Squash that! Oh wait… that’s the design?

Reverse of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin

Sometimes I wonder if the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is actually paying attentiong to the designs they are selecting. While they have rejected some interesting designs, they seem to accept other designs without really thinking.

It looks like these two groups that are supposed to be the gatekeepers of the design of U.S. coinage did not fully think through their design selection for the Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin program.

When the line art images were sent out, the design did not immediately remind me of a bootprint on the surface of the moon. Actually, it reminded me of something that many of us have placed our bootprint on a little closer to the ground.

I understand that with the resignation of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the CCAC that this august body may be lacking the appropriate point of reference that Abdul-Jabbar and I have to make the tie between the bootprint and an insect that could probably survive on the moon (he was born Lew Alcindor in New York City). Then again, the CCAC is the same organization, albeit, with different members, that gave us some of the worst designs in modern coinage.

For the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, all the CCAC could come up with is a bootprint?

Credits

September 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

This is a surprise. This past month Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) introduced a bill that would make the gains made on the sale of bullion coins issued by the U.S. Mint tax exempt. This would be for any precious metal coin. The bill says “No gain or loss shall be recognized on the sale or exchange of gold, silver, platinum, or palladium coins minted and issued by the Secretary at any time…”

The bill also includes “refined gold or silver bullion, coins, bars, rounds, or ingots which are valued primarily based on their metal content and not their form.”

It is called the Monetary Metals Tax Neutrality Act of 2018 (H.R. 6790) and was introduced on September 12, 2018.

While this may be good for the numismatic community, with the mid-term elections just over a month away and congress mired in many fights, it is difficult to see that this bill passes. Even if it passes in a lame duck session, the possibility of the Senate acting on it is very low. Of course that depends on the outcome of the election and I have been wrong about prognosticating some bills!

H.R. 6790: Monetary Metals Tax Neutrality Act of 2018
Sponsor: Rep. Alexander X. Mooney (R-WV)
Introduced: September 12, 2018
Summary: This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to exempt gains or losses from the sale or exchange of certain coins or bullion from recognition for income tax purposes. The exemption applies to gains or losses from the sale or exchange of: (1) gold, silver, platinum, or palladium coins minted and issued by the Department of the Treasury; or (2) refined gold or silver bullion, coins, bars, rounds, or ingots which are valued primarily based on their metal content and not their form.
Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. — Sep 12, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6790.

LOOK BACK: Defence of Fort McHenry

On this day 204 years ago, Francis Scott Key was awakened aboard the HMS Tonnant in Baltimore Harbor to see the tattered, but still present flag flying over Fort McHenry. Today’s LOOK BACK talks about the history of that day and, rather than talking about the legislation, add a little information about the Star Spangled Banner commemorative coin.

Fort McHenry (via Wikipedia)

The War of 1812 had been running for two years when the fighting escalated in Baltimore Harbor around Fort McHenry. American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner sent by the War Department to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes. Dr. Beanes was allegedly mistakenly arrested with a group of rowdies as he walked to his home.

On Skinner’s way to meet Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross on the HMS Tonnant, he stopped at the home of noted lawyer Francis Scott Key and asked for his assistance.

Col. Skinner and Key were welcomed by the British command on September 13, 1814 and was invited to stay for dinner. After secure the release of Dr. Beanes but were not allowed to return to Baltimore. The British felt that Col. Skinner and Key had learned too much about the British forces. Col. Skinner, Key, and Dr. Beanes were provided guest accommodations on the HMS Tonnant.

The Battle of Baltimore began after dinner and raged overnight through the next morning. On September 14, 1814, when the smoke cleared, Key saw the Stars and Stripes still flying over Fort McHenry. Following the battle. Col. Skinner, Key, and Dr. Beanes were allowed to return to Baltimore on their own boat. During the trip, Key wrote a poem entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry”

On September 20, 1814, Key had the poem published in the newspaper Patriot. After publication, Key set the poem to the tune of John Stafford Smith’s “The Anacreontic Song,” a popular drinking song written for London’s Anacreontic Society. The combination was renamed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“The Star Spangled Banner” was first recognized by the Navy in 1889. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order to recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Finally, President Herbert Hoover singed a congressional bill officially making the song the United State’s National Anthem (36 U.S.C. §301).

