Presidential Dollars

Presidential dollar coins

In 2007, the United States mint produced over a billion presidential dollar coins along with hundreds of millions of Sacagawea dollars. One goal is to coax Americans into using coins instead of paper dollars. This would save the government half a billion dollars annually in printing costs. If Americans were refusing to circulate coins with Sacagawea on them, perhaps they would be more willing to circulate them if they depicted Millard Fillmore instead. Americans are likely to give the same answer to these coins that they have given to other dollar coins the US government has foisted upon them. They may be fun to collect, but as a circulating coin, Americans will respond with "No thanks."  In fact, as a circulating coin, the mint halted production in December 2011. the coins are currenlty made for collector's only just like the Kennedy half dollar.

Peter Planchet's cynical History of Dollar Coins

In Canada the one dollar coin (the loonie) and two dollar coin (the toonie) freely circulate. The smallest Canadian paper bill is now a five. But here in the US, we have no interest in the dollar coins. We never have. The United States first introduced the silver dollar and half dollar in 1794. Two years later, the half dime, dime, and quarter were introduced. While the smaller denominations of coins were popular, the dollar ran out of steam by 1803. Among the complaints was that it was too heavy. Americans had rejected the first dollar coin. The dollar was reintroduced in 1840. This time it had a thirty-four year stint, the longest in American history. It was discontinued in 1873, when President Ulysses Grant made gold, not silver, the monetary standard. In the late 1870 's, the price of silver plummeted, resulting in Congress passing the Bland-Allison Act, which required the government to purchase between two and four million dollars worth of silver each month and convert it into silver dollars. The idea was to help the silver mining towns in the west, which, in turn, would help the midwest. The bill passed over the veto of President Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1878, mints in Philadelphia, Carson City, and San Francisco started minting the silver dollars in large numbers. Over twenty million dollars were produced in 1878 alone -- more than the total number of silver dollars produced in all of US history up to that point. A small percentage of these dollars circulated in the west, where they enjoyed some popularity. But in the East, there was little interest in using them as circulating coins. This gave the treasury the job of storing all of the useless coins. The Treasury building in Washington and the mints were dedicated to the storage of these unwanted coins. The dollar production madness lasted until 1904, when the silver bullion supply ran out. Many of these dollars met their fate in 1918, when, under the Pittman Act, over two hundred seventy million dollars were melted. The remaining dollars stayed in the treasury and were not released until the 1960's.

The Eisenhower dollar

Soon after the Pittman act, the US began minting dollars again in large quantities to provide backing for silver certificates. Dollar production continued from 1921 through 1935. Again, the need for creating a circulating coin was not an issue.The next attempt at making a dollar as a circulating coin was in 1971 with the Eisenhower dollar. The coins were no longer silver, but were composed of the copper-nickel combination found in our other coins. They suffered the same fate. Few were willing to carry a pocketful of Ikes in lieu of some neatly folded paper in a wallet.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar

In 1979, there was an attempt to resolve the problem with the introduction of the reduced size Susan B. Anthony dollar. Instead of complaining that the dollars were too heavy, people complained that they were too often confused with quarters. Within three years, the Suzie fizzled. It made a one-year encore presentation in 1999 to fulfill a specific need for vending machines in post offices.

From Sacagawea to the presidents

Next, our government tried the Sacagawea golden dollar.  By changing the color of the coin, it would no longer be confused with the quarter. But Americans still used the paper dollars and rejected the use of the coin. Now, we have a new series of coins depicting presidents. They will be the same size and color of the Sacagawea coins. But now, for some reason, we are told, they will circulate. The presidential dollars will be in addition to the Sacagawea dollars. The Presidential Coin Act requires that for every three presidential dollars, one Sacagawea dollar must be minted. This is due to the fact that the North Dakota Congressional delegation demanded it, rather than a public demand for the coins. In 2006, the mint only produced eight million Sacagaweas. This year they are likely to produce fifty times this number. Coins are not the only potential solution to the problem of the dollar bill. In Australia, the paper bills are made out of a plastic polymer, which lasts about five times longer than the traditional paper bills, while maintaining the popular characteristic that it can be folded and placed in a wallet. Other countries are now following Australia s lead. But here in the US, we will continue to produce dollar coins that our citizens are averse to spending. Over a billion dollar coins will be produced this year. The question is where will we put them? In 2011, Rutherford B. Hayes will be depicted on our dollar coin. Perhaps this will be a good time to evaluate his quote concerning the dollars he was storing in his time. According to Hayes: We have minted silver dollars and we have spent a lot of dough trying to keep them in circulation, but they keep coming back. The people don't want them.  This comment that Hayes made in 1880 might hold true in another decade when the government is forced to address the question of where to store the unwanted dollars.

Collecting Presidential Dollars

The public may not be spending them, but the presidential dollars could still be fun to collect. Following are the designs for the first year (including the reverse.

For each design, circulating coins will be minted in Philadelphia and Denver, while proof coins will be made in San Francisco.

Presidential Dollars Error Coins

The presidential dollar coins have writing on the edge. Scarce varieties exist in which the writing has been omitted. On the internet, there are many conspiracy theorists (search them out!) who beleive that this was a deliberate attempt by atheists at the mint to leave out the phrase "In God We Trust." While Dr. Planchet may believe in many conspiracies, this one sounds a bit too ridiculous.


2007 Presidential $1 Coin image [or images] from the United States Mint.