October 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

It seems that when I write these posts about the monthly numismatic-related legislation reviews, I note how frustrating it is to follow the workings of Congress. Even though I work as a part-time political analyst and have some contacts I can leverage, even the insiders cannot explain why things happen.

Let’s look at recent legislation. Even though the House passed both the The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2519) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1235) on the same day and sent both the Senate at the same time, the Senate only passed one of the bills while the other is languishing in committee.

Commemorative coin bills are not a big priority for Congress. Most of the time, they are treated as favors for one member or another, along the lines of “you help me with mine and I will help you with yours.” These are not big issues but are used to win points with constituents back home.

Although nobody is sure of the reasons why the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act is being stalled in committee, it may be because of politics and personality conflicts. Usually, when one of these bills are introduced, a version will be submitted to the House and Senate hoping one will pass. The Senate version, S. 1503 was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Sen. Warren is not a favorite amongst her colleagues on the other side of the aisle. My sources speculate that the Senate’s leadership could be using this as a future bargaining chip against some of her principled stances.

It does not matter what you think about Sen. Warren or her politics. This is the way Congress works. If you think that the Basketball Hall of Fame should have a commemorative coin to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2020, then let your senators know that you support H.R. 1235 that has already passed the House.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
Summary: This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.”
Referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. — Feb 23, 2017
Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Unanimous Consent. — Jul 26, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 2, 2017
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Oct 3, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 18, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate. — Sep 26, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Sep 29, 2017
Presented to President. — Sep 29, 2017
Became Public Law No: 115-65. — Oct 6, 2017
This new law can be viewed at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

H.R. 4044: 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Introduced: October 12, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Oct 12, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR4044.
PN1082: David J. Ryder — Department of the Treasury
Date Received from President: October 5, 2017
Summary: David J. Ryder, of New Jersey, to be Director of the Mint for a term of five years, vice Edmund C. Moy, resigned.
Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Oct 5, 2017
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Hearings held. — Oct 24, 2017
This nomination can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-PN1082.

Breast Cancer coin design announced on NYC television show

Design of the 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Gold Coin was announced today on Fox 5 New York featuring interviews with New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), the sponsor of the authorizing legislation (Public Law 114-148) and Myra Biblowit, President of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the organization that will receive whatever is collected from the surcharges.

No additional details were provided including the name of the winning designer or whether the silver dollar and clad half-dollar will have the same design.

Here is the video segment from “Good Day New York:”

Still frame of the reverse design also from “Good Day New York:

Still frame of Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coin reverse from Fox 5 NY

Summary of the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Program

  • Commemorative coins issued in 2018
  • Design, emblematic of the fight against breast cancer, selected from a juried competition with no less than $5,000 going to winning design
  • “The Secretary shall encourage three-dimensional designs to be submitted as part of the proposals”
  • 50,000 $5 “pink gold” coins with an alloy of at least 75-percent gold with a $35 surcharge
  • 400,000 one-ounce silver dollars made with not less than 90-percent silver with a $10 surcharge
  • 750,000 clad half-dollar coins with a $5 surcharge
  • Surcharges will be distributed to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of New York, to further breast cancer research funded by the Foundation.

Pink gold can be more commonly described as “rose gold.” Rose gold is an alloy of 75-percent gold with 20-percent copper and 5-percent silver. The color can be adjusted by changing the ratio of copper and silver.

All media courtesy of WNYW — Fox 5 NY.

