It’s cost taxpayers an unnecessary $300 million so far, and won’t end until 2016. It’s wildly unpopular with the American public, even though it saves the government money in the long run. It’s taking up comical amounts of space in secure federal government vaults. What is it? The United States Mint’s series of dollar coins featuring the faces of all 44 presidents. Congress meant well when authorizing the program in 2005, but failed to realize that the American public thinks that dollar coins are an icky Canadian affectation. One billion of the coins are currently in hibernation, and at least a billion more coins will be minted but destined for storage.
NPR investigated the coin program and even got to see one of the vaults, which look like the world’s weirdest warehouse club. Unfortunately, the government can’t chip away at the deficit by paying federal employees in sacks of James K. Polks. The coins in these vaults don’t become currency until the Federal Reserve trucks them to a bank, or someone orders them directly from the Mint. Until then, they’re legally just shiny objects. That nobody wants. In a bunker.
The original idea of the presidential coin program was good: get people interested in the gold-colored coins, and to collect and spend them. Except Americans don’t actually like the coins, and they end up back at our banks and then back at the Federal Reserve.
Have you seen any of the presidential dollar coins in the wild? My car wash gives them as change, along with Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. We also have two in the cash drawer at the library where I work right now. Otherwise, I never see them. Do you?
$1 Billion That Nobody Wants [NPR] (Thanks, Zoe!)