The ANA Election is Over, Support Your New Board

The American Numismatic Association election is over and the membership has made a choice. Steve Ellsworth will become the new President of the American Numismatic Association at the World’s Fair of Money in August. Ralph Ross will become Vice President.

Although these were not my choices for leadership, I will support them for their two-year term. Both men deserve the support of the entire membership regardless of what you thought about the election.

The ANA is at a critical juncture in its modern history. There is a societal change happening that is affecting many hobbies and traditional institutions. It is a change borne out of changes in ideas, ideals, and how the new generation thinks about hobbies and their traditions.

The status quo is no longer acceptable. Millennials and those identified as Gen Z, who graduated from high school this year, grew up in a different world. In their world, money is electronic, stamps are utilitarian only used when necessary, and the concept of formality is reserved for a noncontroversial post on social media.

With the Millenials and Gen Z now in that numismatic black hole between being a Young Numismatist and their reawakening when they get older, it is time that the ANA adapt to the new world order of technology.

Adapting traditional hobbies between the past and technology will be difficult. Ask the philatelic (stamp collecting) world how technology has upended what they built. Technology has changed many aspects of our lives, and if numismatics do not change along with it, numismatics will become a minor aspect of the hobby community.

Making this bridge between the traditions of numismatics and the future is what the new ANA leadership and the Board of Governors will need your help. The only way the ANA will change to meet the needs of the membership is for the association to speak out. Members, especially those that are not of AARP eligible age, must be the ones to speak to the Board and let them know what the ANA has to do to have a healthy future.

Overall, 19,737 ANA members were eligible to vote in this election; 31.06 percent of eligible voters participated.

One of the most significant issues is that the membership is not engaged. Maybe it is time for the ANA members to get off the sidelines and become involved.

Members must open lines of communications with the Board of Governors and let them know what you think. They cannot perform their jobs without knowing how to respond to the membership. Your input will help President-elect Ellsworth, and the rest of the Board set their agenda.

Help Ellsworth and the Board have a successful term. Let them know what you think. As a member you can contact the ANA directly. When you do, please keep it respectful and include your membership number.

Those who want to add their comments to a public forum, the ANA gives you that opportunity. Go to the ANA website, register, and post your message as an open blog post. Yes, the ANA website has a blog section for you to post whatever you like. Keep it clean, respectful, to the point. If you can add details to your ideas, I am sure the Board would appreciate the help.

In case you did not know, the ANA website also has a section of numismatic forums for collectors to talk with other collectors about numismatics. For those who are not happy with other forum sites, you might want to take the opportunity to see what the ANA has to offer.

If all else fails, you can write to me. Although I am one voice in the numismatic wilderness, I am a collector who wants to see the ANA remain a thriving home for numismatic collectors. You can write to me directly or post a comment here.

It is your ANA.

Your ANA needs your input.

Support the new Board and help them find their direction.

Weekly World Numismatic News for July 7, 2019

Steven Kenny

Newly named Artistic Infusion Program artist Steven Kenny (photo courtesy of www.stevenkenny.com)

Usually, news about a new artist selected for the Artistic Infusion Program is not big news in the numismatic community. The program currently has 13 artists including a few who were once employees of the U.S. Mint. But the recent announcement that Steven Kenny of St. Petersburg, Florida seemed a little unusual because of his artistic style.

Kenny’s primary work is surrealism, a style described as “irrational juxtaposition of images.” There are many different styles of surrealism that many artists have explored. One of the most famous surrealist artists was Salvador Dali.

The Beach by Steven Kenny

“The Beach” by Steven Kenny. Available as a print on his website.

While exploring Kenny’s website, you can see he has an interesting take on surrealism. Most of his works appear to be his take on portraits of different types of people adapting to their environment in unique ways. But these works go beyond that simple description, which is usually the case with artists who specialize in surrealism. His work has a simplicity that the more you look at them, the more that you can see complex themes formed by the image.

The way Kenny approaches a subject makes his selection to the AIP a fascinating choice. The U.S. Mint has always had a problem figuring out how to create designs for complex subjects. It is one thing to design a coin with an organization’s logo or the bust of a person, but what about design a coin for a national park, a forest, or an event?

Although seeing a surrealistic design on a coin would be interesting, someone with a background in surrealism has a different view that has the potential to improve on coin designs.

Kenny’s selection to the AIP is a very interesting move for the U.S. Mint. Whoever made the selection should be praised for not only selecting a talented artist but one with a different perspective.

