US Mint: Wasting Money By Making Money

VIDEO: Federal government mints coins that nobody uses.
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The U.S. Mint in Philadelphia is a big, noisy, busy operation, capable of minting nearly 2 million presidential dollar coins daily. But most of those coins go into storage, never seeing the light of day. Costing 32 cents apiece to produce, these manganese brass dollars have proven unpopular with a public that prefers paper.

ABC News went to one such storage facility, the Federal Reserve in Baltimore, where the coins are in plastics bags and cardboard boxes, stacked one on top of another, creating several aisles of presidential coinage worth millions of dollars.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

In their most recent annual report to Congress, the Federal Reserve says the coins are piling up so quickly they will need to spend $650,000 to build a new vault in Dallas to hold them. Shipping the coins to the new secure facility will cost an additional $3 million.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the Presidential $1 Coin Act ordered the mint to make millions of coins to honor every dead president, but not even Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., one of the co-sponsors of the original bill, uses the legal tender.

"Do you use these things? Do you have any of these things in your pocket?" Reed was asked by ABC News' Jonathan Karl while holding the dollar coins. "I don't I tell you, but I like everyone else repeatedly use nickels, dimes, quarters. In fact I have a little jar in my car for the traffic meters."

Reed and other senators sent a letter Tuesday to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Mint Acting Director Richard Peterson asking for help in improving the program while eliminating waste of taxpayer resources.

Meanwhile, the coins keep coming off the production lines, already more than a billion made and counting. The Fed's report estimates that they could have more than $2 billion in excess $1 coins by the time the program is expected to end five years from now.

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