Last month, World Coin News announced that the 2014 Coin of the Year (COTY) would be awarded to the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) for their commemorative coin honoring the artist Yves Klein. The silver coin features the artist’s hand colored in a striking blue on the silver coin. For those who are not familiar with Klein’s work, he is credited with starting the minimalist movement following World War II including paintings called monochromes which were exhibited in the late 1950s. Klein’s blue monochrome was the last work of the series.
Monnaie de Paris 2012 Yves Klein commemorative was named 2014 Coin of the Year
This is not the first time that World Coin News has chosen a design with a gimmick for COTY. The 2013 COTY winner was 5 euro silver coin from the Royal Dutch Mint that featured a Quick Response (QR) code printed on the reverse. QR codes are squares of encoded information that can contain portable information such as messages, web addresses, and even address card information. When the QR code on the coin scanned, the decoded message pointed to a website that had a game in honor of the 100th anniversary (in 2011) of the current home of the Royal Dutch Mint. The website is still available and can be found at www.q5g.nl.
2011 Commemorative celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Dutch Mint’s facilities with QR code on reverse
The 2012 COTY winner was more artistic in nature when Israel won with the 2-New Sheqalim titled “Jonah in the Whale.” Part of the Israel Coins and Medals Corporation’s Biblical Art Coin Series, the coin depicts the prophet Jonah praying inside the belly of the whale after he was swallowed while fleeing the mission he was commanded to do by the Lord almighty. Rather than rely on gimmickry, the coin is an artistic interpretation of that famous biblical story.
2010 Jonah In The Whale 2-New Sheqalim coin from Israel
Another artistic winner was the 2011 COTY from the South Africa Mint. Their winning coin was a gold, 1-ounce, 100 rand coin featuring the White Rhinoceros as the first coin in the South African Mint’s Natura “Safari through South Africa” series. The artistic rendering of the coin is something to really take notice and a worthy winner.
2009 White Rhinoceros 100 Rand gold coin from South Africa
But the 2010 COTY was one of the first gimmicks that awarded Mongolia the award for producing a silver 500-tugrik coin that depicts a wolverine with diamond eyes. While the eyes might be a striking design element, does it rise to the level of COTY?
2008 Mongolia Wolverine with diamonds for eyes
Three of the last five COTY winners had design elements that were not based on the sculpture of the coin but on a design gimmick. Were these the best designs or did the gimmick influence the voting?
I have asked before whether it is wrong to include other design elements on a coin, especially non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins. When I ask these questions, I bring out the picture of my Somalia motorcycle or muscle car coins. I also like the Canadian 2006 Breast Cancer silver commemorative coin and the special 25-cent circulating coin the Royal Canadian Mint produced. These were not overt uses of color but almost an enhancement to emphasize the pink ribbons on the coins.
2006 Breast Cancer Quarter was Canada’s first colored circulating coin
2006 Breast Cancer Silver Coin with colored pink ribbon.
But is it too much of a gimmick? After the RCM produced those coins it seems that they dove in face first into producing colored coins. It also seems that the rest of the world also has been spending its time printing coins and not minting them (see the New Zealand Mint). Although I am guilty of buying into this type of design concept, there comes a time when the concept has gone too far. In television the concept is called “Jumping the Shark.”
While others are printing coins, the Royal Mint is coming up with designs that are interesting sculptures. In fact, if you go to their website and look at their offerings you will find that the Royal Mint has nice designs, interesting packaging, but no color. Although their artists take advantage of the design elements using bi-metallic coins, they are sculptured arts and not printed designs.
2014 £5 crown commemorating the 300th anniversary of the death of Queen Anne
2014 £2 coin commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I
U.S. coin designs have had the best designs over the last few years. However, the introduction of the “enhanced uncirculated” coins with the selective frosting has opened up new ways of enhancing sculpture elements on coins. It would be interesting to see what the U.S. Mint artists can do if given the free hand to design coins and using the laser to enhance the design.
Given the recent history of the COTY competition, the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin is almost a shoo-in for 2016 COTY honors. While the elements will be sculpted rather than printed and the curved planchet will be interesting, it is probably enough of a gimmick to sway the World Coin News confab when it meets to discuss the 2014 coin in December 2015.
