US Coins

2020 Native American dollars already circulating in Alaska

In anticipation of the fulfillment of a request from the state of Alaska to the U.S. Mint for 5 million 2020 Native American dollars to place into circulation in the state, two proponents of the measure have already begun circulating $1 coins on their own.

At the same time, the U.S. Mint stands to make millions on seigniorage from the production and release of the 5 million Native American dollars. Seigniorage is the profit derived from the difference between the coins’ face value and the cost to produce and distribute them.

Grassroots distribution

Alaska State Rep. DeLena Johnson and Dick Hanscom from Alaska Rare Coins in Fairbanks, said they separately ordered from the Mint 500 of the 2020 Native American dollars, whose reverse design honors Alaska native Elizabeth Peratrovich, who led the fight for passage of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945.

Both Johnson and Hanscom had to pay numismatic premiums above face value to acquire the coins for distribution since the U.S. Mint has not struck any dollar coins for circulation release since Dec. 13, 2011, when Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner suspended directing any dollar coin output toward release into circulation.

Since then, the Denver and Philadelphia Mints have continued Native American dollar production with circulation-quality finish, but directed it toward numismatic sales in 25-coin rolls, 100-coin bags and 250-coin boxes.

The 25-coin rolls are retailed by the U.S. Mint for $34.50 each, the 100-coin bags for $117.50 and 250-coin boxes of rolled coins for $289.75, plus shipping.

Johnson said she purchased, out of her own pocket, bags of dollar coins produced at the Denver Mint.

Johnson said she handed out examples to each of the 60 members of the state legislature, and to members of her staff, and sold at least 150 of the coins at face value.

Hanscom said he bought two 250-coin boxes, one containing Denver Mint coins and the other Philadelphia Mint coins.

Hanscom said he was selling the coins in his shop for slightly over face value, to recoup his acquisition costs.

Hanscom said he considers the biggest obstacle to having the coins circulate, should the Mint produce the 5 million Native American dollars, is if banks and other financial institutions do not place orders for the coins through the Federal Reserve.

Hanscom said he’s heard concerns about who would bear the costs of the coins being shipped to Alaska through the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Alaska is served by the FRB of San Francisco’s Seattle, Washington, branch.

The joint resolution, HJR 9, passed Jan. 22 by both houses of the State Legislature, was forwarded to Gov. Dunleavy Feb. 11.

The 5 million dollar coins being sought would provide nearly seven coins for each man, woman and child in the state.

The placement of dollar coins into general circulation in Alaska would break an eight-year moratorium placed Dec. 13, 2011, by then Treasury Secretary Geithner on circulation distribution of Presidential and Native American dollars.

In making his decision, Geithner cited the glut of 1.3 billion dollar coins in government storage vaults, not circulating.

As of Feb. 27, the U.S. Mint had not acknowledged receipt of the signed resolution nor explained how they might accommodate the request. 

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