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White House Kills Dollar Coin Program

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The federal government will stop minting unwanted $1 coins, the White House said Tuesday. The move will save an estimated $50 million a year.

Earlier this year, we reported on the mountain of $1 coins sitting unused in government vaults. The pile-up — an estimated 1.4 billion coins — was caused by a 2005 law that ordered the minting of coins honoring each U.S. president.

We calculated that the unwanted coins had cost taxpayers some $300 million dollars to make. There were so many coins piling up that the Federal Reserve was redesigning a vault in Texas to help hold them all.

We got to see a vault in Baltimore. It was the size of a soccer field, filled with bags of dollar coins.

You can see the presidents' faces on the coins. Andrew Jackson, John Adams, James Buchanan. The mint is only about half way through the presidents.

And the pile of coins has been growing. The mint makes enough of each new coin to meet initial demand. But about 40% of those coins get returned to the Fed, where they sit unused.

"As will shock you all, the call for Chester A. Arthur coins is not there," Vice President Biden joked on Tuesday, as he announced the new policy. "I don't mean to comment on his presidency, but it just is not very high."

The mint will continue to make a small number of the presidential coins, for collectors.

The Treasury department estimates it will take about 10 years for the economy to absorb the 1.4 billion $1 coins now in storage.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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