LeRoy Transfield Interview — PART II

NOTE: I reached out to LeRoy Transfield, the winner of the design competition for the World War I Centennial Commemorative dollar coin to ask about his experience with the design competition. Yesterday, I posted a write-up he provided to me. Today, are his answers to additional questions I had.
Coin Collectors Blog: I see from your website that your expertise is sculpting larger works, such as statues. Were there techniques you have used in the past that helped you with the design process?
LeRoy Transfield: I haven’t done that many low relief sculptures before although I have had many years of experience in high relief. I mostly do the figure but from my early training in college I learnt that basic elements and principles of design plays a big role.
CCB: Did you have interaction with the selection committee? Did they ask for modifications, specifically based on their ability to strike a proper coin?
LT:   I didn’t have any interaction with the committee other than when I spoke to them when they called me to say I won. They made some modifications to my submission such as making the rifle more accurate and the helmet more covered. The drawing they presented is actually not mine. I think there are problems with it such as around the eyes, proportions a little off on the soldier. But I think the final coin sculpted by Don Everhardt will look a lot better than that.
CCB: How were you notified that you won the competition?
LT:   I was in Hawaii working on a project there which is a nice place to receive good news. They emailed me saying they wanted a conference call with me. It was 4 officials from the mint, The director, the head sculptor Don Everhardt, Meagan the project manager and one other can’t remember that one: sorry:8. I was informed I won and that the judging was unanimous that my design was outstanding among the entries. Don was very nice and said I did very nice figure work and that I had ‘nailed the design.’ I understand the project was his last sculpture before he retired. It was a very exciting time and a little stressful considering what it meant for the future and that I didn’t really think I would win since it was my first coin attempt. The $10,00 prize was also a great bonus and justified the summer I spent staring off into space, doodling and sitting around looking at war movies (Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iowa Jima and Band of Brothers were my favorite).
CCB: Now that you won your first design competition for the U.S. Mint, would you consider entering another? Would you consider becoming a member of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program?
LT:   I am a finalist for the Apollo 11 coin which we have already submitted our entries to. I as in my WW 1 coin design, I am pleased with what I came up with and whether it does well or not, I am happy to have to judged and my initials to the coin if it does win. I think this competition will be interesting because they said they will post the entries online but the committee will make the final decision. I didn’t enter the Breast Cancer Awareness coin because at the time I couldn’t think of anything that would say that in a coin. I could have thought of some cool designs but nothing (appropriate) to say oh yes that coin is to do with breast cancer.
I would become a member if they asked. I think sometimes the coins the mint puts out are too illustrative and rely too much on technology (such as Z brush). Coins are very hard to design especially in low relief since there are so many rules and so many things that look bad when translated to low relief. In the end I would use the ultimate test I do on any sculpture I make, to stand well back and be as objective as possible and say-does it look any good?
I would like to thank LeRoy Transfield for his time!

LeRoy Transfield discusses designing WWI Commemorative

NOTE: I reached out to LeRoy Transfield, the winner of the design competition for the World War I Centennial Commemorative dollar coin to ask about his experience with the design competition. He sent me a copy of his story with permission to publish it here. The following is what he sent. I had additional questions. Those will be published tomorrow.

LeRoy Transfield

When I first heard about the world war one design competition by the United States Mint for a commemorative coin I was very excited. I was interested and inspired for many reasons. First off, ever since I was very little I was fascinated by war and war stories and comic books depicting war. The high light of my week was to watch the British Documentary World at War. Since then I still enjoy many aspects of history, not just war. But war is a big part of our world because the way that things are now came about from those wars.

Secondly, I was excited because I am a sculptor and love sculpture of all kinds. My specialty is sculpture in the round, figures, people. I have done very few low relief sculptures and no coins. Despite this, I enjoy looking at well-sculpted coins and even have a small coin collection of my own. My favorite American coin is the Standing Liberty quarter by Hermon MacNeil.

Thirdly I have done a number of war memorials for local towns in the area including the city I live in. During these experiences, I have gotten to know many veterans and people that fought in most of the major wars of the 20th century. Many of them including people I worked very closely with are now gone. But I often think of them and how their lives have touched mine.

Last, I was inspired by my own family. Both extended and immediate. I have been supported and helped over the years and always feel grateful for their support. Also, my Great Uncle on my mother’s side actually fought in World War One as part of the Maori Battalion. The Maori Battalion were part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to aid the allies. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.

All this excitement and energy flowed through me when I first got the news that I was a finalist. I so wanted to create a great design! Even though I had seen many WW I movies already and new the history, I review many pictures, books, films and documentaries to focus on the American role in the war.

I also looked at great coins. Not so much as to get an idea for a design or copy them, but to dissect those good coins and figure out what made them so good compared to average coins and what rules helped them achieve such inspiring results. I wanted an original design but one that followed those lines of greatness.