In 2012, the U.S. Mint issued two coins as part of the Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Program (authorized by Public Law 111-232). The $5 gold coin “depicts a naval battle scene from the War of 1812, with an American sailing ship in the foreground and a damaged and fleeing British ship in the background” on the obverse and “the first words of the Star-Spangled Banner anthem, O say can you see, in Francis Scott Key’s handwriting against a backdrop of 15 stars and 15 stripes, representing the Star-Spangled Banner flag.”

The obverse of the silver $1 coin “depicts Lady Liberty waving the 15-star, 15-stripe Star-Spangled Banner flag with Fort McHenry in the background.” The reverse shows the waving of a modern American Flag.

The official launch of the 2012 Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Program was launched at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. You can read about that launch here.

You can read the original article here.
All coin images are courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Did someone say something about a square con?

NOTE: The title is NOT a typographical error. It is a commentary raised by the discussion, below.

With the flurry of legislative action last month, the only bill that I commented on was the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Public Law No: 115-197) because it was the only one that is the law. The others were just introduced and may not be passed out of committee.

But that has not prevented speculation and discussion about the potential for these potential commemorative coins. Based on the email buzz, the two bills of interest are the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act (S. 3283 and H.R. 6469) and the Carson City Mint 150th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 6221).

Reverse design of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative (Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint)

Regarding the Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act, someone decided that the coins would be square and that has infested the numismatic media. This is not what the bill requires. In fact, the bill says that the “design on the common reverse of the coins minted under this Act shall depict a baseball diamond similar to those used by Major League Baseball.”

For those commentators who cannot read simple English, it says that the design “shall depict a baseball diamond.” Nowhere in that sentence does it say that the coins have to be shaped like the baseball diamond. A depiction and the shape of a coin are two different concepts.

Trying to understand where the idea that the coins would be square, a review of the official statement issued by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) as co-sponsors does not mention the shape of the coin.

What might have confused the issue was a report in The Hill that former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs legend Andre “The Hawk” Dawson talked about the coin minted in the shape of home plate. While Dawson was a great ballplayer and earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is not a member of Congress and, apparently, did not read the bill.

The commentary about the shape does not take into consideration what the bill actually says. Aside from talking about it like it will be the law, it does not take into consideration that the bill is now in committee with less than 90-days to go until the mid-term elections. Without turning this into a political analysis blog post, there will be contention regardless of the outcome of the election. With the late introduction of this bill and the current political environment, the likelihood of this bill passing both chambers before the end of the session is highly unlikely.

Carson City Mint (1866)

A correspondent asked “Wouldn’t it be cool if the Carson City commemorative coins were struck in Carson City?” It does not matter if it is a good idea or not unless Congress changes the law, specifically 31 U.S. Code § 5131 that defines where the branches of the U.S. Mint are located, Carson City is not authorized to strike coins. Unless Carson City is added to that list, even temporarily, the U.S. Mint cannot strike any coins in Carson City. Further, the building that was once a branch mint is no longer owned by the Federal Government. Ownership was transferred to the State of Nevada that runs it as part of the Nevada State Museum.

Even though the first press used in Carson City is located in the museum, it may not meet the specifications that are required of the U.S. Mint to strike modern commemorative coins. And both the press and building are not owned by the United State government, a fact that would make those who provide oversight of the U.S. Mint’s operations a bit nervous.

While these “what if” questions might make good parlour or message board discussions, allegedly responsible industry journalists and pundits should know better.

July 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
(Image courtesy of the National Parks Service)

July has been a big month for numismatic-related legislation for the 115th Congress. Aside from passing the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Public Law 115-197), the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act (H.R. 965) and a technical change to the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (Section 3. in S. 1182) moves closer to passage.

The Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act does not add a commemorative coin program but it changes the designation for the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire to be the “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.” The change is significant in that it changes the funding for the staffing and maintenance of the site. It also will keep the site accessible for tourism.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens is known as the artist who co-conspired with President Theodore Roosevelt in his “pet crime” to redesign United States coinage. Before his death in 1907, Saint-Gaudens provided the design for the $20 Double Eagle and $10 Eagle gold coinage.

Saint-Gaudens’ legacy continued after his death by his students Adolph A. Weinman, designer of the Walking Liberty half-dollar and Mercury dime, and James Earle Fraser, designer of the Buffalo Nickel.

As for the American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, the commemorative program was passed in September 2017 and signed by the president in October 2018 (Public Law No: 115-65). This bill has a few minor technical changes that will not change the program as originally passed.