I encourage everyone to explore Steven Kenny’s website to see more about his art.

And now the news…

 June 30, 2019

Using powerful infrared light, researchers have found a way to tint metal without dyes or pigments – with scientific implications far beyond coin-collecting  → Read more at theglobeandmail.com


 July 2, 2019

The U.S. Mint selected St. Petersburg surrealist painter Steven Kenny to create designs for coins.  → Read more at abcactionnews.com


 July 3, 2019

PHOTO: “MIR”  → Read more at galpost.com


 July 3, 2019

To continue, please click the box below to let us know you're not a robot.  → Read more at bloomberg.com


 July 3, 2019

 → Read more at kitco.com


 July 4, 2019

A rare gold solidus dating back 1,600 years has been found by a group of Israeli students in the Galilee region.  → Read more at sci-news.com


 July 4, 2019

A treasure trove of Arab coins dating back some 1,000 years has been discovered in an old German cemetery near the Baltic coast.  → Read more at thefirstnews.com

Coin Collectors News
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Celebrating Independence Day 2019

Independence Day in the United States is a celebration of the formal breakup with the British monarchy. But like a lot of political decisions on this side of the pond, it was a decision that caused a lot of debate. For example, during the discussion on whether to declare independence, Maryland was one of four colonies to hold out. The others were New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Here are five other historical notes about the declaration:

  • The preamble of what would become the beginning of the Declaration of Independence passed on May 15, 1776.
  • On June 11, 1776, the “Committee of Five” was appointed to draft a declaration. Committee members were John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. They completed the draft on June 28, 1776.
  • The Continental Congress debated the draft on July 1-2, 1776. New York and South Carolina were still holdouts, and the two Deleware representatives were deadlocked. This lead to the historical ride of Caesar Rodney, who rode 80 miles to Philadelphia to vote in favor of independence.
  • After Thomas Jefferson made the final agreed upon corrections to the document, the Continental Congress approved the draft on July 4, 1776, with 12 votes. Only New York abstained since they did not have the authority from their government.
  • The final signatures were added on August 2, 1776. Since New York approved the resolution of independence on July 10, the New York delegation is included amongst the signatures.

Although we celebrated the birth of the nation in 1776, the new country was not recognized until 1783 when the two nations signed the Treaty of Paris.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

June 2019 Numismatic Legislation Review

Seal of the United States CongressEven while other things were going on, Congress found time to introduce and vote on numismatic-related legislation during the mother of June. The most significant development was the passing of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1235) by unanimous consent.

If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President, the bill would create a commemorative silver dollar in 2020 with a surcharge of $10 per coin that will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative.

When this bill was sent out of committee to the floor for a vote, the media was all in a twitter (pun intended) about the bipartisan nature of the bill’s support. The bill was introduced on April 30, 2019, by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and cosponsored by every female senator. Subsequently, male senators added their support to where the bill had 82 cosponsors. While we live in very partisan times, those of us who watch numismatic-related legislation understands that these bills are not controversial and tend to gain bipartisan support.

The bill is being held at the desk in the House of Representatives and not assigned to a committee. Although a call to the House did not provide answers, a source says that it is being held for procedural reasons.

According to the source, an objection was made by a member because the member believes that the bill violates the constitution. According to Article I Section 7 of the United States Constitution, it says that “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Since commemorative coin bills raise revenue for private and public (seigniorage) sources, someone believes that the Senate overstepped its bounds.

There was no report as to who filed the objection.

S. 1235: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Introduced: April 30, 2019
Held at the desk. — Jun 5, 2019
Received in the House. — Jun 5, 2019
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jun 5, 2019
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 4, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Apr 30, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1235.

H.R. 3155: 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Introduced: June 6, 2019
Summary: This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 50,000 $5 coins, 500,000 $1 coins, and 750,000 half-dollar coins in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.The coins shall be emblematic of the sacrifices made by millions of people of the United States 75 years ago in bringing an end to World War II. The design on each coin shall represent the World War II Victory Medal, which was awarded to all 16 million U.S. military personnel who served from December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946.The bill requires all sales of such coins include specified surcharges, which shall be paid by Treasury to the congressionally designated National WWII Museum to fund its educational mission of telling the story of the U.S. experience in World War II.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 6, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR3155.

S. 1794: CENTS Act
Sponsor: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Introduced: June 12, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 12, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1794.