I thought about the poem, In Flanders Fields and thought Poppies would be a good thing to put in there somewhere. I also thought of the armistice and how excited everyone was when the hour came. A peace that may well not have happened without American support.

With all these thoughts, I started drawing images. I drew for two weeks. Ideas and designs of mostly soldiers in different poses that could easily be accentuated in a relief coin design. After this I started making clay versions of my sketches and quickly realized the drawings were useless and didn’t help me see problems in the design once it was built up in clay.

After about 4 or 5 weeks I was hitting a wall. No really good design was standing out from the numerous changes and trials I had done. The mint offered a conference call to all 20 participants to go over any questions we might have. This was of great help. In the call, I asked, what is the most common mistake made by beginning coin designers. The person, I forgot his name, said the most common mistake was adding too much detail to the 8-inch mock-up because one has to keep in mind that the final will be only 1.5 inches and much of the detail will be lost. Even though I already knew this it sank in even more. The other impression I got from the call was that the mint is really leaving things open to the finalists and wants to see what we can come up with, and not worry a whole lot about whether the design is right for coining as they have sculptors would fix those problems. They just wanted to see what we could come up with.

The first thing I did was scrap the board I was working on. At 18 inches, it was way too big. I thought that in working larger than the required 8 inch casts to be submitted, I could make a good large design and boil it down to a really good 8-inch final. Instead, I went the opposite way and started to work smaller than the 8 inches to get a better feeling of a coin. I started sculpting on 4-inch wood discs. This really helped a lot. It made it way easier to make a quick design and

help me see if it was going to work. I finally came up with the soldier profile, collar up and a rifle slung over his shoulder. This was not the final design but a good starting point. As I had the soldier in profile worked up, I wanted to add to it but knew not what it needed. That night I had barbed wire going through my head. Soldiers charging barbed wire, wire in the dirt and finally somehow, wire on my relief sculpture. After dreaming about barbed wire, I went to the piece and add the two small strands of wire in opposition to the rifle and the soldier. The hands also seem a natural thing to add and just like that I had the design for the Obverse.

I was very demanding on myself and didn’t say, that’s it, that’s the one. What I said was that’s a good Obverse, now make another. Another one never came. I was running out of time so I decided then to make that my Obverse and put my thoughts into the reverse. I actually thought I had a good idea already, an eagle. It was going to be a diving eagle, in profile, with wings outstretched holding arrows and an olive branch. In the eagle’s beak would be a banner with the words e plurubus unum. In the background would be a map of Europe. I just knew it would look good. But when I fleshed it out it looked terrible!

I looked for another idea. It had to be as good as the soldier. The eagle didn’t work but I wanted to try a bird again and knew that carrier pigeons were used a lot in World War One so I decided to use a pigeon. I looked at many pigeons and pigeon photos and sculpted up something I thought looked ideal. This was good because the time for submitting was running out! I had only three days left.

With the pieces molded and cast to the 8 inch specifications I had the two designs. The soldier looked good. I had different thoughts about the pigeon. I sculpted the bird as best I could but the final reverse looked not near as good as the obverse. I was dumbfounded. I had to send the pigeon, time was up, I had no time to make another. But as I looked at the pigeon I became more and more alarmed to the point where my stomach ached to look at it. I was tired of the whole project.

I thought I should just send it and be done with it. But on more reflection, I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t send it!

Firstly, I thought of the embarrassment of the committee seeing this lousy pigeon. I wouldn’t be there, I reasoned, but that didn’t help. Sure, they might like the soldier, perhaps they will choose that and another reverse. Even so I just couldn’t send it. So, I did a thought conversation and said to myself if you don’t like it they make something else, in your style, that you do like. Even if the committee doesn’t like it at least you can be happy with what you send and no regrets. But then I would vacillate back to you have run out of time just send it and be done with the thing.

