The Dollar Coin is Done. Onto the Penny?

In June, NPR’s Planet Money reported on the billion-dollar stash of unused dollar coins piling up at the Federal Reserve. At the time, there were $1.2 billion worth of dollar coins bearing the likeness of U.S. presidents, the result of a 2005 Congressional mandate aimed at getting people to switch from dollar bills to coins. Obviously, that didn’t work. The program, which cost some $300 million, is finally ending.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the pile of unwanted dollar coins has grown to $1.4 billion — enough to meet demand for the next decade. More than 40 percent of all coins have been returned to the government, according to the Treasury Department. The program was supposed to run through 2016, and stamp the likeness of every U.S. president onto a dollar coin. That will still happen, but the amount of coins produced will be significantly reduced, only enough to satisfy the demand of collectors.

This is hardly the first time the government has tried unsuccessfully to foist dollar coins on the U.S. public. There was the Susan B. Anthony, the Sacagawea Golden Dollar, and the Native American $1 Coin – none of which ever really caught on. So, why don’t we (excluding, of course, strippers) like dollar coins? The Canadians have the Loonie, and the British have the one pound coin, both of which replaced small-denomination paper bills.

Whatever the reason, the dollar coin is essentially dead for the time being. Now if we could only get rid of the penny.

Jeff Yates

The difference between the US attempt and other countries is that other countries, such as the UK, committed to the scheme by actually giving a date for the withdrawal of the paper alternative. It wasn't a choice, it was a decision. The lack of commitment to the changeover is what killed it.


Absolutely! When traveling in Canada & Europe, I like having the 1 and 2 dollar/euro coins instead of paper. But I would never expect people to realize that until we force the switch. We're all creatures of habit, right? This will NEVER happen until they eliminate the paper. Given equivalent choices, we'll always stick with the familiar. (so obvious that it's shocking really)

Robert Ancker

dollar coins would work ONLY if you also got rid of the dollar bill at the same time. otherwise, there is no incentive!


Yup. That's what we did in Canada, and we've had the $1 coin (the 'loonie') for almost 25 years now.

I want to find a way to push forward the abolition of the penny; it's ripe for Canadian de-implementation.

Tom Maguire

No one will adopt the dollar coin as long the dollar bill is still printed.
And that the penny is still minted is insanity.
Kill the penny, kill the dollar bill, use $2 dollar bills and dollar coins and every possible change combination works out more efficiently.
Added bonus, cash drawers can use the same amount of slots.

Blaise Pascal

Cease printing new dollar bills, and the dollar coins will enter circulation soon enough.

Given the cost/lifetime ratios of bills and coins, it's questionable that the dollar bill is worth making anyway.

Jonathan Baird

Just do away with paper dollars (along with pennies, nickels, and heck why not dimes?) That would drive people to use the dollar coins maybe.


I can't stand having coins in my pockets. Bills are light, convenient, and compact. I once put $20 in a parking meter and received 17 Sacagawea dollars in return.

I understand that the costs are higher to maintain circulation of paper than coins, but I am very opposed to making the switch.


I've always thought that the problem with dollar coins wasn't so much the existence of the bill, but the fact that there's ONLY dollar coins. Perhaps minting $5, $10, and $20 coins might help the problem you have--instead of seventeen coins coming back, you'd only get four.

Jeff Dean

Dollar coins or dollar bills.

That's it. That's the choice. Which one is cheaper to produce?

Do away with the other one.

Americans clearly will not use both.


I hate having coins in my pocket. Who wants to jingle while he/she is walking around? Keep the dollar bill.

caleb b

Of all the things the government wastes money on, printing dollar bills and minting pennies is low on the list. Let's see if we can get them to stop giving money away to people who don't need it first, then tackle the penny.


Despite all the claims that Americans won't use dollar coins, there was a time - the 1960s and earlier - when we did use them. And not the quarter-sized versions of dollar coins that have been tried since, but the big silver cartwheels. Maybe the problem is perceptual: a dollar coin that's roughly the size of a quarter just doesn't appear to be worth more than the quarter.

The British seem to have a handle on this (or had last time I was there, a decade ago): the pound coin is about the diameter of a quarter, but much thicker, and made of a goldish-looking alloy, giving it the appearance of value.


I'd always figured one of the major reasons that the dollar coin never caught on wasn't so much that people would rather use the bill alternative but that the cash registers did not have a slot for them. I have never worked a cash register but I am guessing the lack of room for dollar coins probably let to them either not being accepted or being returned quickly. My solution, get rid of the penny, then all the coins can be shifted over one and we can better implement a dollar coin.

Jeff Spindler

I use dollar coins all the time - they work in the parking meters!

Eric M. Jones

[partial repost] The 1909-designed Lincoln penny will be 103 years old next year. It’s time to replace it with a George W. Bush penny, made of a much baser alloy, with his least flattering portrait on the front and a selection of his most idiotic pronunciamentos on the back-

Some words of wisdom for the back-

“We’ll put food on the family.”
“You disarm, or we will.”
“I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession.”
“I’ve been in the Bible every day since I’ve been the president.”
The list is endless.

This would do four things-
1) People will still remember this fool 10,000 years from now;
2) People will collect them all over the world;
3) The treasury would make tons of money;
4) And the world might forgive us just a little.