2014 Kennedy Half-Dollar 50th Anniversary Silver SetIn our short saga of How the Congress Turns (our stomachs), we are going to look at the next and last provision of how the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or the “FAST Act” (H.R. 22) will impact collectors. Returning to Title LXXIII, Section 73001 we find:

Title 31, United States Code, is amended —

(1) in section 5112 —
. . .
(B) in subsection (t)(6)(B), by striking 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and inserting not less than 90 percent silver; and
. . .
(2) in section 5132(a)(2)(B)(i), by striking 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and inserting not less than 90 percent silver.

The result of the corrections is to change the requirement to strike silver coins with a composition that contains 90-percent silver, to the requirement that the coins must contain at a minimum 90-percent silver. By making these changes, it allows the U.S. Mint to use pure silver planchets to strike coins.

The U.S. Mint has been asking congress to end the practice of requiring silver coins to be 90-percent silver. Earlier, it was learned that pure silver planchets would be cheaper to produce than to find the few suppliers who would create “dirtied” blanks.

Congress finally listened (for a change).

2013 Mount Rushmore QuarterThe change in the law happens in two parts. Paragraph (B) makes the change for the balance of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program including the 5-ounce bullion coin. Section (2) changes the Administrative part of the code (31 U.S.C. § 5132(a)(2)(B)(i)) that covers all other coins. A problem with the way these corrections were written it does not affect commemorative coin programs unless the U.S. Mint’s general counsel feels that this law covers all coins. While the U.S. Mint is likely to interpret the law the way that benefits them, the wording does not cover commemoratives.

Missing from these corrections the similar language for gold coins. Unless the U.S. Mint will interpret the gold coin changes as permission to change the commemorative coin programs, gold coins will remain 90-percent gold.

As I write this I am reminded about famous quote by the first Chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck: “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

Next, we introduce another collectible that congress has mandated to be produced by the U.S. Mint.

Mount Rushmore quarter image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

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