U.S. Suspends Production of Presidential $1 Coins

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If you were the federal government, what would you do if you had a billion unwanted and unused dollar coins? Until today, the answer would have been keep spending millions of dollars making more and more of them.

But the Treasury Department has now ordered that production of presidential dollar coins be suspended.

"Minting $1 coins that ultimately end up sitting in Federal Reserve Bank vaults - and serve no useful purpose for businesses, financial institutions and consumers - is simply not a prudent use of taxpayer resources,"  Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said.

The U.S. mint had already made coins for every president from George Washington to James Garfield: 1.4 billion of them now held in storage by the Federal Reserve.  They had planned to keep going, making coins for every dead president.  Stopping production might upset those eagerly awaiting the upcoming President Grover Cleveland dollar coin, but the Treasury Department says it will save taxpayers $50 million a year.

It's a common-sense move.  The coins cost 32 cents apiece to make.  Transporting them and storing them cost millions more.  As ABC News reported in July, there are so many unused coins that the Federal Reserve needed to spend $650,000 building an extra vault in Texas to store them.

The Treasury Department says the decision to suspend production of the coin is part of President Obama's effort to cut back on waste in government.

"That's the right decision for taxpayers," Wolin said. "And going forward, we'll continue our work to identify additional opportunities to support President Obama's critical objective to cut waste and improve efficiency across government."

The presidential coin was introduced in 2005 by an act of Congress. The program was scheduled to continue until 2016, when, the Treasury Department estimated, there would be an inventory of 2 billion unused coins.

But don't despair for Grover Cleveland, or any other president who has yet to appear on a dollar coin.  The U.S. Mint will begin making the coins again next year, but in much, much smaller numbers.

The next coin in the series - the President Chester Arthur $1 coin - will be released in the spring.  But the U.S. Mint will only make enough to meet the demands of collectors who pre-order the coin.