As we do every month, we look back at the previous month’s activity in congress that will affect us numismatically. July started with congress on their 4th of July break coming back for a one week session before leaving to attend their respective conventions.
Prior to leaving, congressed passed the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act (Public Law 114-196). The law authorizes the formation of a commission to organize the national celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States on July 4, 2026. It was signed by President Obama on July 22, 2016. Section 5, Paragraph (c)(2)(F) of the new law recommends that the commission encourages “Federal agencies to integrate the celebration of the Semiquincentennial into the regular activities and execution of the purpose of the agencies through such activities as the issuance of coins, medals, certificates of recognition, stamps, and the naming of vessels.”
Those of us who are old enough to remember, this was the first time in the modern era that circulating commemoratives were issued. The quarter, half-dollar, and dollar coins all had special reverse designs that were issued in 1975 and 1976. These coins remain popular amongst collectors and an interesting curiosity when non-collectors find the quarter with the drummer boy reverse in their pocket change. Although circulating commemoratives are not a new concept since the advent of the 50 State Quarters series, there is an opportunity to consider something interesting to celebrate on all U.S. coinage rather than just certain denominations.
The only other piece of legislation legislation of concern was that the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017 passed the House on July 7, 2016. The bill authorizes the U.S. Mint to withdraw up to $30 million from the Public Enterprise Fund for its operations. This is an increase of $10 million from when the bill was originally submitted in June.
If you missed my previous explanation on the funding of the U.S. Mint, you can read “No Taxpayer Money Is Used by the US Mint” at your leisure.
It was July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “ Buzz” Aldrin, made history by being the first humans to land on Earth’s only natural satellite. A mere 238,900 mile trip began with the launch of the Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, with Michael Collins who orbited over the moon in the command module, the trip fulfilled the promise of President John F. Kennedy who said to congress on May 25, 1961, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
Kennedy would have been pleased with the events of 47 years ago, today.
Michael Collins design the mission insignia. Collins said that he wanted a symbol to represent a “peaceful lunar landing by the United States.” He also left the names of the astronauts off of the insignia so that it would represent everyone who worked on the mission. It is one of the few mission insignias that does not include the name of the astronauts.The first numismatic-related item that used the Apollo 11 mission insignia were the medals made by the Robbins Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts. Although there were many space-flown numismatics that have surfaced over the years, the most famous from Apollo 11 was the sterling silver Robbins Medal that was presented to Wally Schirra by Neil Armstrong. Armstrong and Schirra were good friends. He gave the medal to honor his friend, the first three-time astronaut who retired just before the Apollo 11 flight.
This medal was sold for $33,460.00 on April 18, 2013 by Heritage Auctions.
In March, before the Apollo 11 launch, President Dwight Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure at the age of 78. To honor the late president, congress passed the bill to produce what ended up to be the last large dollar coin with the portrait of Eisenhower. It was Rep. Bob Casey (D-TX) who remembered that Eisenhower created NASA and proposed that the reverse of the coin use the Apollo 11 mission insignia rather than just a heraldic eagle.
The Eisenhower dollar was released in 1971 and struck until 1978. Other than relief and varieties, the only design change was made in honor of the nation’s bicentennial in 1975-76.
Beginning in 1976, the U.S. Mint was looking to reduce the costs of coin production and was testing different shapes and compositions for a new dollar coin. In order to appease the powerful vending machine industry, the result was a coin that was too similar in size and composition to the quarter dollar. Congress made the decision to honor Susan B. Anthony and leave the Apollo 11 mission insignia on the reverse.
Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro designed the reverse for both the Eisenhower and SBA dollars using the Apollo 11 mission insignia. An iconic design even though the coins were less than successful.
After nearly a year of war and attempted negotiation with King George III and the British parliament, it became clear that the colonies in the New World would continue to be under harsh rule without representation. In January 1776, the Continental Congress met to discuss the matter.
Public support for independence from the British Empire was growing amongst the colonies. Only the “middle colonies” of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland who were benefiting financially being part of the British Empire were against independence. When these colonies sent delegations to the Continental Congress, each of their conventions did not allow them to vote for independence.
As the war with Great Britain dragged on and the attempt at tightening their reigns on the colonies persisted, the populous cry for independence grew. Delegates were set back to their governments and representatives sent to the middle colonies to convince them that the colonies had to declare independence for their own survival. As colonies began to line up with the independence movement, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and South Carolina remained reticent on the subject.