For once, it was a busy month for numismatic-related legislation watchers. maybe congress is trying to show their constituents that they have a record of doing something.

H.R. 770: American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. James A. Himes (D-CT)
Introduced: January 31, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury, over a 14-year period beginning in 2019, to mint and issue “American Innovation” $1 coins commemorating innovation and innovators from each state, each U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia. Treasury shall issue four coins per year, in alphabetical order by jurisdiction, until a coin has been issued for each jurisdiction. Treasury may mint and issue a $1 coin in 2018 to introduce the series. Neither the bust of any person nor the portrait of any living person may be included in the design of the coins.The bill instructs Interior to continue to mint and issue $1 coins honoring Native Americans and their contributions.
Became Public Law No: 115-197. — Jul 20, 2018
Signed by President. — Jul 20, 2018
Presented to President. — Jul 10, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jun 27, 2018
On motion that the House agree to the Senate amendment Agreed to without objection. (text as House agreed to Senate amendment: CR H5786-5787) — Jun 27, 2018
Mr. Hensarling asked unanimous consent to take from the Speaker’s table and agree to the Senate amendment. — Jun 27, 2018
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jun 21, 2018
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Jun 20, 2018
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jan 17, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jan 16, 2018
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. — Jan 16, 2018
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 770. — Jan 16, 2018
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Jan 16, 2018
Mr. Duffy moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Jan 16, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jan 31, 2017
This law can be viewed at http://bit.ly/115-HR770.

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 512. — Jul 12, 2018
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Reported by Senator Murkowski without amendment. With written report No. 115-299. — Jul 12, 2018
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably. — May 17, 2018
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Oct 3, 2017
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 2, 2017
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 401 – 0 (Roll no. 545). — Oct 2, 2017
Considered as unfinished business. — Oct 2, 2017
At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. — Oct 2, 2017
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 965. — Oct 2, 2017
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Oct 2, 2017
Mr. Thompson (PA) moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Oct 2, 2017
Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 197. — Aug 25, 2017
Reported (Amended) by the Committee on Natural Resources. H. Rept. 115-277. — Aug 25, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. — Feb 7, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.

S. 3239: Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Introduced: July 18, 2018
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 18, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S3239.

H.R. 6469: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)
Introduced: July 23, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 23, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6469.

S. 1182: National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2018
Sponsor: Sen. Todd C. Young (R-IN)
Introduced: May 18, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill amends the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program through November 30, 2018.
Motion by Senator McConnell to refer to Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs the House message to accompany S. 1182 with instructions to report back forthwith with the following amendment (SA 3630) made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Motion by Senator McConnell to concur in the House amendment to the text of S. 1182 with an amendment (SA 3628) made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Cloture motion on the motion to concur in the House amendments to S. 1182 presented in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Motion by Senator McConnell to concur in the House amendments to S. 1182 made in Senate. — Jul 26, 2018
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jul 26, 2018
The title of the measure was amended. Agreed to without objection. — Jul 25, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jul 25, 2018
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 366 – 52 (Roll no. 373). — Jul 25, 2018
Considered as unfinished business. — Jul 25, 2018
Message on House action received in Senate and at desk: House amendments to Senate bill. — Jul 25, 2018
At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed. — Jul 24, 2018
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on S. 1182. — Jul 24, 2018
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Jul 24, 2018
Mr. Hensarling moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Jul 24, 2018
Held at the desk. — Aug 4, 2017
Received in the House. — Aug 4, 2017
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Aug 4, 2017
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Aug 3, 2017
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Aug 3, 2017
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Aug 3, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — May 18, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1182.

H.R. 6635: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sponsor: Rep. Brad R. Wenstrup (R-OH)
Introduced: July 26, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 26, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6635.

Weekly World Numismatic News for July 22, 2018

Winning design for the obverse of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint)

The National Baseball Hall of Fame, who pushed for the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program, announced on Wednesday that they have partnered with members of Congress to create a commemorative coin program honoring the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball in 2022.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson debuted for the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers and on July 5, 1947, Larry Doby integrated the American League with the Cleveland Indians.

This past week, Senators Time Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the bill (S. 3239) in the Senate on behalf of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Next week, Representatives Roger Williams (R-TX) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will likely introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

S. 3239: A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball.
Sponsor: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Introduced: July 18, 2018
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 18, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S3239.