As an aside, why do we have to wait a year for the COTY competition? With technology what it is today, why does it take a year to do the COTY competition? If the award is given in February, then why select the COTY in December or January? Does it really make sense for the 2014 COTY to be coins date 2012? Why not call it the 2012 COTY since the coins are dated 2012 and award them at the beginning of 2013—or in this case, the 2013 COTY being awarded in 2014?
The one year delay might have made sense when mail delivery was less reliable and information was delayed by the speed of the teletype and the printing press. In the information age where 2012 is not only yesterday’s news it is ancient history, it is time for Krause Publications and World Coin News to modernize their process and come up with something a little quicker than a one year delay.
- 2012 Yves Klein commemorative courtesy of the Monnaie de Paris.
- 2011 Royal Dutch Mint commemorative with QR code courtesy of the Royal Dutch Mint.
- 2010 Jonah in the Whale commemorative courtesy of the Israel Coins & Medals Corp.
- 2009 White Rhinoceros 100 Rand gold coin courtesy of Krause Publications.
- 2008 Mongolia Wolverine coin courtesy of the Wolverine Foundation.
- 2014 British coin images courtesy of the Royal Mint.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Mint will be producing a coin that is not flat. The curved coin is of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 112-152 [PDF]) celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The three-coin commemorative program consisting of a $5 gold coin (50,000 maximum mintage), $1 silver coin (400,000 maximum), and a clad half-dollar (750,000 maximum) struck as uncirculated coins or as proofs.
The bill required an open competition for a common obverse design “emblematic of the game of baseball.” During the government shutdown this past October, the U.S. Mint posted the announcement on their website that the winning design was submitted by Cassie McFarland of San Luis Obispo, California.
McFarland told reporters that she stumbled upon the competition while researching coins for another art project. McFarland found the U.S. Mint’s call for design two days before the deadline and submitted a drawing. Her drawing was based on an old baseball glove belonging to a relative.
For submitting the winning design, McFarland received a $5,000 prize.
U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart will do the engraving of McFarland’s winning design. Everhart created the reverse design.
Surcharges will be $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver coin, and $5 for the clad half-dollar to be paid to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for their continuing operations. If all the coins sell out, the Hall of Fame will receive $9.5 million for ongoing operations.
Given that the selection of Coin of the Year tends to favor gimmicks (to explained in a future post), it would not be surprising that this coin wins COTY when it is considered at the end of 2015.
In the mean time, it will be interesting to see this coin in hand as this is the #1 numismatic-related story as selected by the board of the Coin Collectors Blog!
Curved coin animation courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
A story appeared in the November 18, 2013 edition of The Washington Post that the hard-core stamp collectors, the ones that will buy the products released by the United States Postal Service, are apoplectic about selection of Harry Potter as a subject for a series of stamps.
The objections are two-fold. First, Harry Potter is not American and neither is the author of the series J.K. Rowling. The other reason is that the Postal Service bypassed the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) to make the deal with the various commercial concerns to issue the 20-stamp tribute to the boy wizard.
Unlike the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the CSAC is not mandated by law. It was established in 1957 “to select subjects of broad national interest for recommendation to the Postmaster General that is both interesting and educational.” Apparently, there has been tension between the Postal Service and the CSAC.
Like coin collecting, stamp collecting has been in decline as the awareness and usage of their product declines. Coin collectors can point to the decline in coin collecting following the big start of the 50 State Quarters® program, stamp collectors can point to the growth of email, e-publishing, and electronic stamp capabilities as part of the decline of the postal service. The Postal Service feels it has to do something in order to bring new collectors to buy its goods.
Unlike the U.S. Mint, whose products are very heavily regulated, the only regulation the Postal Service must meet is the price of postage. Once the postage rates are set, there are no laws or rules that govern how postage is demonstrated on the piece of mail. In fact, the Postal Service can print any stamp they want to honor any person, animal, object, historical incident, and even their own mistakes as they have by producing a tribute to the Inverted Jenny postage stamp, stamp collecting’s most famous error.
