Mint Expects Dollar Coins To Rebound

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The rumors of the demise of the Golden Dollar have been greatly exaggerated, according to the U.S. Mint.

While the Mint has halted production of the coin, which features Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped guide the Lewis & Clark Expedition 200 years ago, it hopes to resume production later this year.

"This happens from time to time with all coins," according to Doug Hecox, Mint spokesperson. "Coin demand fluctuates based on a variety of economic factors. For example, last year we didn't make any Kennedy half dollars until August. We are very much interested in the Golden Dollar."

Hecox said demand has been sparked by reports production of the coin would halt. The Mint distributed 133 million of the coins in 2001 and another 1.3-billion in 2000-well over the 920 million Susan B. Anthony dollar coins distributed between 1979 and 1981. "Demand was big that first year because of the novelty and because collectors always want the first year a coin was minted," Hecox suggested. "I'm always reluctant to comment on the Golden Dollar versus the Susan B., but just in terms of the sheer number of coins minted, the Golden Dollar has already been a success."

The 324-million Golden Dollars on hand represent a 3.6-year supply, or 88 times the target inventory. Until the current supply needs to be replenished, there is no reason to mint more of the coins for circulation, though the Mint continues to produce Golden Dollars for collectors. Distribution of the coins continues.

"There are still parts of the country that haven't seen as many of these coins as we would like," he noted. "We've had great success with the subway in New York and the El in Chicago, for example, which converted their (transportation token dispensers) to accept the Golden Dollar, and they were handing out Golden Dollars hand over fist. The same for the parking meters and vending machines all around Washington, and even the parking meters in Dayton (Ohio)."

Popular With Vending Machines

Indeed, as more self-service vending-type machines accept the coin, the Mint expects it to grow in popularity. "America will come to it, but it's going to take time. America just isn't programmed for dollar coins. It takes longer than two years to change a nation's behavior. The more they see them, the more they will use them, the more they will want them."

Many credit unions have tried to do their part. Both NAFCU and CUNA participated in the task force on the coin's introduction.

NAFCU's former CEO, Ken Robinson, who worked as a consultant to the Mint on the Golden Coin following his departure from the trade association, said some credit unions have used the Golden Dollar in their promotions.

"I worked with a number of credit unions to set up what we called a treasure hunt," Robinson told The Credit Union Journal, explaining that some 27 vendors also participated in the program. Consumers could go to any of those vendors and receive keys, some of which would open a treasure chest at a credit union with prizes-in most cases, the chest held 10 Golden Dollars. "The vendors were circumspect at first, but by the end of the day, they were asking for more keys and more golden dollars."

He noted that Arkansas Federal switched to dollar coins from paper currency to free up a dispenser in its ATMs for $50 bills. Another creative use of the Golden Dollar: golf ball markers at a NAFCU CEO Event. Cheaper than golf shop markers, there's another advantage, said Robinson: "You can use it to buy a beer at the clubhouse."

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