At that time, my daughter wanted to go on a 9-mile bike ride up Provo Canyon, a favorite summer activity and jump off a local bridge into the chilling Provo river. School was about to start so this would be one last activity with my daughter. The ride there took about an hour. In retrospect, this time away made all the difference in my final decision to send a different reverse. As I left and rode away from my work I had a greater perspective. I could see I had learnt a lot in the last 10 weeks about coin sculpting and may well be able to come up with a good design in two days. Halfway into my ride I convinced myself that the pigeon had to go and now, what was I going to do to replace it? As we got to the bridge I came back to the beginning, poppies. But poppies are a little uninteresting and not that good looking in relief coin sculpture. So, my next thoughts were how to make the poppies look better.

This was all going on while I was enjoying the summer weather and river water with my daughter. To jump into the river, one would climb up on a steel rail about 4.5 feet above the bridge, balance there and jump into the water 15 feet below. It was exhilarating. Standing on top of the rail is quite an inspiring thing. The beautiful canyon, trees, rocks, and water looked awesome. I often thought that on a stormy day a bolt of lightning could easily find its way to the person standing perched so high on the bridge. As I stood there I thought came to me of using the barbed wire again in contrast to the poppies. I’ve got it I said and jumped into water fridge water. I had it all now, in my mind.

All I needed to do was go home and put in down in clay. When I got home my wife to catch up with me on her day. We talked about the recent passing of my old sculpture teacher and some of the funny stories he would tell us students. All this time I was sculpting the poppies and the wire. In an hour, it was done. That’s it! I said. I was unsure if it was a winning design but it was a design I could put my name to and come what may, I wasn’t embarrassed.

The plaster casts made it to the US mint the very last day of the deadline.

Portrait of the LeRoy Transfield taken from the artist’s website.

Interior Secretary Zinke has his own Challenge Coin

Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke

Stories abound regarding the quirks and foibles of some of the appointed members of the Executive Branch. Some are troublesome while others seem to be personality-based that seems different from what some consider the norm.

In an article that appeared in The Washington Post, it was reported that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has the department fly a special flag on top of the agency’s building in Washington, D.C. when he is in the office. On days Zinke is not in the office, a flag is raised for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

Zinke, the former Montana congressman, is a former Navy SEAL commander and may have adopted this tradition from his time in the service.

Zinke also commissioned personalized challenge coins to give to staff and visitors.

Challenge Coin commissioned by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Challenge coins began as a military tradition during World War I when Ivy League students went to war and created these coins as an act of camaraderie. The challenge is that when a member draws his or her challenge coin and slaps it on the table, others must produce their challenge coin. If someone does not have their challenge coin, that person must buy a round of drinks for the group.

Typically, a challenge coin is a small medal, usually no larger than 2-inches in diameter, with the insignia or emblem of the organization. Two-sided challenge coins may have the emblem of the service on the front and the back has the emblem of the division or other representative services. Challenge coins are traditionally given by a commander in recognition of special achievement or can be exchanged as recognition for visiting an organization.

Receiving a challenge coin, especially from a high ranking official is supposed to be considered an honor.

Over the last 15 years, challenge coins became popular outside of the military as retired service members began to work in other areas of the government. The tradition has even been adopted by state and local governments and sometimes used to help raise money for municipal projects.

While most agencies have challenge coins, Zinke may be the only secretary to have one personalized. There was no report on the cost of the coins to taxpayers.

Although having a personalized challenge coin along with his flag ritual is unusual for a Cabinet-level official, there appears nothing wrong with him doing this. Zinke appears to have enthusiastically embraced his job at the Department of the Interior and if he uses the challenge coin to help reward department employees, then this is a good move on his part.

Credits

  • Official portrait of Secretary Zinke courtesy of the Department of the Interior.
  • Zinke Challenge Coin image courtesy of The Washington Post.

U.S. Mint announces WWI Centennial Commemorative Design winner

Utah sculptor LeRoy Transfield, right, poses in his sculpting studio in Orem.

In a rare Monday holiday appearance by government workers, the U.S. Mint announced that they selected a design for the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin.

The winning design was submitted by LeRoy Transfield, a sculptor from Orem, Utah.

In an interview that appeared in the Desert News, Transfield said that he had two uncles that served as members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Native Contingent during World War I. This lead to his interest in learning about the history of the war.

