Late last week, the United States Mint quietly removed references to the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program from their website and marked the associated product listings as “sold out.”
The US Mint’s main page about the Presidential $1 Coin Program used to include a link to a page with information about the Direct Ship Program. The link has been removed, although the destination page is still active. (See below, before and after.) A link was also previously included within the main navigation of the product catalog section of the website. This link was also removed. Until late last week, the US Mint had listed 2011 Native American Dollar Direct Ship Rolls and James Madison Dollar Direct Ship Rolls. These were marked as sold out.
The Direct Ship Program had been introduced in June 2008 under US Mint Director Edmund Moy. The program was created in order to proactively comply with the requirement of the Presidential $1 Coin Act to remove barriers and improve circulation of the $1 coin. Under the program, individuals or businesses could order $250 boxes of $1 coins directly from the US Mint at face value with no charge for shipping. Although well intentioned, some people started to abuse the program.
In late 2009, mainstream publications reported how some individuals had used the program to earn miles or rewards on their credit cards. The coins would be ordered at face value in large quantity and subsequently deposited directly into a bank account. One individual claimed to have bought $800,000 worth of coins through the program. The US Mint attempted various tactics to curb the abuses, but every few months there would be more stories about people taking advantage of the program.
In July 2012, the US Mint finally announced that credit cards would no longer be accepted for purchases through the program, which should have essentially ended all abuses. In November 2011, a $12.50 fulfillment fee was added to the program. This fee created a deterrent to anyone actually seeking to use the program to purchase coins for the purpose of spending them at face value.
The latest data available indicated that the US Mint had distributed 244 million $1 coins through the Direct Ship Program through June 1, 2011. A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks estimated that about 60% of these were eventually deposited at Reserve Banks, contributing to the hoard of more than 1.25 billion $1 coins in storage.
At this point, I do not have confirmation as to whether the Direct Ship Program has been officially ended, or if it is suspended, or if it will be relaunched under different rules. It would not be too surprising if the program had been ended, given its checkered history. If the US Mint had acted sooner to curb abuses, the program may have had a better chance.
Going forward, collectors will have some new bulk options for purchasing $1 coins. Within the Federal Register, the US Mint published prices for 100-coin bags ($111.95), 250-coin boxes ($275.95), and 500-coin boxes ($550.95).