San Mateo Daily Journal
By Bill Silverfarb
To cut government waste, the Obama administration announced yesterday it is suspending the production of presidential $1 coins that should save taxpayers $50 million a year over the next several years.
It was an idea proposed by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, back in July as a government cost-cutting measure.
“Everyone has heard of printing money we don’t have. This is minting coins we don’t use. I’m glad to see the administration took this common sense action which reduces government waste,” Speier wrote in a statement yesterday.
Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement at a Cabinet meeting yesterday. The remaining 18 coins scheduled for production will still be minted but made only for sale to collectors, according to the White House.
The U.S. Mint had been producing about 80 million coins per deceased president every three months. It started producing the coins to honor the nation’s dead presidents in 2005. So far, the mint has produced 20 of the commemorative coins, four a year, and planned to mint coins of 18 other former presidents over the next five years.
The coins are not very popular, however, as more than 40 percent of them have been returned to the Federal Reserve, which now has an excess of nearly 1.4 billion of the coins sitting in vaults.
In 2011, the mint produced about 290 million coins of former presidents Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield. George Washington was the first presidential coin released in 2007.
The surplus of the already minted coins makes them of little value to collectors, said Phil Vogt, owner of Camino Coin Company in Burlingame.
“They are not nearly as popular as the quarters were,” Vogt said of the commemorative state quarters compared to the new dollars.
Other dollar coins, such as the Susan B. Anthony and Eisenhower, have also failed in the market, Vogt said.
Future $1 presidential coins, such as the John F. Kennedy, could be more valuable if the mint prints far, far less of them or if a mistake is made while striking them, he said.
The government could save $5.5 billion over 30 years by replacing dollar bills with dollar coins, according to the Government Accountability Office. But even the GAO notes that the public is not supportive of getting rid of the $1 bill.
Dollar coins are more expensive to make but last much longer than the paper bills, which last an average of 40 months, according to the GAO.
“In these tough times, Americans are making every dollar count, and they deserve the same from their government,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wrote in a statement. “We simply shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on money that taxpayers aren’t using.”
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