To keep with the theme of making something different, such as the 2014 coins being curved, the bill calls of the new commemorative to be square and the common reverse to resemble a baseball diamond. This should be somewhat easy to accomplish since a real baseball diamond is nothing more than a square tilting on its corner.

For the obverse of the coin, the U.S. Mint is supposed to hold an open competition for artists to provide their suggestion for a design “emblematic of the integration of the game of baseball”

There will be the usual three-coin program consisting of no more than 50,000 $5 gold coins, 500,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 clad half-dollars. Surcharges received from the sale of the coins will benefit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

And now the news…

 July 15, 2018

The oldest coins in the find were minted during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD); the youngest come from the last years of the reign of Septimius Severus (beginning of the 3rd century AD). "All coins were found very close to each other in the Roman fort Apsaros" – told PAP Dr. → Read more at scienceinpoland.pap.pl


 July 18, 2018

In the town of Clayton, no good deed goes unnoticed. → Read more at wral.com


 July 18, 2018

ONE of the “finest known” examples of Australia’s earliest coin is expected to fetch more than $300,000 when it goes up for auction in Sydney next week. → Read more at news.com.au


 July 19, 2018

A wreck involving an armored car left coins strewn across Interstate 40 in Tennessee, police said. → Read more at tennessean.com


 July 19, 2018

The U.S. could issue commemorative coins on the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier with the Dodgers. → Read more at latimes.com


 July 20, 2018

SCRANTON — When churchgoers drop their loose change into collection bins at St. Ann’s Monastery and Basilica, whether during the novena or on regular worship days, items other than U.S. currency sometimes gets mixed in. → Read more at thetimes-tribune.com


 July 20, 2018

Police in Berlin have seized 77 apartments, homes and pieces of land belonging to the Remmo family as they charged 16 members with money laundering over the gold coin heist. → Read more at dailymail.co.uk


 July 21, 2018

Friday demonstrations of the Nevada State Museum’s historic Coin Press No. 1 have proven so popular this summer that museum officials are extending the program through Labor Day weekend → Read more at nevadaappeal.com

Coin Collectors News
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June 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

Sometimes watching specific legislation to make its way through Congress is like watching paint dry. We know the paint will eventually dry but it takes a lot longer than we have time to wait. With the exception of bills that are proposing useful things like eliminating the paper dollar for a coin, there is no point to check daily.

But that is what I do. I wrote a program to download the bill information produced by the Government Printing Office on behalf of the Congress and store it in a database so that it can be reported here. This process does not become interesting until something happens.

The last two weeks in June looks like it was the equivalent of a wild ride. First, the American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 770) appeared on the agenda in the House of Representatives where the only “debate” was Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), the bill’s sponsor, and the day’s floor manager, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-OH) speaking in favor of passage. Then it followed the regular course of passage by the House, passage by the Senate with a change, followed by the House agreeing with the amendment. Next month it should be signed into law by the President.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, circa 1890

In the middle of this two new commemorative coin bills were introduced. First, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill for a commemorative coin program in recognition of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an American poet, novelist, and playwright. Dunbar was very popular in his day whose work was known for its colorful language and conversational tone that made his work seem lyrical. Dunbar, who was born in Dayton, Ohio as a child of former slaves, was famous for writing in the “Negro dialect” that was associated with the antebellum south.

Dunbar had briefly worked at the Library of Congress before resigning to concentrate on his writing. His home in the LeDroit Park neighborhood of Washington, DC still stands today. In 1904 he returned to Dayton to be with his ailing mother but ended up contracting tuberculosis and dying in 1906.

Carson City Mint (1866)

The day after Holmes Norton introduced her bill, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) introduced a bill for a commemorative coin program to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Carson City Mint.

The Carson City Mint opened in 1870 primarily in response to the Comstock Lode. It started as an Assay Office in 1963 but did not gain Mint status until 1870. It was in operation from 1870-1885 and 1889-1893. It is the only branch of the U.S. Mint to have used a two-letter mint mark.

Today, the building is a branch of the Nevada State Museum.

Since the text of both bills has not been published, details of the programs are unknows except it is safe to assume that the Carson City 150th Anniversary commemorative coin program will occur in 2020.