H.R. 3483: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA)
Introduced: June 25, 2019
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 25, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR3483.

S. 1954: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Introduced: June 25, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 25, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S1954.

S. 2042: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
Sponsor: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Introduced: June 27, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jun 27, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S2042.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 30, 2019

Price of Gold for the 2nd Quarter of 2019
(Chart courtesy of GoldSeek.com)

News of the week is not happening on the pages of the non-numismatic media but in the precious metals market. Specifically, the rise in the price of gold. While this news makes the gold bugs happy, it is a bad indicator for the rest of us.

With the price of gold opening at $1,279.00 on January 2, 2019, it saw some bumps in its price but has largely averaged a modest gain until the price closed at $1,271.15 on May 21. Then it started to climb and climb rapidly by market standards. On Friday, June 28, the end of the second fiscal quarter, gold closed at $1,409.00. The rise is a 10.8-percent gain since May 21.

Gold is considered a safe bet for investors. It is a way of investing in cash or cash equivalence. Investors buying gold will purchase bullion, gold bullion coins like the American Eagle, or shares in a fund that maintains large stores of gold. There are many types of funds and ways to purchase shares in these funds, but it is not the same as owning the physical gold. Most reports are claiming that investors are interested in purchasing physical gold with bullion coins being the preference.

Investors make money by investing with what they consider a manageable amount of risk. If the risk pays off, they can make a lot of money. The risks that fail must be made up elsewhere. Investors diversify their portfolios to mitigate these risks. However, if the institutional and large investors are moving their monies to safe harbors, like gold, they sense a problem.

This relatively sharp jump in the price of gold is being driven by the major investors who are worried about the future of the U.S. economy. They see the various trade wars being detrimental to the economy. One economist said that the recent hike in soybean tariffs to China is going to have long term effects long after this president leaves office.

Although the United States is no longer an agrarian economy, agriculture plays a significant role in the country’s economic health. Upsetting that role that agriculture plays will cause long-term damage to the economy. The soybean tariffs are believed to be the driver that is scaring investors.

You may ask how are soybeans causing gold to rise?

As part of foreign policy in Africa, the government has been supplying countries with the proper climate the means to grow soybeans. It was a way to make the countries self-sufficient by helping create an economy. In many cases, the United States did not follow through on commitments to help with the infrastructure that is needed to create access to the markets. Countries needed irrigation and road improvements. Rather than helping with the upgrades, the United States government concentrated on the military aspects of these country’s problems. A policy of one-problem-at-a-time.

For at least 15 years, China has ignored the military issues and began to supply the money, supplies, and labor to fix the infrastructure. The Chinese government helped build irrigation systems, roads, and provided transportation to build these economies with the promise that China would buy their products.

Although there was significant Chinese investment in Africa, it was still cheaper to buy soybeans from the United States. That situation changed with the 25-percent tariffs placed on soybean exports. The tariffs raised the price of U.S. soybeans beyond what the Chinese would pay to the African exporters. Now China is importing soybeans from Africa while U.S. farmers are provided allegedly short-term subsidies from the federal government.

Now that the infrastructure is in place for China to import soybeans from Africa, the costs have reduced and is projected to have the long-term effect of lowering the U.S. market for soybeans in China. One economist said privately that even if the tariffs were reduced to pre-trade war levels, it might not make it economically viable for China to buy as much from the United States as it did in the past.

Institutional investors see the loss in revenue from China, the increased deficit in providing welfare to soybean farmers, and the danger of the business not returning to the United States. They also see the reduction of tariffs to Russia for wheat and that Russia is also looking to African and South American countries for wheat sources. The competition is making trade prices drop and is making it look like agriculture trade is in trouble.

If exports of United States agriculture are in trouble, then it will hurt the economy. With the uncertainty added to the risk profile investors and fund managers have to manage, they have turned to gold as the natural, safe harbor.

The rise in gold prices always helps numismatics. It helps boost the prices of gold and, by association, other rare coins. However, if the gold prices go up because of economic stress, it will not matter what happens to numismatic prices. Fewer people will be in the market to buy coins.

And now the news…

 June 26, 2019

Gold is a hedge against financial risk, and coins offer convenience.  → Read more at marketwatch.com


 June 26, 2019

COIN collectors can now get their hands on a Toy Story 4 50p piece – but you can’t use it in shops. The commemorative coin features popular character Woody in colour with the cowboyR…  → Read more at thesun.co.uk

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Hey ANA Members, it’s time to VOTE!

