US Mint Markets Dollar Coins, Consumers Say No

by Mike Unser on October 21, 2008 · 10 comments

The U.S. Mint is spending about $12 million in a four-city pilot program in an attempt to dissuade consumers away from their convictions that dollar coins are superior to paper bills. The pros and cons of $1 coins have been debated for years. The first round knockout always goes to the untouched champ, Mr. Paper Note. The bruised coin then pines away within government storage until its next mandated match.

In a cruel twist of fate, the dollar coin has just a few things going for it — coin collectors who find it unique, its production savings, and a government that continually throws money its way. The latter is despite foreknowledge the coin will always drop to the canvas hard as long as the $1 bill is pumped up by adoring consumer fans who use it every day.

$1 Bill versus $1 Coin: Which is the Winner Today?

$1 Bill and Coin Fun Facts
It takes 56 $1 coins to equal 1 pound (lb), or 455 $1 bills.
$1 coins are much HEAVIER for consumers and businesses.
Paper money is composed of 25% linen and 75% cotton. $1 coins are made mostly of manganese-brass (88.5%) and copper (6%).
Paper money can be folded and shaped to fit nearly anywhere. It’s CONVENIENT.
A stack of dollar bills one mile high would contain over 14.5 million notes. It would take 804,672 dollar coins to reach a mile.
$1 bills are LESS BULKY.
The BEP produced 4.147 billion $1 notes in FY 2007. The United States Mint produced 0.941 billion $1 coins in 2007.
$1 bills are USED DAILY in transactions. Where are all those $1 coins?
It costs ~16 cents to make $1 coins, and each has a life span of about 30 years. It costs ~ 6.2 cents to make $1 bills, and they have a life span of about 21 months.
$1 coins are much more ECONOMICAL.

While the US Mint has produced 120 million Presidential $1 coins on average for each of the first three honored Presidents these last 10 months, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) reported a total production of 316.8 million $1 notes in September alone. What a mismatch.

Supporters of dollar coins will rightly argue they last about 30 years while the life span of a dollar bill is just around 21 months. But just like boxing, endurance means next to nothing if the match ends in round one. The final blow to Presidential $1 coin is that relatively few consumers use or have even seen one in their hand despite over 1.3 billion being minted to date.

USA Today’s Barbara Hagenbaugh wrote an insightful article (embedded below) on the topic of the new coins. She recounts the famous Harris Interactive survey from last March showing that only one-quarter of adults had seen Presidential coins and only 13 percent favored using them over paper money.

Hagenbaugh noted,


Despite the popularity of the state quarter program, the presidential dollar coins have not taken off, and interest appears to be waning. Federal Reserve banks, which buy coins from the Mint based on demand from banks that serve consumers and businesses, bought 96 million of the Andrew Jackson coins, the seventh and latest in the series. That is less than half the amount of Washington coins ordered.


This is not new for $1 coins, however. The failure of the Sacagawea Golden Dollar with 92.7 million of them still in storage from 2000 and 2001 is a small sampling of past letdowns.

Who is at fault for the continual failure of the dollar coin? Certainly not the U.S. Mint. Congress mandates their actions. Responsibility could be placed on the shoulders of a public who refuse to use the coins even though they save money. But that lacks logic. The government is providing an option, after all. People are simply choosing paper over coin for its obvious convenience.

In the end, it is Congress that has failed. If politicians want any degree of real success with $1 coins outside the collecting community, they must eliminate the one dollar bill. Passing legislative directives for various dollar coin designs or programs has not resulted in any significant consumer transactional increases.

The dollar bill, winner by knockout again…

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

circular logic October 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm

my bank doesn’t even have dollar coins. They looked puzzled when I asked to get some as change.

Derek October 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Coins are easier to count, especially in comparison to new bills.

Coins are easier for the blind to distinguish.

Coins work better in vending machines.

If the $2 bill were more widely used, we wouldn’t need to carry around so many ones. So part of the reason for the failure of the dollar coin is the failure of the $2 bill.