H.R. 770: American Innovation $1 Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. James A. Himes (D-CT)
Introduced: January 31, 2017
Summary: (Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury, over a 14-year period beginning in 2019, to mint and issue “American Innovation” $1 coins commemorating innovation and innovators from each state, each U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia. Treasury shall issue four coins per year, in alphabetical order by jurisdiction, until a coin has been issued for each jurisdiction. Treasury may mint and issue a $1 coin in 2018 to introduce the series. Neither the bust of any person nor the portrait of any living person may be included in the design of the coins.The bill instructs Interior to continue to mint and issue $1 coins honoring Native Americans and their contributions.
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jun 27, 2018
On motion that the House agree to the Senate amendment Agreed to without objection. (text as House agreed to Senate amendment: CR H5786-5787) — Jun 27, 2018
Mr. Hensarling asked unanimous consent to take from the Speaker’s table and agree to the Senate amendment. — Jun 27, 2018
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Jun 21, 2018
Passed Senate with an amendment by Voice Vote. — Jun 20, 2018
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs discharged by Unanimous Consent. — Jun 20, 2018
Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jan 17, 2018
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Jan 16, 2018
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. — Jan 16, 2018
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 770. — Jan 16, 2018
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Jan 16, 2018
Mr. Duffy moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Jan 16, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jan 31, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR770.

H.R. 6214: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in recognition of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Sponsor: Rep. Eleanor H. Norton (D-DC)
Introduced: June 25, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 25, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6214.

H.R. 6221: To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the Carson City Mint 150th anniversary, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mark E. Amodei (R-NV)
Introduced: June 26, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jun 26, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR6221.
All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Trumping a Challenge Coin

USA-North Korean Summit Challenge Coin created by the White House Communications Agency

Those of us committed to numismatics as a hobby has recently seen terms thrown around about a challenge coin that is more damaging to the hobby than anything that has been argued amongst ourselves.

The challenge coin in question was created by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) for the now-canceled summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-Un. The partisan nature of our national politics and now the status of the summit has created a false narrative about the challenge coins that do not do the hobby any favors.

To set the record straight, a challenge coin is not a coin. A coin is a disk, usually made from metal, formed into a disk of standardized weight and stamped with a standard design to enable it to circulate as money authorized by a government body. In the United States, only the U.S. Mint is authorized to manufacture coins.

Challenge coins are medals with an organization or event logo or emblem that are part of a tradition to honor service. Challenge coins are part of a military tradition that started during World War I when Ivy League students went to war and created these coins as an act of camaraderie.

According to legend, a World War I pilot was shot down behind enemy lines and captured by German soldiers. Since the pilot kept the coin in a pouch around his neck, the Germans did not confiscate his coin. That evening, the pilot was kept in a French-German town that was bombarded in the evening by allied forces. The pilot escaped during the bombing. During the next day, the pilot came upon a French military unit who was told to watch for German soldiers posing as citizens. To prevent from being arrested and executed by the French soldiers, the pilot showed them his challenge coin. One of the soldiers recognized the insignia and delayed the execution until they were able to verify the pilot’s identity. Once the story spread, a tradition was born!

As a show of camaraderie, units began to issue specially designed coins to each other. The challenge came when members drew their challenge coin and slapped it on the table, the rest of the members with them must produce their challenge coin. If someone does not have their challenge coin, that person must buy a round of drinks for the group. The challenge is used as a morale builder amongst the group.

Challenge coins regained popularity around 1991 with the veterans and descendants of the Pacific Fleet honoring the service of those who survived and did not survive on the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They saw wider acceptance, especially outside of the military, following the attacks on September 11, 2001. As retired military members began to lead security-related civilian agencies, the use of challenge coins grew beyond the military.

The challenge coin in question is the product of a military organization.

The WHCA was founded in 1942 as the White House Signal Corps to provide communications for the White House. It is their job to make sure that whenever and wherever the presidents needs to communicate with the government or foreign leaders that he can do so and securely if needed. It is under the jurisdiction of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

This is not the same agency as the White House Communications Director. That position was vacated by Hope Hicks in March 2018. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would report directly to the Communications Director, not the WHCA.

Since 2003, WHCA has created challenge coins for nearly all overseas travel by the president. Only the secret travels to war zones when the president made surprised visits to U.S. troops were not honored with a challenge coin.

In this case, the challenge coin that made the news was made for the members of the advance team whose job it is to make all of the arrangements for a safe and successful trip.