Of the four hold outs, Pennsylvania and Maryland had governments with strong ties to the colonial governors who still had influence. John Adams wrote a draft preamble to explain the independence resolution. Part of the way the resolution was written was, in effect, to overthrow the colonial governments of Pennsylvania and Maryland so that it would be replaced by a popular government. On May 15, 1776, that preamble was passed. The colonies had taken their first step toward independence.
Delegates left the congress and returned to their own colonial conventions. Maryland, whose delegates walked out of the congress in protest, continued to reject the notion of independence. Samuel Chase returned to Maryland and convinced them to allow their delegates to approve the motion of independence. Pennsylvania, New York, and South Carolina remained against the declaration while the Delaware delegates were split.
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. Although no minutes were kept from the committee meetings, it was accepted that the resulting document was largely Jefferson’s work. The Committee of Five completed the draft on June 28, 1776.
Debate on the draft declaration began on July 1. After a long day of speeches a vote was taken. Maryland voted yes but Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted no. The New York delegation abstained with out authority from their government to vote. Delaware could not vote because its delegate was split on the question. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina moved to postpone the vote until the next day.
Although there is no written history on what happened that evening, there had to have been lobbying by supporters of independence because on July 2, South Carolina voted yes followed by a turnaround by the Pennsylvania delegation that also voted yes. New York with no authority from their government continued to abstain. With the Delaware delegation deadlocked, this set up the historical ride of Caesar Rodney. Rodney was one of Delaware’s representative to the Continental Congress. He was in Dover attending to other business when he learned that Thomas McKean and George Read were deadlocked on the vote of independence. Rodney rode 80 miles from Dover to Philadelphia to vote with McKean to allow Delaware join eleven other colonies voting in favor of independence.
With 12 votes for independence and one abstention, the Continental Congress approved the declaration. Jefferson then set forth to make the agreed upon corrections to the document. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence. The document was sent to the printer for publication and distribution to the public.
Although historians debate exactly when the final document was signed, it is accepted that 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.
- “Declaration of Independence” by John Trumbull hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and was used as the model for the reverse of the $2 Federal Reserve Note. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
- Bicentennial half-dollar reverse and Franklin half-dollar images courtesy of the author.
- All other coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint
- All other images courtesy of Wikipedia.
If you missed the news, a few days ago President Barak Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act (Pub. L. 114-152) that names the “North American Bison” the national mammal. The bison does not replace the Bald Eagle as the national animal or the national emblem.
The bison is an iconic animal unique to North America. Discovered by the European settlers as the country expanded west, the bison was significant to the economic and spiritual lives of the native tribes throughout the Great Plains areas.Bison is important to the ecology of the landscapes where they are located. Bison eat a certain type of grasses that are said to be difficult to control. The bison act as a natural “ predator” and not only consumes these grasses but also helps maintain control over the vegetation through consumption and feeding what is left through their waste.
Although conservation efforts began in the late 19th century, a bison population that used to number in the millions the 2012 Department of Agriculture census said that there were 162,110 heads. Up until the last 50 years, we have done a bad job of taking care of this national resource, now national treasure.
When numismatist thinks of the American Bison, the thought turns to the Indian Head “ Buffalo” Nickel designed by James Earle Fraser. Fraser, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, continued the path of Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” to design a coin that screams America.
The reverse of the coin is an American Bison that we erroneous call a buffalo. According to legend, Black Diamond was Fraser’s model for the reverse of the Buffalo nickel. Black Diamond was a North American bison that was living in the Central Park Zoo. He was donated to the zoo by Barnum and Bailey and lived his life there until he was auctioned in 1915 to a game and poultry dealer who was later sold as steaks for $2 a pound.
When asked about the model for the coin, Fraser said it was Black Diamond and found him in the Bronx Zoo. At one time Fraser was not sure of the name of the animal but insisted his influence was at the Bronx Zoo. Black Diamond was never at the Bronx Zoo. But like the story of who was the model for the Indian on the obverse, why should facts spoil a good story!
With the signing of the National Bison Legacy Act there are groups that wants to bring back the Buffalo nickel. Someone started a petition at the online petition website Change.org to convince the U.S. Mint to return to bring back the buffalo nickel.
Even though the U.S. Mint is the wrong agency to address this petition to since it would require an act of congress, the Fraser Buffalo design is still used on the 24-karat gold bullion coin. In fact, not counting varieties, mintmarks and strike types, the bison has appeared on eight different coins and one Legal Tender Note. If you want to put together a nice type set, it would require 22 different coins and the 1901 $10 Legal Tender Note (see “Collecting a Herd of Buffaloes” for this discussion).
