Now that the US Mint has been reorganized, it is time to strengthen the product line. The US Mint’s primary product are the circulating coins that are sold to the Federal Reserve. At this moment, there should be no changes to the required denominations and composition. Although there have been recent issues with the rise in the costs of zinc and nickel that affected the seignorage of the one and five cent coins, the US Mint produces enough coins in other denominations to mitigate those losses. Business calls selling a product at or below it manufacture price is called a loss leader. As long as the US Mint is meeting its obligations to the Federal Reserve, it is not a problem for the US Mint to downgrade the cent and nickel to loss leader status.
Numismatists are most vocal over the design of the coinage and the number of rotating series that drives up the costs to collectors. In order to add sanity to the process, there must be some rules. Thus, under this reorganization, no coin design is to last more than 25 years. The coin design can refer either to the obverse, reverse, or both, but something must be changed. This means the end of the 50 year design pattern given to the Lincoln Cent. Once the new design is settled in 2010, it must be changed by 2035. At that point, the CCAC and the US Mint will decide to redesign the entire coin or, once again, replace the reverse only.
Under this rule, the dime and half-dollar are due for design updates.
This proposal does not change the elements that are required on the coin. As described in 31 U.S.C. §5112(d)(1), “United States coins shall have the inscription ‘In God We Trust’. The obverse side of each coin shall have the inscription ‘Liberty’. The reverse side of each coin shall have the inscriptions ‘United States of America’ and ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and a designation of the value of the coin.” All other rules about design in that paragraph would be eliminated under this plan.
If the US Mint creates circulating commemoratives, there should be no more than two programs in place. One program can be a multi-coin commemorative, like the Presidential $1 Coins, and the other an annual series, such as the Native American $1 Coins. Any more than that becomes too much where the US Mint apparently cannot maintain the levels of manufacturing necessary to satisfy demands for their products. Once the circulating commemorative series is completed, the coin will undergo a final design change for the year after the program’s conclusion and remain that way for 25 years. An exemption to this rule will be to maintain the America the Beautiful Quarters Program as part of the transition.
And no more circulating commemoratives of the same coin. Either have the Presidential $1 Coin or the Native American $1 Coin, not both!
The US Mint will maintain the annual coin programs for all circulating coins. Mint Set will remain coins that have come from business strike production lines and proof coins will continue to use specially treated planchets as they do today. Additionally, the US Mint will continue to produce the Silver Proof Set except that the one-cent coins will be struck in an alloy of 95-percent copper.
Finally, it is time to make the one-dollar coin worth striking. The only way to do this is to stop producing the one-dollar Federal Reserve Note. The United States is the only “First World” country that continues to produce its unit currency in paper form. Even as the $1 FRN continues to be produced, some countries are eliminating more lower denominations to save on costs. It is time for the United States to do the same. In fact, the United States should also eliminate the $2 note.
At the end of the series, there will be an article about the paper currency and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
There are relatively few changes necessary for circulating coins. In the next article, we will look at the commemorative coin program.