WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve System expects to have more than 100 million Golden Dollar coins available for its bank customers by Feb. 29, according to a letter being sent to banks this week.
But the Fed said that until supply meets demand, it will continue to allocate the coins "equitably" so that no bank or thrift has disproportionately more than another.
The letter is an attempt to appease bankers outraged by the distribution of the new coin, which was released Jan. 26.
To promote the coins, the U.S. Mint struck a deal with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in which it would ship tens of millions of them directly to the retail giant. Bankers, however, have argued that banks -- not retailers -- should be the primary distributors of the brass-and-copper coins.
Though most banks have so far received at least one $2,000 bag of the coins, many bankers are complaining that their supplies are running low while their neighboring Wal-Mart stores continue to receive shipments.
The coin depicts Sacagawea, the young Native American woman who was the interpreter for Lewis and Clark during their famed expedition. By Feb. 11, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores had received 60 million coins, while the Federal Reserve -- which distributes the coins to banks and thrifts -- had received 45 million.
The Fed says it will have received 103 million coins by the end of the month, versus 94 million for Wal-Mart stores.
Initial orders were due by Jan. 21 at the Fed, whose letter instructs bankers to stay "on a normal ordering schedule."
"The Federal Reserve will continue to place orders with the Mint until the Golden Dollar Coin inventories are at satisfactory levels," according to the letter, which is being sent to all the nation's depository institutions.
Bob McCarthy, a spokesman at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said the Fed is "trying to be fair" in its Golden Dollar distribution. Most of the Philadelphia Fed's 669 customers that ordered the coins have received at least one $2,000 bag, and large banks such as First Union and Mellon have received five bags, Mr. McCarthy said. But he added that no institution will receive a second shipment "until everybody has been taken care of."