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The curious case of the $1 coin

This FRED graph shows the number of $1 coins stored in Federal Reserve Banks. These data are part of a release that measures the volume and value of currency by denomination: It includes multiple banknote denominations but just one coin, the $1 coin.

The U.S. government has long attempted to replace $1 bills with $1 coins. The first was the Morgan dollar (1878-1904), which was barely used in circulation because the public preferred silver certificates. More sustained efforts started in 1971, as the production of $1 bills was significantly more costly than coins, as the bills needed to be replaced after only a few years. The Eisenhower dollar (1971-1978) was barely used because it was very large. The Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-1981 and 1999) wasn’t well adopted either because it was easily confused with the quarter.

Finally, officials thought they had found the secret formula with the Sacagawea dollar in 2000, followed by presidential dollars in 2007: a heavier, gold-colored coin. They were shipped in large quantities to the Federal Reserve Banks. They quickly started filling the vaults because they still were not being widely adopted by the public. Because the traditional, familiar $1 bills were still in circulation, nothing changed. At some point in 2011, the Fed declared it did not want to receive any more of these coins. Since then, they have been minted only for collectors.

The graph clearly shows an accumulation of coins until 2011, when the number peaked at over 1.4 billion coins; afterward, the inventory slowly decreased when some businesses began asking for them, mostly as change in ticket machines. Given the sheer quantity of them, it seems reasonable to report them separately. Other coins kept in Fed vaults are in much smaller quantities and values.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select the “coin inventory” series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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