The US Postal Service pays tribute to their own famous error, the Inverted Jenny
The Postal Service has been an independent agency of the federal government since 1971. Their operating expenses largely come from the sale of postage and the collection of duties for cross-border movement of the mail. Other revenues are generated from the sales of collectibles including special sets, first-day covers, and other collectibles. Interesting items sell well including the Elvis Presley stamps which were the Postal Service’s bestseller.
One area of regulation that has hurt the Postal Service was a law passed in 2005 that forced the agency to pre-pay retirement benefits for the next 75-years in a series of very large lump-sum payments. Their inability to meet the obligation and maintain the 75-year cushion has been widely reported causing the agency to lose significant revenues while trying to adhere to this ridiculous statutory requirement. No other agency or company is required to pre-pay 75-years of retirement benefits.
Knowing that they have to generate new revenues, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe was quoted as saying that the Postal Service “needs to change its focus toward stamps that are more commercial.”
In other words, Donahoe recognizes that the organization he leads has to think differently in order to attract new customers.
The reaction from the philately community is almost the same as I would expect from the numismatic community if this was done by the United States Mint.
This is not the case everywhere. Although there have been complaints about the Royal Canadian Mint’s expanded catalog, their products are selling and winning awards. Others complain about the blatant commercialism at the New Zealand Mint for partnering with commercial vendors to issue non-circulating legal tender coins with themes from Star Wars, Monopoly, and Dr. Who? Other than being expensive, is there really anything wrong with these offerings?
New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?
Next year, the U.S. Mint will issue a curved coin to honor the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While it will be a round coin, the coin will be concave when looking at its obverse. While the closest thing to “different” the U.S. Mint has produced was the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Coin, the sales of the Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative coins may do well because of the theme and they are different.
If the Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative coins do sell well, will congress authorize other commemoratives that are not round and flat? Will congress allow the U.S. Mint to produce motorcycle or car-shaped coins? What about coins with commercial themes?
2007 Somalia Motorcycle Non-circulating Legal Tender Coins
“Harry Potter is not American. It’s foreign, and it’s so blatantly commercial it’s off the charts,” said John Hotchner who was once president of the American Philatelic Society and served on the CSAC for 12 years. Hotchner should be asked about the stamps to commemorate Pixar animation, Disney, and muscle cars. Even though I am a coin collector, I have bought the muscle car commemorative panel along with sheets of motorcycle stamps and a collector book with the stamp of Edgar Allen Poe because I was interested in the theme.
Both the U.S. Mint and the United States Postal Service rely on generating collector interest to expand their revenue base. Unlike the U.S. Mint, the Postal Service does not have the benefit of bullion to increase its revenues. If both organizations have to be innovative in order to increase revenues, then it should not be a problem. It is a hobby—collect what you like and like what you collect. If you do not like the collectible, do not add it to your collection.
Louis Braille was not American nor did he do his work in America, but congress authorized a commemorative issued in 2009
Coin and stamp collectors have to take their heads out of the past. Stamps are losing to email and coins are losing to credit cards. Neither are going away anytime soon, but if there is to be a future both the U.S. Mint and U.S. Postal Service has to be innovative in order to attract new collectors. While the U.S. Mint is handcuffed by the whims of a dysfunctional congress, the Postal Service can capitalize on one of the most popular books and stories of this generation. If it helps promote stamp collecting and allows them to sell more products, then the Postmaster General should be congratulated for a job well done.
Maybe there is something that can be done to add to the catalog of the U.S. Mint in order to generate more interest. Until then, this muggle will be ordering something from the Harry Potter collectibles offered by the Postal Service for his wife who is a Harry Potter fanatic!
What do you think? Weigh in on the discussion in the comments (below).
- All stamp images courtesy of the United States Postal Service.
- Monopoly coin image courtesy of the New Zealand Mint.
- Louis Braille Commemorative image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
- Somalia motorcycle coin images are courtesy of the author.
As a comment on my post about the selection design for my 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative coin a reader commented with a simple question: Can you offer a suggestion as to who I can approach to offer an idea for a commemorative dollar?