I do not know if returning the Buffalo nickel is a good idea. While it was an iconic design, it was one that saw considerable wearing while in circulation. If someone wants to bring the buffalo back to United States coins, maybe we could consider the 2005 Westward Journey nickel with the American Bison reverse. It also has a better portrait of Thomas Jefferson than is currently used.
If you would like to virtually sign the partition, visit Change.org and register your vote.
The Washington Post produced an interesting video with facts about the bison. If you want to see the video without visiting the Post’s website, you can watch it here:
I am convinced that if there is something to celebrate there is a coin, medal, or token to collect in its honor.
Today, my challenge is to determine if there is something numismatically available to collect for Leap Day, that once every four years celebration of the 29th of February.
For today’s collecting adventure we venture into the world of geocaching. For those not familiar with geocaching, it is an adventure activity in which the participants use the global positioning system (GPS) to navigate to find small containers with treasures. The small containers are called a “geocache” or “cache.” These geocaches contains a logbook that is signed with by the finder with a code name and placed back where it was found.
Almost anything can be included in the geocache for a prize. One such prize is a geocoin. Similar to a challenge coin, a geocoin is a specially designed medal that is the prize for finding the geocache. There is a worldwide community of geocache enthusiasts that you can find at geocaching.com.
For one of the meeting at my coin club, two of our young numismatists taught some of us old folks about geocaching and showed off some of the geocoins they have found or collected from various sources. Some of the designs were phenomenal. There was one geocoin made for a gathering of Maryland enthusiasts that was so well done that I have been looking to buy one since.
Without the constraint of rules, laws, and congress, some have created quite a number of interesting geocoins to celebrate the leap year. To celebrate Leap Day and the geocaching community for the inspiration, here are some of the interesting geocoins I have found on my online search.
The reverse designs has represented some of the best work by the artists working with the U.S. Mint with the 2016 design continuing the record. Celebrating the Native American Code Talkers who were instrumental in using their native language to communicate troop movements and enemy positions, the reverse of the coin celebrates their work.
As someone who has made a career in technology and information security, the concept of using something as low-tech as a language that nobody else can translate to openly communicate secret information is an elegant solution. It proves that technology is an answer but not the only answer. It makes these people heroes for their service to a country that has not treated their people fairly over the course of history.
Learning and honoring the history of Native Americans was the goal of the Native American $1 Coin Act. It is a simple yet effective way to bring history to the masses. Although the dollar coin does not circulate well, it is still a nice way for the country to teach and honor history.I was thinking about what could be done to honor other aspects of United States history. Why not use another coin to celebrate something that has shaped the country in some way. With over 200 years of history, there is a lot to choose from. I propose that beginning in 2017 the reverse of the Kennedy half-dollar be changed every year to celebrate an anniversary of something significant in U.S. history.
As I consider writing a draft version of the bill to send to my representatives in congress, I know that any good coinage program in the United States should have some guidelines. Far be it for congress to tell the U.S. Mint to do what it thinks is right. In order to satisfy something that congress would adopt and create a meaningful program, how about a Half-Dollar history program as follows:
- The obverse will remain unchanged, the edge will continue to be reeded, and the coin will remain a half-dollar
- Reverse design changes annually and only one design per year
- Half-dollar can be made for circulation and the U.S. Mint can create collector versions including silver collectibles and different finishes
- Theme for the reverse must be from 50 years prior to the year of circulation and older with anniversary dates being divisible by 25 (i.e., 50 years ago, 75, 100, 125, 150, etc.)
- Theme will be selected by the U.S. Mint in collaboration with the CCAC and the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History
- The U.S. Mint creates the design for the theme selected by either using in-house artists, AIP members, or may hold an open competition
- The CCAC will review the designs
- The program will have no end date
Although there was no such thing as having a minor when I went to college, I did use some of my elective credits to take some classes in history and political science. Add my masters in public policy and some people wonder why I don’t run for office (I hate the idea of begging for campaign contributions). With that background, I was able to think of a few historical events that could be honored over the next few years:
Purposely missing from this list is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s becoming the first African-American to appear in a Major League Baseball game in 1947. I fully expect that a commemorative coin will be issued for that event. If it is not, then congress should be ashamed of itself for not doing so.
Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.
Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.
In honor of Boxing Day, I ask:
Did you receive a numismatic-related gift for the holidays?
Total Voters: 13