For the obverse, Transfield titled it “Soldier’s Charge.” In the interview, Transfield said that he “didn’t want him to look like some model in an artist’s studio. I made his nose like it might’ve been broken. I wanted to give him a rugged looking face. … I wanted that feeling of combat”

Transfield said that the reverse was more difficult to for him to design. After several tried he came up with the “Poppies in the Wire”

Poppies are a fitting tribute since their use was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician following the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier who died in battle. It was published in 1915 and first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate the American Soldiers killed in the war. It was later adopted by veterans groups within the British Empire including Canada.

Transfield is originally from New Zealand but moved to the United States to attend BYU-Hawaii. After graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree, he moved with his wife to Orem where he operates a sculpting studio in his garage.

Based on the line drawing, it appears that this is going to be an excellent design when struck on a 40mm silver planchet. This is one time where it appears that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts got it right in picking the design.

The World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin will be issued in 2018. According to the law (Public Law 113-212) , the U.S. Mint is limited to selling no more than 350,000 silver dollars. Each coin will have a $10 surcharge (a maximum of $3.5 million) will be paid to the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars to assist the World War I Centennial Commission in commemorating the centenary of World War I.

Given the texture in the both the soldier on the front and the poppies on the reverse, it will be interesting to see if the U.S. Mint comes up with an enhanced uncirculated version. It could be extraordinary!

Credits

  • Image of LeRoy Transfield in his studio courtesy of the Desert News.
  • Coin line art images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Get Ready for the American Legion Commem in 2019

Sometimes, it takes time for the online system to catch up with the acts of Congress. But in what looks like a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate passed The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2519) on September 29, 2017. It becomes the first piece of numismatic-related legislation passed by the 115th Congress.

When signed by the president, who is in Puerto Rico today and expected to be in Las Vegas tomorrow, the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin program will be the second commemorative program of 2019. The other is the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative program.

Typical of the three coin commemorative programs, the law authorizes a $5 gold, $1 silver, half-dollar clad coins with maximum mintages of 50,000, 400,000, and 750,000 respectively.

According to the bill, “The design for the coins minted under this Act shall be emblematic of The American Legion.” Other than the required inscriptions, no other restrictions were placed on the design except the required reviews by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Surcharges of $35 for the gold coin, $10 for the silver coin, and $5 for the clad coin will go to the American Legion to help with their service efforts. If the program sells out, the Amercian Legion can earn $9.5 million.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 18, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate. — Sep 26, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Sep 29, 2017
Presented to President. — Sep 29, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

September 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Trying to follow the inner workings of politics is more frustrating than what you see on television news. Part of following the inner workings of Congress is to try to figure out what Congress will do next is not only understanding where legislation is in the process, what Congress calls “regular order,” but it also requires understanding who is asking for what favors in order to get pet projects passed.

As part of the House of Representatives’s regular order, they created a rule that two-thirds of the members must support a commemorative coin bill by being a co-sponsor before it will be considered in committee. This means that 287 members must sign-on as co-sponsors. Once the bill meets the threshold, the bill goes through the committee process.

Although both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act and The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act met that threshold, the threshold was met a while ago. This means the bills were supposed to go through the committee process except neither did. Both bills were introduced on the floor under a process called “suspension of the rules.” Under suspension of the rules, a bill may be brought to the floor for debate and vote without having to go through regular order.

When a bill is brought to the floor, there is a debate period determined by whoever is acting as the presiding officer. Both sides get to have their say, however, in these cases, the member who introduced the bill will stand up and provide a justification for the record as the only speaker. Once the debate period ends, the House votes on the bill.

Both bills were passed on a voice vote.

What can make following legislation frustrating is that there was no indication that these bills were going to be brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. I had asked a source whether this was done in order to curry favor with the sponsors. My source was uncertain as to why these bills were rushed to the floor.

Now it is on to the Senate. Let’s see how quickly they get to this legislation or whether it will be burried in committee.

