If you have a Millard Fillmore dollar coin, hang on to it. If Sen. David Vitter has his way, it'll be a collector's item.
What — you didn't know the U.S. Mint had produced a dollar coin to honor our 13th president? That, Vitter says, is exactly the problem.
Unlike Canadians and Europeans, Americans have never taken to large-denomination coins except perhaps as "grandchildren gifts" — whether the coin was the large Eisenhower dollar (minted in the 1970s), the Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-1981) or the gold Sacagawea dollar, which is technically still in circulation.
Even less known is the "presidential dollar" series, inspired by the U.S. Mint's state quarters series. In 2007, the Mint began releasing a new presidential dollar every three months in hopes of stimulating interest from collectors and the public. The series is up to Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, but consumers have been indifferent about the coins. Nevertheless, a government mandate requires they continue to be minted. A June investigation by National Public Radio found that more than 1 billion of the coins are sitting in Federal Reserve vaults in Dallas even as more are minted each year.
On July 20, Vitter and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., introduced Senate Bill 1385, which would put a halt to the minting of fresh dollar coins. "Even though many in Congress, including myself, hoped that dollar coins would eventually save taxpayers money, it's turned out to be one of those unnecessary and, quite frankly, wasteful programs that we should eliminate," Vitter said in a statement.
Numismatists may grumble if the presidential series isn't completed, but Vitter and DeMint's bill is likely to find public support; Vitter's office supplied figures from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Federal Reserve estimating it would cost $3 million just to move the presidential dollars and another $1.4 million to build a facility to house the newly minted ones. — Allman