The countdown to the July 1 deadline to vote for the next American Numismatic Association Board of Governors approaches, it is time to look at the candidates and determine who can best lead the organization forward.

For the first time in many years, there are races for President, Vice President, and Board of Governors. This year this is a choice. Here are my choices:

President

For ANA president members have the choice of COL Steven K. Ellsworth, ret., or Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D.

Ellsworth is currently a member of the ANA Board of governors and the owner of Butternut Coin Company, which moved from Virginia to Tennessee. Ellsworth has been around but has many strong opinions that have irritated several of the ANA’s constituency. Recently, during the National Money Show, Ellsworth made statements that exhibitors and the exhibit committee interpreted as hostile to them. Unfortunately, when he had the opportunity to clarify his position, his tone turned combative while making accusations of there being a clique amongst the exhibitor community.

Kagin grew up in the numismatics business, the son of a very prominent member of the ANA. But Kagin is not without his issues. He was a member of the Board of Governors during the fiasco with Executive Director and Legal Counsel Christopher Cipoletti in 2007. Then there were the Larry Shepherd issues that led to more embarrassment. For the subsequent election, Kagin said that he and the Board made mistakes and he wanted another chance. Kagin lost the election during a “throw the bums out” feelings by the membership.

Over the last few years, it appears that Kagin has learned from his mistakes. Sometimes it takes falling on your behind to be able to learn from those mistakes. It also seems that his vision for the ANA has matured since his return to the Board.

The Coin Collectors Blog endorses Don Kagin for ANA President for his sober vision and less combative personality, which is necessary for the ANA.

Vice President

The race for ANA Vice President is between Dr. Ralph W. Ross and Thomas J. Uram.

Although I have briefly met both gentlemen, I cannot say that I have had an extensive conversation with either. The personality dynamics are very different. Although that should not be a determining factor, the differences make it a consideration.

Ross has been a member of the Board of Governors for some time. He is a teacher by trade, which can be beneficial to figure out how to spread the word about numismatics beyond the ANA. In reality, where has he been? In my interaction with the Board, Ross is its quietest member. We do not hear much from him or about him regarding his position on the Board. He is just there.

Uram has been an active participant for some time. He is an exhibitor, judge, and has acted as a coach to exhibitors. Having someone on the Board who understands the exhibitor community may be good for the ANA.

Uram is not a professional numismatist but has had a long career in the financial services industry. Given the ANA’s propensity for having consistent financial problems, having someone around who can make sure the ANA stays fiscally stable may be a good idea.

Finally, Uram is a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) as an appointee of the Secretary of the Treasury. Although I have been a critic of the CCAC and not a fan of the Secretary, having someone with that type of experience could have its advantages.

Therefore, the Coin Collectors Blog endorses Tom Uram to be the next Vice President of the ANA.

Board of Governors

There are ten candidates to fill seven seats. Three people will not be serving on the Board. I will not comment on every one of the candidates in this space. I will provide some thoughts on what has gone into my decision.

First, I do not endorse Mike Ellis and his return to the Board. Although I believe in second chances, some have to come with a significant amount of contrition and time. It has not been long enough after “he had made a mistake and chose to step down from the board.” Any person who had to step down from the Board of Governors because of “mistake” must be required to jump a higher hurdle to return. I am still waiting for the jump.

While I have nothing against Greg Lyon, this would be his sixth and final term on the Board. After ten years as a member of the Board of Governors, it is time to step aside and allow new people into leadership.

There are endorsement forthcoming for Muriel Eymery and Shanna Schmidt. Eymery, who is from London, would bring a very different perspective to the ANA that is very necessary. Her view on foreign collectors and the world of numismatics outside of the United States would be an asset to an organization that appears insular. This type of diversity would benefit the ANA.

Schmidt is a dealer with a specialty in ancient numismatics and has a background beyond numismatics. Aside from adding diversity to the Board of Governors, which is very necessary, the line in her biography that attracted me was that her “master’s thesis was on the cultural-property debate as it relates specifically to ancient coins.” It is a topic that I have commented on several times and wish the ANA would involve itself with on behalf of the numismatic community.

Based on the considerations, the Coin Collectors Blog endorses the following seven candidates for the ANA Board of Governors (in alphabetical order by last name): Rick Ewing, Muriel Eymery, John Highfill, Cliff Mishler, Paul Montgomery, Robert Oberth, and Shanna Schmidt.

