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.

July 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

As part of my bill tracking, I am including the status of the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act even though it does not have numismatic content. Given the impact of Agustus Saint-Gaudens to the numismatic world, it seems fitting to watch the status of this bill. Converting it from a National Historic Site to a National Park is being done for funding reasons. Although it will continue to be operated by the National Park Service, as a National Park there will be more money available for its operations.

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
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.
S. 312: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Introduced: February 6, 2017
This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Feb 6, 2017
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. Hearings held. — Jul 19, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S312.
S. 1568: President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Introduced: July 17, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 17, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1568.
H.R. 3274: President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Mccarthy (R-CA)
Introduced: July 17, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 17, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR3274.

Why collect NCLT coins?

A while ago, I received the following question from a reader:

Why do coins that were made NOT for circulation, like Silver Eagles, Commemoratives Productions, etc have any value other than their face value? I do not see the value of collecting something that was never meant for circulation.

2013 American Eagle West Point Two-Coin Silver Set with reverse proof and enhanced uncirculated coins.

Starting with the first question, the face value of any coin is assigned by the legal authority that produces the coin. In the United States, the face value of any coin is determined by Congress. In other countries, the central bank or the treasury ministry makes the determination.

The American Silver Eagle Program was the result of the Reagan Administration wanting to sell the silver that was part of the Defense National Stockpile to balance the budget. Originally, the plan was to auction the bullion. After intense lobbying by the mining industry warning that such an auction would damage their industry, the concept was changed to selling the silver as coinage.

Changing the sales to coinage allowed for market diversification. Rather than a few people attempting to corner the market at an auction, selling coins on the open market allows more people to have access to the silver as an investment vehicle.

As codified in Title II of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 99-61, 99 Stat. 113), the “Liberty Coin Act” defines the program as we know it today including the phrase “The coins issued under this title shall be legal tender as provided in section 5103 of title 31, United States Code.”

As a legal tender item, the coin’s basic value has the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States government. Regardless of what happens in politics and world events, the coin will be worth at least its face value. Being minted by the U.S. Mint is a guarantee of quality that is recognized around the world making worth its weight in silver plus a numismatic premium.

Coins are perceived by the market as being more desirable than medals. Medals have no monetary value except as an art object. When it comes to investments, they do not hold a value similar to that of a legal tender coin. This is because medals are not guaranteed by the United States government, a key factor in determining its aftermarket value.

Once the coin has been sold by the U.S. Mint, its value is determined by various market forces. For more on how coins are priced, see my two-part explanation: Part I and Part II.

Why do American Silver Eagles have a One Dollar face value? Because the law (31 U.S.C. Sect. 5112(e)(4)) sets this as a requirement.

Why are the coins worth more than their face value? Because the law (31 U.S.C. Sect. 5112(f)(1)) says that “The Secretary shall sell the coins minted under subsection (e) to the public at a price equal to the market value of the bullion at the time of sale, plus the cost of minting, marketing, and distributing such coins (including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and promotional and overhead expenses).”

Can you spend the American Silver Eagle as any other legal tender coin? In the United States, you can use any legal tender coin in commerce at its face value. This means that if you can find someone to accept an American Silver Eagle, it is worth one dollar in commerce. However, it would be foolish to trade one-ounce of silver for one dollar of goods and services.

Commemorative Coins

Commemorative programs are different in that the authorizing laws add a surcharge to the price of the coin to raise money for some organization. Using the 2017 Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Program (Public Law 114-30) as an example, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced a bill (H.R. 893 in the 114th Congress) to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Boys Town. As with all other commemorative bills, the bill specified the number, type, composition, and denomination of each coin.

The Boys Town Centennial Commemorative coin features Fr. Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys Town

For example, the law says that the U.S. Mint will issue no more than 50,000 $5 gold coins that weighs 8.359 grams, have a diameter of 0.850 inches, and contains 90-percent gold. The law also has design requirements including being “emblematic of the 100 years of Boys Town.” The sale price of the coin will have “a price equal to the sum of” “the face value of the coins; and, the cost of designing and issuing the coins (including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, overhead expenses, marketing, and shipping).”

As with other commemorative, the coins will include a surcharge. Each gold coin will include a $35 surcharge, $10 for a silver dollar, and $5 for each clad half-dollar coin. When the program is over, the surcharges “shall be paid to Boys Town to carry out Boys Town’s cause of caring for and assisting children and families in underserved communities across America.”

The 2017 Boys Town Centennial Uncirculated $5 Gold Commemorative Coin is selling for $400.45 and the proof coin is selling for $405.45 suggesting that the process of producing a proof coin costs the U.S. Mint $5 more than the uncirculated coin.

What goes into the price of the coin? After the face value of $5, there is a $35 surcharge added that will be paid to Boys Town, there is the cost of the metals used. Here is a workup of the cost of the gold planchet using current melt values:

Metal Percentage Weight (g) Metals Base Rate Price (g) Metal Value
Gold 90% 7.523 1259.00/toz 40.48 $ 304.52
Silver 6% 5.015 16.57/toz 0.53 0.27
Copper 4% 3.344 2.83/pound 0.006 0.00
Total metal value $ 304.79

Even though the melt value of the coin is $304.79, there is a service charge the U.S. Mint has to pay the company that creates the planchets. Thus, before the labor, dies, use of machinery, overhead expenses, and marketing is calculated into the price, the coin will cost $344.79 even though the legal tender face value of the coin is $5.

Taking it a step further, the average profit the U.S. Mint makes from gold commemorative coins is 8-percent (based on the 2015 Annual Report). If they are charging $400.45 for the uncirculated gold coin, the coin costs $368.41 to manufacture, $373.41 for the proof version.

Why collect these coins?

Why not?!

American Silver Eagle bullion coins were created for the investment market even though the authorizing law saw the benefit of allowing the U.S. Mint to sell a collector version. All of the Eagle coins are sold for investment or because people want to collect them for their own reasons. Some collect the collector version as an investment.

Commemorative coins are collected for their design or the buyer’s affinity for the subject and to support the cause which is being sponsored by the sale of the coin. Some collect commemorative coins like others collect series of coins.

Even though modern commemorative coins are sold for more than their face value, that does not mean they are not worth collecting. After all, can you buy a Morgan Dollar, Peace Dollar, Walking Liberty Half-Dollar, or a Buffalo Nickel for its face value?

Collecting bullion, commemorative, and other non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins is a matter of choice. If you choose to collect these coins, know that they will be worth more than their face value. And while they are legal tender coins, they are not meant for circulation. They are collectibles.

If you like these collectibles, enjoy your collection. Along with coins produced for circulation, I own American Silver Eagle coins, commemoratives, and other NCLT because I like them.

Some of the NCLT coins in my collection
Boys Town commemorative coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

June 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

There are people who love front row seats. They go out of their way to find tickets in the front row. Whether it is a concert, the latest play, or the movies the front row gets you up close and personal.

The front row is also louder. Because it is a desirable seat, the front row is crowded. You can get pushed around, cramped and you’re not going to tell the show to turn down the volume a bit. Many times, there are those who think they deserve the special perks of the front row even if they are the ordinary shlub off the street.

This is what it is like living around the nation’s capital. For a political junkie, this is the front row of politics. Even though more work is happening in state capitols, everyone crowds the front row. With the lure of the show, this front row is crowded, loud, and there are a lot of people who are inconsiderate and crowding the theater making it no longer fun.

When I started writing about numismatic legislation, it was interesting. It was fun going through the bills to find interesting stories and speculate whether it will pass. Now with all the garbage eliminating from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I am finding it difficult to stay interested. The rhetoric and level of nonsense have turned the show from being tuneful to sound worse than the sound of two chalkboards mating.

I hope that something changes soon because there have been some interesting numismatic-related bills introduced that would be nice to see passed.

S. 1326: American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
• Introduced: June 8, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1326.

S. 1503: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Sponsor: Sen. Elizabeth A. Warren (D-MA)
• Introduced: June 29, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1503.

May 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Just because congress is dysfunctional does not mean they cannot curry favor with various constituencies. This month we see bills introduced for a Coast Guard and American Legion 100th Anniversary commemorative coins programs. Both are worthy organizations but given the toxic nature of Congress, who knows if these commemorative programs will be passed.

To pair with the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act (S. 759) introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), there is now a version introduced in the house (H.R. 2299). Even though it is a good idea, it will not be supported in the current environment.

I wish some of these bills had a chance….

H.R. 2299: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY)
• Summary: To save taxpayers money by improving the manufacturing and distribution of coins and notes.
• Introduced: May 2, 2017
• Last Action: May 2, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-hr2299.

H.R. 2317: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2317.

S. 1021: United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
• Introduced: May 3, 2017
• Last Action: May 3, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1021.

S. 1182: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.

H.R. 2519: The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN)
• Introduced: May 18, 2017
• Last Action: May 18, 2017: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR2519.

JFK 100

A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the second son of Joe and Rose Kennedy. Born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, Jack, as he was known to family and friends, was born of privilege and lead that life being able to travel the world in his younger days. It also helped that his father was named Ambassador to the Court of St. James (London).

The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.

He used his experience to better understand the plight of people and majored in government at Harvard College. For his honors thesis, Kennedy toured the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East to research different political philosophies. He later was in Germany when the German Army invaded Poland marking the beginning of World War II. With his father still in London, they attended the House of Commons supporting the declaration of war on Germany.

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

On his return to the United States, Kennedy tried to enter the Army’s Officer Candidate School but was medically ineligible because of chronic lower back problems. He used his family’s connections to join the U.S. Naval Reserves. During World War II, he famously commanded PT-109.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

Following the death of his elder brother in 1944, Kennedy was tapped by his father to run for office. Kennedy won his first election in 1946 to serve two terms in the House. In 1952, Kennedy ran for the Senate against three-term incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. The popularity of Dwight Eisenhower running for the president did not help Lodge as Kennedy was able to win by 70,000 votes.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

2014-W Reverse proof in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set

On January 2, 1960, Kennedy announced that he was seeking the Democrat’s nomination for President of the United States. Although very young by presidential standards at 43 years old, Kennedy’s greatest obstacle was his religion. This was the first time a Roman Catholic politician was running for president. He was able to win the nomination by using a well-organized campaign that also took advantage of his good looks and the popularity of his wife, Jacqueline.

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.

While trying to overcome the “Catholic question,” Kennedy his opponent, Richard Nixon, held three debates. Although not much is said about the last two debates, the first one was historic. Kennedy used makeup and appeared cool and presidential. Nixon looked nervous, sweaty, and his five o’clock shadow did not help. When the debate was over, those watching on television thought Kennedy won while those listening on radio thought Nixon won. It was a fascinating use of new media and set the tone for presidential races to come.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

Kennedy won the 1960 election by two-tenths of the popular vote and exceeded the Electoral College by a 303-219 margin even though 14 electors from Alabama and Mississippi refused to support him because of his stance on civil rights. Kennedy became the youngest person ever elected president.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

There were a lot of accomplishments and difficulties during the term of the 35th president that there are too many to highlight here. But one that is significant in the current numismatic world was the speech he made at Rice University in support of the space program. At the time Kennedy was pushing for the funding to enter the space race, Congress was skeptical over spending the money. His impassioned speech to the students at Rice as well as several others around the nation helped gain public support. Congress eventually funded the space program.

In 2019, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of making it to the moon by the end of that decade with the Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin program. Phase One of the competition ends on June 29, 2017, or until 1,000 entries are received. Visit the U.S. Mint’s competition page for more information.

Would the United States have made it to the moon by the end of the 1960s and beaten the Russians there without Kennedy? We may not be able to answer that question but we do know he set the policies that will allow for the celebration in two years.

Happy 100th Birthday to President John F. Kennedy.

Credits

  • 2017 Kennedy Half Dollar and 2015 Kennedy Dollar images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
  • All other images are property of the author.

Memorial Day 2017


The last surviving member of Doolittle’s Raiders is Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot. Cole is now 101 years old. Click here to read about Cole and Doolittle’s Raid on Japan that helped the U.S. launch the War in the Pacific.

The first recorded organized public recognition of the war dead occurred on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. On that day, Freedmen (freed southern slaves) celebrated the service of the 257 Union soldiers buried at the Washington Race Course (now Hampton Park). They labeled the gravesite “Martyrs of the Race Course.” African Americans continued that tradition and named the celebration Decoration Day.

Southern states began their own commemoration to honor their soldiers who died during the war. No specific date was used but occurred in late April through June. By 1880, there was a more organized Confederate Memorial Day. These celebrations honored specific soldiers to commemorate the Confederate “Lost Cause.” By 1913, a sense of nationalism saw a commemoration of all soldiers that have died in battle.

1995-S Civil War Battlefields Commemorative Silver Dollar

Memorial Day took on national significance following World War I when the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 with the passage of the Uniform Holidays Act in 1968. Under the law, Memorial Day was set to the last Monday in May, changing it from the traditional May 30th.

Memorial Day is the national remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Please take a moment and honor the memories of those who have died for without them who knows where we would be today.
 

Visitors are reflected in the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, May 27, 2016. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo via ABC News)

Credits

  • Medal image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
  • Vietnam Memorial Image by Susan Walsh/AP Photo via ABC News.

A Glenn Family Short Snorter

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. is a true American Hero.

