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Presidential dollar coins victims of budget crunch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sorry, President Chester Arthur. Nobody wants you.

Searching for savings in a tough economy, the White House said on Tuesday that the U.S. Mint would scrap automatic production of millions of dollar coins bearing the image of deceased American presidents at a saving of $50 million a year.

"As will shock you all, calls for Chester A. Arthur coins are not big," said Vice President Joe Biden, referring to the country's 21st president, who died in 1886. "I'm not commenting on his presidency, but it just is not very high."

The U.S. Treasury estimates there are almost $1.4 billion worth of dollar coins sitting in the vaults of the Federal Reserve, with 1.6 billion more coins scheduled to be minted over the next five years.

"They make hundreds of millions of these coins every year. Forty percent of them end up being returned to the Federal Reserve because nobody wants them," Biden told a meeting on cutting waste in government.

The surplus was created by a 2005 Act of Congress which instructed the Mint to produce 70-80 million coins per deceased president, of which there are currently 38.

"From now on, we're only going to make as many coins as collectors demand, and we're going to charge a premium for the coins so it doesn't cost us a dime to make ... no matter whose president's face is on the coin," Biden said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; editing by Jackie Frank)

(This story was corrected in paragraph 6 to change the number of presidents to 38)

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