If you are an ANA member, go vote!

If you are not an ANA member, you should consider becoming one!

VIDEO: DIY Mechanical Coin Sorting Machine

Although this video is “sponsored” by Wix, it is interesting to watch the process of making a coin sorting machine. Just ignore the Wix ads at the beginning and end of the video.

In today’s video I want to show you how to make extremly effective fully mechancal coin sorting machine that allows you to sort up to 300 coins per minute! All you need is plywood, screws and chipboard. You can use this coin sorter anywhere cause it’s quite portable!

If you want to watch the video on YouTube and see the rest of the text with the advertisement, click here.

Weekly World Numismatic News for June 23, 2019

1883 Liberty Head Nickel (Type 1)

1883 Liberty Head Nickel — Type 1, No “CENTS” on reverse (Credit: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History)

A story that appeared in the Desert Sun seems to defy what some in the numismatics industry wants you to believe is successful collecting. The problem is that it is narrow in focus.

The article talks about the dealer’s held belief that successful coin collecting is about the hunt for the perfect coin. It is finding the right coin for your collection then making it better. Unfortunately, the more this industry holds on to these notions, they are scaring off potential collectors.

What the article and dealers do not want to tell you that it is perfectly acceptable to pick a set, topic, or series and find examples that are good or consistent with the rest of the collection. They tell you that you have to buy the coin in the latest piece of plastic with the highest number and graffitied with stickers. But what they do not tell you is that you can find better-looking coins at lower grades and many times without stickers or entomb in plastic.

One of the best looking collection I saw was a Liberty Head “V” Nickel set with all of the coins in extra fine (XF) condition. It is a more difficult collection to assemble than one might think. These coins were the workhorse of the economy. Their copper-nickel alloy was softer than the silver coins and wore quickly. It is challenging to find 19th-century coins in XF condition.

The set will not bring its assembler a lot of profit since the Liberty Head nickel is not in high demand. Instead, it is an accomplishment by a dedicated collector whose goal was to have fun.

Maybe that is the key to promoting the hobby. Let’s have some fun and stop worrying about what is the right or wrong way to collect!

And now the news…

 June 18, 2019

A gold coin that dates back to ancient Rome and was discovered in a field by a man with a metal detector has sold at auction for nearly $700,000.  → Read more at jckonline.com


 June 20, 2019

Why not get the kids off the computer and into something of lasting value?  → Read more at desertsun.com


 June 20, 2019

The archaeological excavations in Parion, a well-protected ancient city in Çanakkale, aim to shed light on the defense system of the city  → Read more at hurriyetdailynews.com


 June 20, 2019

Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron were among the impressive collection.  → Read more at silive.com


 June 21, 2019

LANSING, Mich. — While attending the International Paper Money Show in Kansas City, Missouri late last week, the staff of Liberty Coin Service purchased an exceedingly rare 1736 mortgage document for land in Mooreland, Pennsylvania Province that was printed by Benjamin Franklin.  → Read more at fox47news.com

Coin Collectors News
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VIDEO: World’s Largest Coin Pyramid (Almost)

This one is just for fun.

Cory Nelson and his coin pyramid

Cory Nelson poses with his World Record creation (screen grab from YouTube)

Cory Nelson of Phoenix, Arizona, built the world’s largest coin pyramid.

In an interview with CBC Radio, Nelson said that after building a coin pyramid with 41,000 coins on his desk, his coworkers asked if it was the world’s largest. He said that if it were not, he would make sure it is.

According to the Guinness World Records, the record was 1,000,935 Lithuanian one-cent coin by Vytautas Jakštas and Domas Jokubauskis. The pair built their coin pyramid in 2014 using Lithuanian Litas as a celebration before Lithuania converted to the Euro.

After three years of work on it for 20 hours per week, 45 YouTube videos tracking his work, and 1,030,315 Lincoln cents later (that is $10,303.15 worth of coins), Nelson submitted his creation to become the world records holder. It will take a while for GWR to verify the record.

Here’s the final video of Nelson’s pyramid:

The Story of Tubman on the $20: a mass of lies, evasions, folly, and hatred

Mockup of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman

When there is a discussion on the design of United States currency, there is no way to avoid politics. Politics drives the designs, composition, and the economic condition that goes behind every coin in your pocket. Politics governs the currency printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, including the overall management of it through the Department of the Treasury.