H.R. 1235: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA)
Introduced: February 27, 2017
Summary: This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue not more than 50,000 $5 coins, 400,000 $1 coins, and 750,000 half-dollar coins in recognition and celebration of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.The coins shall be in the shape of a dome, and the design on the common reverse of the coins shall depict a basketball. Treasury shall hold a competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins, which shall be emblematic of the game of basketball.The bill requires all sales of such coins to include specified surcharges, which shall be paid by Treasury to the Hall to fund an endowment for increased operations and educational programming.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Feb 27, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Sep 26, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.
H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — May 18, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Sep 25, 2017
Received in the Senate. — Sep 26, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Sep 29, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

August 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

We send our hopes and wishes out to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

A Rockport firefighter goes door to door on a search and rescue mission as he looks for people who may need help after Hurricane Harvey passed through on August 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas. (Image courtesy of The Atlantic)

I ask that my readers help those in the affected region by donating to a charity that is working in the region to help.

The American Red Cross needs blood donors. If you can give blood, visit redcross.org/hp/harvey3 to find a blood drive near you!

You can also visit the Red Cross website to donate to relief efforts. Donations can be made by Credit Card or by using your PayPal account. If you are not comfortable donating on the web, you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or you can make a $10 donation by texting HARVEY to 90999. The $10 donation will appear on your next cell phone bill.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster group has a collection of member organizations who may be taking both donations and volunteers to help the flood-stricken region. You can see the list on their website at nvoad.org/voad-members/national-members.

The City of Houston has established a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. You can find out how to donate directly to the fund on the city’s website at houstontx.gov/mayor/press/harvey-relief-fund.html.

For more information about the federal disaster response and other resources, visit disasterassistance.gov.

Finally, for those looking for numismatic content, here is what happened in August before Congress went on summer break:

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. — Feb 23, 2017
Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Unanimous Consent. — Jul 26, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.
S. 1182: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Todd C. Young (R-IN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
This bill requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue commemorative coins in recognition and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.Surcharges received from the sale of these coins shall be paid to the American Legion for costs related to promoting the importance of: (1) caring for those who have served, and those who are still serving, in the Armed Forces; and (2) maintaining patriotic values, strong families, and assistance for at-risk children.
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 18, 2017
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Aug 3, 2017
Held at the desk. — Aug 4, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.
S. 1718: 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-LA)
Introduced: August 2, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Aug 2, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1718.

Learning from History using Numismatics

Portrait of George Santayana by Samuel Johnson Woolf (1880-1948)

One of the most popular aphorisms was written by philosopher and essayist George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Although it was one line in Volume 1 of his five volume The Life of Reason, the statement is so profound that it stands out as a seminal statement.

Events this past week in Charlottesville, Virginia are forcing us to heed Santayana’s warning and look at our history to understand how we got here and why. Regardless of how anyone feels about the issues behind the divisions we cannot condone the use of violence to try to force opinions on others. This is what was tried in the past, which is why we have to learn from it because it seems to repeat itself time and again.

We should not hide our history behind political correctness. We need to put both the good and the bad out front for all to see. We need to learn from both and improve going forward. And this is not only about the Civil War. The United States has had a long record of abuses to the native tribes in the 19th century that we should be ashamed of. In fact, this country continues to abuse the native tribes and violate treaties that were designed to protect both sides. For an example, see the Dakota Pipeline project.

Americans want to celebrate their past and learn from the mistakes but are we continuing to make the same mistake? For every Civil Rights Act of 1964 Silver Dollar (2014), there are stories of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II whose only “crime” was to have Japanese ancestry.

Commemorative coins have always been used to help raise money for one cause or another. Members of Congress would bring the request to Washington from their home state and use the support of these bills to bargain with their fellow members to support other bills. It became so bad that the commemorative coins programs were ended following the 1954 release of the George Washington Carver Half Dollar.

During the early period of commemorative coins, Congress authorized the issuance of three commemoratives with themes tied to the Civil War. Two were created to memorialize battlefields and the other a memorial that is causing controversy today.

Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar

The 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar features the images of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The monument was commissioned by the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Association to create a monument to the leaders of the south on the large granite face of the mountain. Both the coin and the monument was designed by Gutzon Borglum. Borglum was the same designer of Mount Rushmore.