The easy answer is to say “write to your member of congress.” But as anyone who has written or called their representative in congress, your proposal has as much chance as being considered as the various factions have for working together. Neither your proposal nor congress working together will happen without help.
National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative was introduced by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) whose district includes Cooperstown, NY
While I cannot fix the fractious nature of congress, I can offer suggestions as to how to get a commemorative coin recognized as a good idea.
As you read this post, let me remind you that former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” What follows is a look into what it takes to make the sausage in order to propose a commemorative coin and have it become law.
First, rather than starting with congress talk with organizations in the area of interest. After all, commemorative coin programs are fundraising vehicles for the organizations. It helps congress know who will receive the money. In this case, my correspondent wants to see a commemorative coin to be issued in 2017 commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first ever heart transplant.
“My hope is to get more people aware of the need of people to sign up for the donor list to make more organs available,” my correspondent writes. “A donor sign up card could be included with each order. Proceeds could fund awareness program….”
The problem is that this is a good and noble idea but the first question a congress person would ask is what organization would receive the money? Unfortunately, congress is not into creative thinking and would like to know who could receive the money, how the money would be used, and what guarantees that the money earned from the commemorative program would be used for its intended purposes.
Do not expect the representative to do all of the work. In fact, do not expect the congress person to do much of the work until the bill is written and submitted. Even though congress will be in session fewer hours this year than in recent recorded memory, the members will tell you they are too busy to work on this issue. The nature of modern politics is that unless you are going to cut them, the party, their political action committee, or one of their other campaign committees a check, your chance for success is diminished.
However, you can cut through the fog of politics by working with a credible non-profit organization—or a coalition of non-profit organizations—with your interest.
If I wanted to propose a commemorative coin program to honor the first ever heart transplant that would be used to raise money and awareness, I might first talk with the American Heart Association. I would either try to talk with whomever is involved with their legislative affairs office (maybe out of their Greater Washington, DC-area office) or try to contact CEO Nancy Brown and other members of the AHA Board to pitch the idea.
I’m just a bill
Yes, I’m only a bill
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill
When contacting these people, I would have an elevator-speech ready. An elevator speech is one that pitches your idea in the time it would take to ride an elevator. In other words, keep it short and to the point. Make sure your pitch includes something compelling to want them ask for more information and make sure you anticipate any questions.
The nice part about partnering with the AHA is that they are very experienced with legislative affairs. I have no doubt that they either have a full-time lobbyist on staff or have hired a lobbying firm to represent their interests before congress. This is one area where you do not have to answer questions. However you should know a little about commemorative coin bills that congress has considered. These issues are as follows:
Q: After a commemorative coin bill is introduced, which committee will it be assigned?
Q: How does the organization make money from a commemorative coin?
A: Congress sets a surcharge over and above the cost to produce the coin that will be given to the sponsoring organization. Usually, the surcharges are $35 for gold coins, $10 for silver dollars, and $5 for clad 50-cent coins.
Q: Are limits set for the number of coins sold?
A: There are no pre-set limits unless written into the law. Usually, congress has set the limits to be not more than 100,000 $5 gold coins, 500,000 $1 silver coins, and 750,000 50-cent clad coins. The number of uncirculated versus proof issues is determined by the U.S. Mint
as long as they remain within these limits. Coins are produced and sold by the U.S. Mint only during the year of issue.
Q: Who designs the coins?
Q: How do we request that heart health and transplant awareness be inserted into the coins with the Certificate of Authenticity?
A: Make sure that the information is added to the law. Unless the sponsoring organization can compel the U.S. Mint to add it, you are better off making sure the law requires that the U.S. Mint does this.
Q: Can you give me an example of how one of these bills is written?
A: Most of the time, when you read the bills submitted to congress, you will see text that calls for editing of the law, which is called the United States Code (U.S.C.). It may say to strike words, replace words, add paragraphs, add sections, and all sorts of other editing that does not make sense unless you know what the U.S.C. says when the bill was written.
Since most commemorative coin bills are additions to the law, they are usually added to Title 31, Section 5112 of the United States Code (31 U.S.C. § 5112). Many times, the bill does not mention where the new law will be inserted when it is introduced. It will be corrected before passage.
