On December 13, 2005, the Senate passed S.1047, the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, and on December 15th, sent it to the White House for President George W. Bush‘s signature. The main component of the bill is to create a $1 coin to commemorate the Nation’s past Presidents and an accompanying $10 gold coin to commemorate the President’s spouse (First Lady). Title II creates the minting of a $50 gold bullion coin using the original design of the Buffalo Nickel by James Earle Fraser. Finally, Title III is the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial 1-Cent Coin Redesign that calls for four different design representing different aspects of Lincoln’s life honoring Lincoln’s 200th birthday. President Bush has not signed the bill as I write this entry.

Since each section is interesting in its own right, I will cover one at a time.

Starting in January 2007, the Mint will issue circulating $1 coins commemorating each past President. The obverse must include the President’s name and likeness, dates or years of the term, and the number order which the president served. The reverse will have “a likeness of the Statue of Liberty extending to the rim of the coin and large enough to provide a dramatic representation of Liberty while not being large enough to create the impression of a ‘2-headed’ coin” and include the denomination and “United States of America.”

Interestingly, the bill says that the word Liberty does not have to appear on the coin since the appearance of the Statue of Liberty satisfies established law. Also, to provide more room for artistic impression, the mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust” will be incuse on the edge of the coin. The edge lettering requirements is an interesting twist on US coinage and should make for an interesting coin.

There will be only one coin design per president and one coin for all terms and one coin issued for each non-consecutive terms. So Franklin D. Roosevelt will have only one coin in the program and Grover Cleveland will have two coins, each with different inscriptions of his terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1987). No living current and former president can appear in this program and two years have to pass after a president dies to be eligible. Currently, all presidents since Gerald Ford are ineligible, although President Ronald Reagan will be eligible by the time it is his turn. And as we have seen with recent circulating commemoratives, only four coins will be issued each year until all presidents have been honored.

Along with the presidential coin, a First Spouse $10 Bullion Coin will be issued on the same schedule as the Presidential coin. The First Spouse coin will be the same diameter of the $1 coin and contain one-half ounce of 99.99 percent pure gold purchased at fair market value from US sources. The obverse will have the name and likeness of the President’s spouse and with the year and order of term, just like the President’s coin. On the reverse will be “images emblematic of the life and work of the first spouse” and the inscription United States of America.

In the case of no first spouse, the image will be emblematic of the concept of Liberty. The reverse will represent themes of the corresponding president. The exception will be for President Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President who was widowed when he took office in 1881. The first spouse coin will honor Alice Paul, suffragist, who was born during Arthur’s term. The reverse will represent the suffrage movement.

As someone who believes that a $1 coin should replace paper currency, having a circulating commemorative is wonderful. The only downside to this bill is that the Sacagawea Dollar will continue to be minted and must make up one-third of the circulating issues. This will dilute the population and impact of the circulating commemoratives and probably lessen its impact.

My next entry will look at the $50 Buffalo gold bullion coin.

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