The project began in 1916 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They were deeded the side of the mountain by the Venable Brothers, who used to mine the stones. Sam Venable used Stone Mountain as a central meeting place as part of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.

The carved memorial was supposed to be a 12-year project. Aside from funding issues, Borglum, who was known to associate with the Ku Klux Klan, quit the project in 1925. That lead to having many problems with funding and maintaining sculptors throughout the years. After the mountain was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1958, there were two attempts to complete the memorial. It was finally completed in 1970.

Congress authorized a production of 5 million coins. These coins were struck in batches of 500,000 at a time in Philadelphia. The coins were sent to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Association which offered them for sale. Despite brisk sales, they only sold about 1.3 million coins. The balance of the last run was returned to the U.S. Mint to be melted.

Battle of Gettysburg Half Dollar

The 1936 Battle of Gettysburg Half Dollar issued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. The obverse features generic the profiles of Union and Confederate soldiers with the words “Blue and Gray Reunion” under the portraits.

During this time, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association had been transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service for administration. But the area needed additional infrastructure and support. As part of the plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the commemorative coin was used to Pennsylvania the necessary money. As with many of the commemorative coins issued during The Great Depression, the program fell short.

Congress authorized a production of 50,000 coins. These coins were struck at Philadelphia and sent to the Pennsylvania State Commission which offered them at $1.65 each. They sold just under 27,000 coins. The rest were returned to the U.S. Mint to be melted.

Battle of Antietam Half Dollar

The 1937 Battle of Antietam Half Dollar was issued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle which General Geroge B. McClellan preventing the invasion of Maryland by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of the Potomac near Antietam Creek. Although Lee’s army was able to withdraw back to Virginia, President Abraham Lincoln relieve McClellan because it was felt that the battle did not defeat Lee’s army.

Similar to the Gettysburg Half Dollar, Maryland proposed a commemorative half dollar in order to improve the infrastructure around the battlefield and cemetery. One of the differences between Antietam and Gettysburg was the network of roads built around the battlefield area that Sharpsburg, the main city along Antietam Creek, was a gateway across the Potomac River into these western areas even before the Civil War. As a natural crossing point, Lee’s army was going to use it to attack the Union from the west.

Congress authorized a production of 50,000 coins. These coins were struck at Philadelphia and sent to the Washington County (Maryland) Historical Society which offered them at $1.65 each. They sold about 18,000 coins. The rest were returned to the U.S. Mint to be melted.

Learning from History

During the times that these commemorative coins were proposed, the commemoratives were met with little interest and even with some disdain that the U.S. Mint would be required to produce so many commemoratives.

Specifically, regarding the Stone Mountain Memorial half dollar, a review of newspaper archives does not mention an outrage over the production of the coin. However, there was plenty of stories about the Jim Crow laws. Predictably, northern newspapers were against them and southern newspapers defended them.

Stone Mountain itself has had an interesting history even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. In the 1980s, Daniel Carver, former Grand Dragon of the “Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” donated money to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to upgrade the park. In return, the organization was going to rename the park in his honor until protests convinced the organization otherwise. Carver would go on to make a spectacle at the park during the week before the 1988 Democratic National Convention that was held in Atlanta.

History is addressed to understand the context. It is easy to look back and ask, “What were they thinking?” By understanding the history, it does provide an insight into that answer.

But Continue to Collect History

History is a great teacher but it is not enough to have the words. We build museums with artifacts of history so that we can learn from the past. We collect artifacts of history so that we can preserve the past. We study these artifacts to understand “What were they thinking” because it is important to the context of history.

Whether it is for curiosity, pride, interest in the subject, or the thrill of the chase, collecting historical artifacts is not only educational but also vital to ensure we do not forget the history regardless of whether it is good or bad.

If your passion is classic commemoratives, make sure you include a Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar in your collection.

If your passion is Confederate currency, some were well made and will make for an interesting collection.

If your passion is military medals and awards of the Civil War or of the Confederacy, make sure you find as many as possible. Document what your find. Research their provenance. Understand what they mean because it is important that history is remembered.

Whatever you collect, share it with the rest of us because we all need to learn about history so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: