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

February 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Although the first two bills do not have numismatic content, given the stature of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the numismatic community, I am including them in the numismatic legislation watch.

S. 312: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
• To redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park”
• Introduced: February 6, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S312.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH)
• To redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park”
• Introduced: February 7, 2017
• Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.

H.R. 1235: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
• Introduced: February 27, 2017
• Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services

Track this bill at http://bit.ly/115-HR1235.

Image courtesy of the National Parks Service.

January 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

New congress means a new round of legislation. We begin the new congress with a new historical celebration commission, a commemorative bill, and what looks like a future quarter design bill.

H.R. 66: Route 66 Centennial Commission Act
Sponsor: Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
• Introduced: January 3, 2017
• Bill to create to create a celebratory commission whose job will include suggesting commemorative coins
• Referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR66.

S. 579: Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
• Introduced: January 13, 2017
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR579.

S. 166: Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
• Introduced: January 17, 2017
• Referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S166.

H.R. 770: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition of American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories, to promote the importance of innovation in the United States, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT)
• Introduced: January 31, 2017
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR770.

December 2016 Legislative Review and the end of the 114th Congress

While trying to find the right words to describe 2016 and the anticipation for 2017, I came across a quote from an 1898 speech by British statesman Joseph Chamberlain, father of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain:

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. (Hear, hear.) I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety. (Hear, hear.)

Although working on numismatic-related legislation was not expected during this lame duck session, congress surprised everyone and passed a bill that I really wanted to see passed. Considering the country’s history of the time, there is nothing more iconic than Apollo 11’s trip to the moon. It is the single event that inspired my life in technology.

Public Law No. 114-282: Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
• Introduced: June 10, 2015 as H.R. 2726
• Passed the House: December 5, 2016
• Passed the Senate: December 10, 2016
• Signed by the President: December 16, 2016

See the final text of the law at http://bit.ly/114-HR2726.

The 115th Congress of the United States will officially convene at noon on January 3, 2017. The 45th president will take office at noon on January 20, 2017. We are living in most interesting times with new objects for anxiety.

Happy 2017!

Happy New Year!
As we begin a new year, we should look forward to better times for our hobby, our nation, and our world. I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy 2017 and hope that you find the key coin of your dreams!
Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Save now for the 2019 Apollo 11 Commemorative Coins

Artist’s conception of the common reverse for the 2019 Apollo 11 commemorative coin program.

Every year since coming into office, President Barack Obama and his family packs up and flies to Hawaii for an end of the year vacation. Obama was born in Hawaii and still has some family on Oahu. Before leaving Washington, he will sign whatever bills are sent to him by congress. According to the White House News Feed, President Obama signed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act on Friday, December 16, 2016!

Based on my posts from the last few weeks, I am sure you can tell I have a fascination with space. In fact, if there is such thing as reincarnation, I want to come back in the future to be able to travel around the universe in a manner similar to what we see in the movies. It is sad that there is no real enthusiasm for space exploration as there was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon!

In July 1969, my family lived in the Long Island suburbs of New York. The year before Apollo 11, my father bought a new, large RCA color television. Aside from learning that the beginning and end of Wizard of Oz was in black-and-white, I was able to watch the launches of the world’s largest Roman candle, the Saturn V rocket. Before Skylab and the Shuttle programs, it was a marvel of human achievement. I loved watching the liftoffs from Cape Kennedy and always wanted to go see one in person. I never did get to see a rocket launched, but I hope to some day.

This was a time when kids went outside to play, even in the summer evenings. We played a lot of baseball-related games including setting up a “field” in the street. Nobody was in the street. We were all home watching television and watching overhead shots of Mission Control in Houston. Even through the television, you could sense the tension until Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. TheEagle has landed.”

It wasn’t until years later when I learned more about the Cold War when I understood why it was more important for the United States to land and walk on the moon first. All I knew was it was very cool that an American was up there. It made Star Trek seem possible!

The moon walk was Monday night. Again, we were staring at the television watching the enactments as to what to expect. There were mockups of the Lunar Module and astronauts demonstrating what Armstrong was supposed to do. I remember the concentration on the “D-Ring,” the D-shaped handle that Armstrong had to pull on to open the door that had the camera. There was a question that the ring had to survive the landing and that the door could have jammed. We would have a historical moment without it being recorded on video!

“These are the first pictures ever broadcast from the moon,” was the words by whoever was on television. I remember the words but not who said them. Pulling on the D-ring worked and the world was watching. We watched as Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. After a brief stop to remove the cover on the plaque that was attached to the ladder, Armstrong put both feet on the footpad of the lunar module. After a quick bounce step from the footpad to the surface of the moon, Armstrong gave his famous like, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

There has been a “controversy” about whether Armstrong said “… one small step for man,” or “… one small step for a man.” Whatever is the correct version does not take away from the feat and the fact that Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite!

While NASA was the inspiration for many of the modern technologies we enjoy today, only Apollo 11 took it to the level of defining U.S. technology. While Skylab and the Shuttle programs were far more advanced, Apollo 11 stands as one of the 20th-century’s most amazing feats.

Needless to say, I am excited!

  • Commemorative program issued in 2019
  • Required design elements:
    • Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
    • “The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
    • Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
    • Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
  • Mintage Limit: 50,000 $5 gold; 400,000 silver dollars; 750,000 clad half-dollar; 100,000 five-ounce silver proof dollars
  • Surcharges of $35 per $5 gold; $10 per silver dollar; $5 per half-dollar; and $50 per five-ounce bullion.
  • Payouts: 50-percent to Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit; 25-percent to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and 25-percent to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
I may not be much of an artist but I can play a little with Photoshop!

Royal Canadian Mint celebrates Star Trek’s 50th

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no man has gone before.

I admit to being fascinated by space and space travel. This has to go back to my watching the Mercury and Apollo missions as a youngster. Even then, I would watch most television shows that were based on space or something about space including the comedies Lost in Space and My Favorite Martian.

During its first run, I was able to watch Star Trek during its last season. When it was picked up in syndication and played on the independent television stations or late at night, I would watch and become a bigger fan. In college, it was common to walk into the TV Lounge to see the television tuned to Star Trek, especially late at night.

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, I was able to see it during my December break from college. No, it wasn’t the best of the movies, but it was Star Trek. I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I have seen all of the movies except the most recent—which I will catch when it is available on cable!

Aside from being great stories, Star Trek has inspired generations. Look at the technology that is in use today. Cell phones were inspired by the communicators; the ship’s computer with its infinite database processing is now in supercomputers of today, like IBM’s Watson; while Majel Barrett was the voice of the first computer, we now have Siri, Cortana and Alexa on portable devices; large flat screen displays are now our television; intelligent personal assistants went from the personal digital assistant (PDA) to being integrated with our computer that can now speak to us; then there is the universal translator; tablet computers; video conferencing; even something like Transparent Aluminum (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) exists in something called aluminum oxynitride (ALON). And remember, Scotty gave the formula for transparent aluminum using a quaint keyboard on a Macintosh!

Yes, I am a hard-core fan. But I have never been to a convention! I never really wanted to go. I did meet William Shatner when I was working for NBC, but that is another story for another time.

The Royal Canadian Mint has produced a set of coins for Star Trek fans. As part of the series, the Royal Canadian Mint produced three half-ounce silver coins with enameled images of Spock, Uhura, and Scotty; one ounce coins with images of iconic scenes: Captain Kirk in “Trouble with Tribbles,” the evil Spock and Dr. McCoy in “Mirror, Mirror,” and the time machines image that was in “The City on the Edge of Forever” which featured a guest appearance by Joan Collins. They are nice coins even though they are enameled. However, I think they are too expensive. It’s probably because of the licensing fees.

Of course, I had to get something. I decided to buy the $20 for $20 silver coin, Star Trek: Enterprise. It is a 7.96-gram silver coin with a face value of $20 with the reverse showing an image of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Star Trek 50th Anniversary logo. The obverse has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, as required for all Canadian coins. While the RCM calls the finish “specimen,” it resembles a reverse proof. Not only is this $20 in Canadian funds, which is $15.22 in US funds as I type this, but there is also free shipping!

