There is an old adage that the two things you should not talk about in polite company is sex and politics. While it is easy to avoid talking about sex when discussing numismatics, it is nearly impossible to avoid the periodic discussion of politics when discussing what happens before United States coins are manufactured. All other countries, the mint or the central bank has the authority over coinage in the same manner that the Federal Reserve has over the printing of paper currency. While there are a few laws to govern their processes, coin content, and how the money is distributed, the United States stands alone as the only country where the entire coin manufacturing process is codified in its law.
Discussion of the politics of United States coin production came back in my previous post, “Figures Never Lie But A Liar Figures” where I wrote that Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) asked the GAO for a specific slant on their report regarding the benefit of the coin versus paper accusing him of playing politics in the light of his heated re-election campaign. Comments both public and private accused me of acting in various self interests for political reasons.
First and foremost, this is not a political blog. My look into the politics behind the actions of congress, the laws they pass, and how they go about passing those laws are in the view of the collector of the coins being produced by the U.S. Mint. The views expressed here are favorable to the collector and the collector’s interest especially since I am collector.
To answer quite a few private emails, I am not a member of any political party. I am registered as “not affiliated” in the State of Maryland, a closed primary state. I have not been registered as a member of any political party in nearly 30 years and will not change this in the future. Also, the link about the heated campaign between Sen. Brown and Elizabeth Warren was supposed to be to another story at boston.com about the race—but the stories are so fluid that I cannot find the original link. I apologize for using the wrong link and have removed it from that posting.
But when discussing the manufacturing of money, I have to remind everyone that the U.S. Mint cannot strike any coin or medal that has not been prescribed by law. If the coin or medal has not been voted on by congress, signed by the President, argued over by the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and approved by the Secretary of the Treasury, then it will not be produced by the United States Mint. That is a lot of politics from the idea for a coin up until the dies are made to manufacture the coin. You can read more about this process in this story that was published in Numismatic News
When a GAO report about coins or currency is issued and the media grabs onto it like a dog grabs a bone only to find out there is more gristle than meat in the story, I will comment on it here. If the issue has a political slant to it, I apologize, but that is the nature of how the money manufacturing process in the United States works and cannot be avoided. The only way to remove the politics from the money manufacturing process is to privatize the U.S. Mint and change many of the current laws (United States Code Title 31, Subtitle IV, Chapter 51, Subchapter II ) to give the reorganized mint more authority. As I have written in the past, privatizing the U.S. Mint is not a good idea. Thus, we are stuck with the politics.