U.S. Mint suspends production of Golden Dollar coins

The U.S. Mint will not produce any more Golden Dollar coins for circulation in 2002, saving the agency $2 million in manufacturing costs this year, according to a recent audit by the Treasury Department's inspector general.

The Mint planned to make 40 million Golden Dollars for circulation during the second quarter of fiscal 2002, but halted production when a Treasury IG audit found that supply outweighed demand for the coin. The Mint still plans to produce at least 10 million Golden Dollar coins for collectors this year, agency spokesman Matt Kilbourne said.

The agency had 324 million Golden Dollars in stock at the beginning of fiscal 2002, but shipments of the coin to the Federal Reserve have dropped "markedly" over the last 15 months, according to a draft of the audit. The Golden Dollar bears the likeness of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the American West.

"Without any real expectation of the Mint shipping these 40 million coins to the Federal Reserve System during fiscal 2002, it would have been unlikely that the Mint could recoup its $2.18 million investment during this fiscal year," the report concluded.

The agency minted 6 million Golden Dollars between January and March 2002 before officially halting production until further notice on March 31. The Mint is now re-evaluating the need to produce the coins in fiscal 2003.

"We will work closely with the Fed to reassess demand for the coin and readjust production accordingly," Kilbourne said. The demand for all coins, including dimes, pennies and quarters, is down by about 10 billion this year from 2001, he said.

The Sacagawea dollar was popular with consumers when it debuted in January 2000 and benefited from a strong economy. By the end of the coin's first year, the Mint had produced and shipped 1 billion dollar coins, according to the audit. The Mint continued to produce the coins at a steady rate, but the slowing economy in early 2001 decreased demand, the report said. Shipments of the Golden Dollar to the Federal Reserve fell to less than 31 million coins in the first quarter of fiscal 2002.

The Mint typically tries to keep five-to-10-day inventories of each type of coin, according to the audit. The Mint has enough Sacagawea dollar coins in its inventory to last 3.6 years and did not plan to send any of the coins to the Federal Reserve during the second or third quarters of fiscal 2002, which prompted the Treasury Department inspector general to issue its recommendation.

The IG, which conducted its audit from December 2001 to February 2002, recommended that the Mint focus on producing other coins.

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