I also decided to buy was the stamp and coin set produced jointly with the RCM and Canada Post. The set includes a nickel-plated steel 25-cent coin with an engraved center surrounded by enamel ring with six different views of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701). The stamp features Canadian-born actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk with the U.S.S. Enterprise orbiting a red-colored planet in the background. Also included is a coil stamp produced as a collectible sheet featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise and a Klingon D7-class battle cruiser from the episode Day of the Dove.

You can buy the set from the RCM for $34.95 in Canadian funds, which is $26.60 in US dollars. If you buy the stamp and coin set separately, you will pay postage. However, if you buy both coins together, the RCM picks up the postage.

Before I forget, the Royal Canadian Mint will only ship directly to addresses in Canada and the United States. Collectors in other countries will have to contact a dealer.

Apollo 11 commem bill passes Senate

On Friday, December 9, during an early evening session under suspension of the rules, the Senate passed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726). Since the bill was passed in the evening, it will be engrossed.

When a bill from congress is passed it is then engrossed. Engrossing a bill is the formal printing of the bill parchment or other paper of suitable quality, signed by the Speaker of the House and the designated presiding officer of the Senate (either the Vice President, President Pro-tempore, or the Majority Leader), and then sent to the White House for the President’s signature. When the president signs the engrossed bill, it then becomes law and given a Public Law number. The Public Law number is made up of the session congress, 114 as the 114th congress, and a sequence number.

I suspect that before the end of the week, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act will be the law!

House passes Apollo 11 commem bill

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

“Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” taken July 20, 1969 by Neil Armstrong

Under a motion to suspend the rules and pass as agreed, the House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726) during an afternoon session on December 5, 2016.

Apollo 11 has to be one of the top defining events of the 20th century. It captured the imagination of not only the United States but the world in a way nothing else could. Landing on the moon and having the Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins safely return to earth using the technology of the day was a feat beyond imagination. And getting there before the blasted Soviets after they beat us into space for quite a number of years was also a big deal during the Cold War.

Now that the bill has passed, it is formally enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House. It is sent to the Senate for their consideration. Hopefully, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will put it on the schedule and get this passed without issue.

In case you forgot, here is what the bill requires for the Apollo 11 commemorative coins:

  • Commemorative program issued in 2019
  • Required design elements:
    • Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
    • “The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
    • Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
    • Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
  • Mintage Limit: 50,000 $5 gold; 400,000 silver dollars; 750,000 clad half-dollar; 100,000 five-ounce silver proof dollars
  • Surcharges of $35 per $5 gold; $10 per silver dollar; $5 per half-dollar; and $50 per five-ounce bullion.
  • Payouts: 50-percent to Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit; 25-percent to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; and 25-percent to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

I am saving my pennies. I want a complete set!

September 2016 Numismatic-related Legislation

Congress returned to work right after Labor Day, not that you would have noticed. Aside from the legislation that renames most offices or other federal structures in honor of someone most of us have never hear about, congress was locked in a battle over the federal budget that was to expire on September 30. Of course, the fights were based on partisan politics. Rather than doing what is right for the nation, these hacks broke down into partisan bickering. A continuing resolution, not a real budget, was passed on September 29. They have until December 9 to fix their problems.

In another part of my life, I write a monthly newsletter for the Gold & Silver Political Action Committee. The PAC was started by former American Numismatic Association President Barry Stuppler to help be a voice for issues facing the numismatic and bullion industry. As part of my research into issues, I speak with staffers and other contacts on Capitol Hill to provide background information on the PAC’s issues.

This past month I used an opportunity to have a discussion about the state of congress with two lobbyists. Both are former staffers working with members on opposite sides of the aisle and have been working in the halls of congress since early in the Clinton administration. Neither were optimistic that congress would accomplish anything, even during the lame duck session after the election. With the budget battle looming and the unsettle Supreme Court nomination, neither of these professionals were optimistic.

For some of us, watching congress is a sport. While it might be as painful as watching the 1962 New York Mets or the 2003 Detroit Tigers or waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series, I will continue to report potential legislation that may affect modern collecting.

Only one bill was introduced in September:

H.R. 6025 American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. James Himes (D-CT)
• Summary: Redesign and issuance of $1 coins honoring innovation, innovators, and pioneers from each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory.
• Introduced: September 14, 2016
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee

This bill can be tracked at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr6025.

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