If you want to provide the member of congress with the text of a bill, which many times is helpful, you may want to use something that has already been introduced as an example to write your own text. Two good examples are as follows:
When visiting the website, look on the right side in the lower half for the link marked “Read Bill Text.”
Both bills specify gold, silver, and clad coins. Your proposal does not have to include all three. In fact, to raise awareness, you might want to consider just a silver dollar and a clad half-dollar.
To help raise awareness, you should visit congress. Make an appointment, come to your nation’s capitol, and avail your rights as a citizen to speak with your representative. In fact, if you work with an organization like the AHA, maybe they will help you talk with your representative to get the bill introduced. Even though you are probably not going to be donating a lot of money to their various campaigns, a story and picture with a constituent does look good in the campaign. If they know you are passionate about the cause, they can expect that you will campaign for the cause and mention that the member introduced the bill. It makes for good press coverage for a congress whose approval ratings are worse than horrible.
Too bad there’s so much dysfunction in such a beautiful building.
Once you convince a member of congress to submit the bill and get the member’s support, a professional legislative affairs person would know how to convince other members to sign up as co-sponsors. While having a lot of co-sponsors does not guarantee success, it helps with the bill’s awareness and make it more attractive to pass.
There are other political maneuvers that can be used to have the bill passed, such as convincing a member to bring up the bill under a procedure called “suspension of the rules.” In the House of Representatives, a bill brought to a floor vote under the suspension of the rules are usually non-controversial measures that have no objections—or no objections that would be voiced on the floor. The bill would then pass by unanimous consent or a voice vote.
The procedure is similar in the Senate.
Once the bill passes one chamber, it is sent to the other for it to work on passage.
Since commemorative coin bills are considered “money bills” and the constitution requires all money bills to begin in the House of Representatives, it is likely better for the bill to be submitted to the House first. A companion bill may be submitted to the Senate with the same wording but it is not necessary. The only reason to submit a bill like this in the Senate first is when there is no support in the House and you hope to gain support before the session ends on January 2, 2015.
House of Representatives
While the bill is in congress it does not mean you have to sit on your hands and wait. One of the best things you can do is to tell your friends, relatives, and anyone else who will listen to call or email their representative to support the bill. If they are not a co-sponsor, tell their staff that they member should be and why. If they are a co-sponsor, thank them for their support and ask if they could get other members signed on as co-sponsors. If you can find people whose representatives are a member of the House Financial Services Committee or the Senate Banking Committee, then they should modify their support by saying to please help get the bill passed through the committee.
If the bill is passed and sent to the other chamber, the work starts again. If the bill is in the Senate, you have to remember it is not called the ’world’s most deliberative body” for nothing. Unless there is an impending disaster or something politically charged, a bill in the Senate would lose a race with the tortoise and a glacier!
The World’s Most Deliberative Body, the United States Senate
But that does not mean to stop your efforts. Citizen lobbying efforts in the Senate are doubled because each state has two senators. Make sure you and your supporters contact both of your senators. Remember, it is your right as a citizen to meet with your representatives and this includes senators. You can make an appointment to let your senators know how your feel. If your senator is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, then they should be asked to help move the bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote.
The work is not done until the bill is passed or congress is adjourned for the last time on January 2, 2015. Bills not acted upon when congress adjourns for the last time in the session will be considered to have “died in committee.” If the bill dies in committee, you can do this all over again and try to convince a member of congress to submit the bill in the 114th congress that would open its session at noon on January 3, 2015.
If the bill passes both chambers it is likely it will be signed by the president. As far as I know there has never been a commemorative coin bill to have been vetoed by any president.
Although there are a lot of good ideas, many of them are not properly introduced to congress. The few that do make it do not receive enough support to move beyond introduction. Even fewer are passed by one chamber and not both. Those that make it past congress to the president’s desk had some effort behind them besides being just a good idea. After all, with only two commemorative coin programs allowed per year, congress has to be convinced to believe your commemorative idea is better than another for that same year.
Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative coin courtesy of the U.S. Mint
Images of congress and the capitol courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol
Image from School House Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill” can be found all over the interwebs.