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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.