result of a 2005 legislative decision. These would bear the likeness of every former president, starting with George Washington, with one being issued every quarter.
So, far, the Mint has produced coins through the 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant.
“But as the new presidential dollar coins rolled out, the greenback lost none of its dominance in Americans’ hearts and wallets,” according to NPR.
Indeed, a big part of the problem lies with the fact that the US has never stopped producing $1 bills. Canada, for example, ceased production of its $1 bills in the 1989, shortly after it introduced its $1 coin, called the loonie, for the image of the loon on the front of the coin, into circulation.
With dollar coins replacing worn out dollar bills, the transition was relatively easy in Canada, so much so that our neighbors to the north phased out the $2 bill for a $2 coin in 1996.
The new coins were quickly accepted by the Canadian public, owing largely to the fact that the mint and government forced the switch by removing the $1 and $2 bills from circulation, according to Wikipedia.
It was easier for the bill’s sponsor, then-Rep. Mike Castle, Republican-Delaware, to move the presidential coin bill forward if it didn’t displace other dollar coins honoring Sacagawea, the guide to Lewis and Clark.
As a result, a deal was struck whereby the mint would be required to make a quota of Sacagawea coins. Currently, the law says 20 percent of dollar coins made must have Sacagawea on them.
So, there are now about 1.2 billion dollar-coin “assets” sitting in Federal Reserve vaults. By the time the presidential coin series finishes, and there are coins honoring all past presidents, there could be 2 billion.
NPR reports that some 2.4 billion dollar coins have been minted since the start of the program in 2007, costing taxpayers about $720 million. The government has made about $680 million in profit by selling some 1.4 billion dollar coins to the public since the program began.