Scott in Dc October 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

There are policy reasons that keep the dollar bill in circulation. To read my take about it, go to

Munze December 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, the EU, and a lot of other countries seem not to have had any such “policy reasons”. Are their citizens that much more adaptable than we Americans?

/* “If the $2 bill were more widely used, we wouldn’t need to carry around so many ones. So part of the reason for the failure of the dollar coin is the failure of the $2 bill.” */

The two are intertwined. By continuing to print oceans of $1 bills (about 45% of all notes, per the BEP) and not requiring banks to maintain adequate supplies of $1 coins and $2 bills the government is simply perpetuating the inefficiencies. If nothing else all post offices, national parks, and other federal agencies that have direct public sales could be required to give change in the form of $2 bills and $1 coins. E.g. $4 in change would be given as two 2s, $3 would be a bill and a coin, etc.

billymac11 December 18, 2009 at 8:59 am

The $1 bill has to go. With a couple years production of Presidential and native American dollars behind us (or in a few years more of production) there could be a critical mass of these coins circulating for daily commerce (after all, once they are minted at 30 years longevity, you may as well say they are permanently circulating.

Cut $1 bill production by a billion units annually for 4 years till it’s zero, replacing them with $2 bills at 1 – 2 billion units annually.

Yes, require their use at Post Offices, National parks, etc.

Yes, continue the free shipping of $250 boxes of dollar coins to small business, but figure out a way to discourage the individual scammers who are artificially pumping up their frequent flier miles with their credit card purchases and dumping the coins back at local banks.

Oh, and a portion of the mint’s marketing budget should be directed towards manufacturing and distributing for free change drawers that accommodate dollar coins. And blowing their horn in the media that they are doing that.

Dude January 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Just tell the truth. Americans don’t want to be like Europeans. Our ancestors left that place for a reason. The globalists want us to use the dollar coins and then the $5 paper bill just like the Europeans have their euro coin and 5 euro paper. I’ve noticed most of these websites that claim the dollar coin is superior are full of left leaning posts by internet propaganda workers.

Munzen February 12, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Hmm. Touched a nerve, have we? Once again we hear from the far right, “ANYTHING them $#% furriners says is good has just GOTTA be really wrong and Ah ain’t havin’ no part of it.”

Heck, I supported Goldwater and when I was old enough to vote, voted for Reagan, but I find $1 coins preferable to $1 bills. If the fact that over a billion people use their equivalent of $1 coins every day without civilization coming to an end is somehow a threat to “the American way of life” (whatever that is these days) we’re in deep doodoo.

Silver_Gold_Lead March 31, 2010 at 1:45 am

LOL! Average America only seems like “the far right” when you’re so far left. And it is Americans in general who simply do NOT use the $1 coins.

Now, if the new $1 coins were REAL money (you know, or maybe you don’t, with intrinsic value: silver, gold), then we might consider it. Otherwise, it’s just the same old monopoly money based on promises from those don’t keep promises.

BTW, we ARE in deep doodoo, and that’s without the $1 coinage issue. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

STFU-Teabagger October 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Silver_Gold_Lead – LOL! Average America only seems so leftist to you, when you’re so far right. Oh here we go again! Not yet another Lugwig von Mises school of economics follower. STFU about your gold, sliver, whatever. I bet you’re the retard buying up all the gold/silver right now at inflated value, thinking the world is coming to an end.

BTW, we ARE in deep doodoo when America has to suffer anymore of your teabagging. But hey just keep drinking that tea, TEABAGGER. Keep drinking that tea. Now STFU and go back to watching your Glen Beck.

Tim Gregory May 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Right wing ? Left wing ? This is just an issue that no politician wants to be on the wrong side of for fear of jeopardizing a reelection . And , it’s also the fault of the juvenile citizens in this country who simply are too stubborn to change ” the way we’ve ALWAYS done it ” . Even if it’s fiscally beneficial to the country they live in , and even though it causes no financial hardship to them , they won’t agree to it simply because ” I don’t wanna !!! ” Grow up idiots , and be so paranoid about change . Change is constant – get with it .

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