I feel so comfortable saying this that I will not qualify that statement with, “few will argue that ….” When you are the first American to strap yourself into a tiny capsule that is forced into space on top of the Atlas LV-3B rocket, essentially a huge Roman candle, there is no argument on his status in history.

Glenn was not only the first American in space but is also the oldest person ever to go to space. In 1998, at the age of 77, Glenn rode on Discovery on STS-95 as part of a study by the National Institute of Aging. Although the study was not criticized, the selection of Glenn was. While there will be an asterisk in history about the criticism, it will not diminish Glenn’s place in history.

While out looking for collectible inventory, I came across an auction of memorabilia from the widow of a crewman that was aboard the ship that picked up Glenn after he splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.

On February 20, 1962, Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Friendship 7 for what ended up being a 4-hour 55-minute flight into history. During the flight, a sensor noted that a heat shield had loosened and could endanger his re-entry. Glenn was ordered to leave a solid-fueled retrorocket pack in place to protect the shield.

Although Glenn’s re-entry was calculated, he carried a note that read, “I am a stranger. I come in peace. Take me to your leader and there will be a massive reward for you in eternity” in several languages, in case he splashed down in an area where the Navy was not positioned.

According to the auction house, two ships were in position based on the projections as to where Friendship 7 was supposed to splash down in the Atlantic. A third was positioned further south and then moved when calculations suggested that the retrorocket pack would change the trajectory of the capsule. When Friendship 7 splashed down further south than expected there was a race amongst the three ships to see who could pick up Glenn and etch their names into history.

The third and most southern positioned ship, the U.S.S. Randolph (CV-15), was in the best position to recover Glenn and the capsule. In the race to the area of the capsule, the Randolph arrived first and pulled Glenn out of the Atlantic. Glenn remained aboard the Randolph where he was medically examined before the aircraft carrier docked in Florida on Friday, February 23, 1962.

Saturday was shore leave for the crew of the Randolph in Key West, Florida. To celebrate, Captain Claude C. (Buddy) Inskeep and select members of his crew were invited for a pleasure cruise aboard The Big Wheel fishing boat where a number of pictures and autographs were offered.

In the auction lot of memorabilia were pictures of John Glenn and his family, a memento picture of some of the people on board The Big Wheel along with a medal featuring John Glenn, and an autographed $1 silver certificate.

It is the silver certificate that makes this lot a very cool find. Technically, we could call this a short snorter since it is a signed piece of paper currency of members together on a trip. But these are not ordinary autographs. From top to bottom the autographs include John Glenn’s wife Annie Glenn; John H. Glenn, Jr.; (John David) Dave Glenn (son, then 17 years old); and (Carolyn Ann) Lyn Glen (daughter, then 15 years old). Below the printed signature of Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest is written “2-24-62.”

I have no doubt that the autographs and the memorabilia are authentic. It is something that you just cannot find every day! Even though I am a dealer and should sell what I purchase, I know that this is a memento from history and of a hero who passed last year. I know I can make a hefty profit from this purchase since I know I vastly underpaid what it is worth, but I am having a hard time considering letting them go.

Glenn family autographed “Short Snorter” dated February 24, 1962, four days after Glenn orbited the earth in Friendship 7

For now, I own them but might entertain offers. But the offers must knock my socks off because this is just too cool to consider anything else!

Note: On the reverse of the picture of Glenn and Gen. McElroy, it does not identify the general by his first name. Based on some reasearch, I believe this is Major General Ivan Wilson McElroy. If someone has different information, please let me know!

March 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

If you think congress is dysfunctional based on what you see on the television news, try working behind the scenes. Recently, I met someone who started working for the government in 1972, before the explosion of the Watergate scandal. With the environment being so toxic, he decided to join the march of government employees into retirement. Very senior government employees with significant institutional knowledge are leaving the government in droves. This is not going to turn out well for the people these agencies are supposed to serve.

In the mean time, here is the legislative review for bills that will probably languish in committee for the forseeable future.

H.R. 1582: Duty First Act
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK)
• Introduced: March 16, 2017
• Summary: To require the Secretary of Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division.
• Last Action: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services: March 16, 2017

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1582

H.R. 1683: National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY)
• Introduced: March 22, 2017
• Summary: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
• Last Action: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services: March 22, 2017

Tack this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1683

S. 759: Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017
• Sponsor: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
• Introduced: March 29, 2017
• Summary: To save taxpayers money by improving the manufacturing and distribution of coins and notes.
• Last action: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs March 29, 2017

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-S759

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: