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Do We Really Want Them?
November 08, 2007

I was looking at Mint production figures for the Presidential dollar coin program. There have been only three designs so far. A fourth, the Madison, is due out this month.

The program will stretch out over 10 years or so in a manner similar to the state quarter program.

Unfortunately, unlike the state quarter program, the Presidential set is of a denominiation that is not used everyday by everyday people. You can be accused of passing counterfeits in small Illinois towns if you use them.

What happens to mintages in an environment like this? Already, from the Washington coin to the Jefferson dollar, the mintage total has dropped 40 percent, from about 340 million to about 204 million. The Madison will probably fall further as dollar supplies back up.

The Mint has used an artful evasion to not produce Sacagawea dollar coins for circulation this year despite explicit law commanding it to do so. This was done for the good reason that supplies were backing up to unreasonably high levels. The added coins are not needed.

Presidential dollars are going to follow the same path. The only question in my mind is how quickly the mintages plunge. At some time in the next two years, we will reach a point where the only Presidential dollars struck will be a few million for collectors who want them and no more.

This reduces the program essentially to a vanity issue. Collectors get something year by year that nobody else wants just because we are collectors. How long will collectors want something that nobody else cares about? When do we start feeling like chumps?

In other words: who will be saving them when the Gerald Ford issue arrives in 2016?

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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