We resolved this issue by bypassing the Fed and the banks and shipping the coins directly to Walmart stores nationwide. In just a few weeks, Walmart distributed 100 million Sacagawea dollars as change in routine retail transactions, demonstrating that Americans welcomed the new coin.
This debunks another piece of conventional wisdom ó that Americans are opposed to eliminating the dollar bill. In fact, opinion polls consistently show that, when informed of the savings of substituting a dollar coin for the dollar bill, two-thirds of Americans support making the switch.
Unfortunately, the dollar coin faces significant obstacles to success, including the Federal Reserveís clear preference for the dollar bill. I discovered this for myself when the Mint launched the Sacagawea dollar in 2000. The Fed is the channel through which the Mint distributes coins to banks and ultimately businesses and consumers. If the Fed doesnít order a coin, it doesnít go out the Mintís doors.
The deck would appear to be stacked against the dollar coin.
Itís clear that the dollar coin is unlikely to overcome these obstacles unless Congress eliminates the dollar bill. In these difficult economic times, itís a rare opportunity for the country to save money without raising taxes or cutting programs. Now is the time for Congress to act and finish the job.
Philip N. Diehl was director of the U.S. Mint from 1994 to 2000.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.