Aside from my interest in the nuance of politics, beyond reports on cable news, it is why there is a monthly report on legislation that would effect numismatics. Whether it is a proposal for a commemorative coin or the creation of a commission to celebrate something in history, every bill introduced in Congress has the potential to change numismatics.

Paper currency is less regulated than coins. Coining money is mentioned in Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The federal regulation of currency began with the National Bank Act of 1863. Whereas the Constitution says, “Congress shall have Power…to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin,” there is no provision for paper currency.

The Constitution does not say that Congress should design the coins, but they do, sometimes to the detriment of the final result. But the design of the currency is left to the Department of the Treasury.

There is no set process that the Treasury goes through to decide on the design of the nation’s currency. The process changes for each new Secretary that heads the department. In the previous administration, Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew, went through his version of the process to decide that the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the $20 Federal Reserve Note will be replaced with Harriett Tubman by 2020.

According to sources, although the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would have preferred a little more time to create the master engraving plates to make this change, the timing of the announcement would not present a significant problem.

Lew resigned as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury on January 20, 2017, with the inauguration of a new administration. Steven T. Mnuchin was sworn in as the 77th Secretary of the Treasury on February 13, 2017.

Steven T. Mnuchin, the 77th Secretary of the Treasury

Sources report that Mnuchin did not interfere with the BEP’s efforts to redesign the $20 FRN immediately. As the work continued, the BEP also continued to work on additional anti-counterfeiting measures for U.S. currency. Specifically, the BEP was looking into changes that would first impact the $10 note followed by the $5 bill.

The paper $5 note was a more significant focus for the BEP. In working with the U.S. Secret Service, they were finding that many counterfeiters were using bleaching products to remove the ink from the paper to use it to print higher denominations, predominantly $20 bills. One internal report suggested that the criminal would see a net gain of $14 for each $20 note they could produce.

Although it costs more to counterfeit $20 bills this way, it is a lower risk for the criminal. As we have seen, few people pay attention to the problem and those that do find that the currency passes the iodine pen test. After all, it is currency paper.

Bleached Counterfeit Currency

An example of a $100 Federal Reserve Note printed on a bleached $5 note (Image courtesy of Prescott Police Department via AOL.com)

Interference from Mnuchin came after his first three months in office. It started with a question from a reporter who asked the president about the change. The president’s statement was followed by a cabinet meeting where the president said something to Mnuchin about the change. Then, a source reports that the president said something to Mnuchin who agreed to do something without raising concerns.

Mnuchin did not directly interfere with the process. Instead, he used the budgetary process to direct funds away from the development of the proposed change in portrait.

Mnuchin was able to hide the change from the public because of the nature of Treasury’s budgetary process. Since the BEP is self-funded by the profits (seigniorage) that is deposited in its Public Enterprise Fund, all Treasury had to do was obtain Congress’s permission to use a set amount from the fund without providing details.

Treasury and BEP were able to hide the changes in the CFO’s Annual Report by using internal reorganization to obfuscate where the spending was going.

In short, Mnuchin ordered the BEP, which is lead by a career professional and not a politician, to move the resources away from the redesign and prioritizing other aspects of currency redesign. Mnuchin purposely slowed the redesign process in a way that gives Treasury and the BEP deniability.

A statement published on the BEP website, BEP Director Len Olijar wrote in response to the news reports, “BEP was never going to unveil a note design in 2020.” That was not the policy of the Treasury Department and the BEP when Secretary Lew announced the change. Mnuchin changed it at the request of the president.

The story of the “delay” of the redesign with Tubman’s portrait appeared in The New York Times. In the story, the Times used an image from the original announcement that depicted Tubman superimposed on the $20 bill. Sources suggested that Olijar, under orders from Mnuchin, was to try to discredit the story in any way possible. Rather than continue with the fact, albeit flawed compared to previous reports, the statement went on to pick on an inconsequential aspect of the story, the image published by the Times.

“The illustration published by the New York Times was a copy of an old Series note with the signatures of former officials, with a different image superimposed on it.”

As my source said, “let’s attack the messenger and not the message.”

Unfortunately, Olijar, a career government employee, is caught in the middle having to work with the politicians. He loses credibility by contradicting the previous reporting, which is unfortunate because sources have suggested that some other than Mnuchin “ordered” Olijar to issue the statement.

There is an old expression that one should never discuss politics, religion, and sex/money/pick something in polite company. It is impossible to be polite when talking about coins and currency before their manufacture. It spreads through the entire process. Or as George Orwell aptly said:

In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

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