The U.S. Mint does not produce these challenge coins. An approved manufacturer is contracted to design and strike the medals. That contractor works with the WHCA to create the design. After the design is approved, a limited number of medals are produced.

Everyone who is part of the mission receives a challenge coin. Some journalists who fly on Air Force One may receive challenge coins, most do not accept them. Former NBC News Anchor Brian Williams admitted to collecting Challenge Coins during a broadcast in 2009.

The inventory is separated to make sure that enough challenge coins are available to everyone making the trip and a few who were left behind on support duty. For example, one is probably set aside for Sarah Sanders who does not travel as much. As the first Press Secretary who is a mother with children still at home, she understandably stays nearby to care for them.

The rest are offered for sale in the White House Gift Shop.

The White House Gift Shop (WHGS) is located in the White House and open to anyone able to visit. It is a separate organization from any of the agencies mentioned. If you cannot visit, everything the gift shop offers is available on their website at whitehousegiftshop.com. This includes challenge coins.

Reporters covering the White House spotted the WHCA Challenge Coin in the WHGS, took a picture and used their social media access to report its existence.

Irrespective of the political arguments being made over the subject matter, there is nothing illegal or morally wrong with the challenge coin. Although government funds were used to create the coin, those funds are included as part of the budget passed by Congress. Yes, the WHCA has a budgetary line item for the creation of challenge coins to help with the morale of the military detachment to the White House.

One of the reasons I looked into this issue was to find out who designed the coin. The artist did such a good job that I would recommend that they apply for the Artistic Infusion Program with the U.S. Mint. It is a fantastic representation for those participating as part of the advance team. The artwork and symbolism were really nicely executed. Using the enameled flags in the background leaving the two leaders to stand out without the enameled finish has a strikingly good look.

It is one of the best design I have seen for a challenge coin representing an event.

This challenge coin is no longer for sale in the WHGS. The webpage for the medal was changed to note that a new challenge coin will be designed for the event by the same artist who designed the WHCA challenge coin. The CEO of the WHGS published a note saying that the new challenge coin will be similar to the WHCA challenge coin. If you are interested, you can order one from their website.

April 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

The first of the month is when I usually report about the introduction or progress of numismatic-related legislation in congress for the previous month. For April 2018, there is nothing to report.

Thus far, the 115th Congress passed The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (Pub. L. 115-68) which allows for a gold $5, silver dollar, and clad half-dollar coins to commemorate the American Legion in 2019.

There have been no authorizing laws passed for commemoratives after 2019.

Two bills have passed the House of Representatives and are waiting in committees in the Senate for action:

  • The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1235) would allow the minting of q gold $5, silver dollar, and clad half-dollar coins in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • The American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 770) would be a 14-year $1 coin program that would issue coins commemorating innovation and innovators representing each state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

Just because these bills passed in the House does not mean the Senate will do anything about them. Both can die in committee without any consideration.

So that the record is complete, here are the numismatic-related bills introduced in the House of Representatives waiting in committee:

  • Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 579)
  • Duty First Act (H.R. 1582)
  • National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1683)
  • Cents and Sensibility Act (H.R. 2067)
  • Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (H.R. 2256)
  • Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (H.R. 2299)
  • United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (H.R. 2317)
  • President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 3274)
  • 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 4044)
  • Plymouth 400th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (H.R. 4539)
  • National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 4732)
  • Women’s History and Nineteenth Amendment Centennial Quarter Dollar Coin Program Act (H.R. 5308)
  • To define the dollar as a fixed weight of gold. (H.R. 5404)

Not to be outdone, here is the list for the Senate:

  • Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act (S. 312)
  • Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (S. 759)
  • Duty First Act (S. 921)
  • United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (S. 1021)
  • American Innovation $1 Coin Act (S. 1326)
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1503)
  • President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1568)
  • Muhammad Ali Commemorative Coin Act (S. 166)
  • 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1718)
  • Plymouth 400th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (S. 2189)
  • American Innovation $1 Coin Act (S. 2399)

Yet another quarter series?

Nineteenth Amendment

With so little happening in Congress regarding numismatic-related legislation, it should not be a surprise that I would become excited I am alerted that there was something to see.

The excitement wore off when I saw the bill that was introduced.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5308 with the initial title of To amend title 31, United States Code, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue quarter dollars in commemoration of the Nineteenth Amendment, and for other purposes.

The text of the bill is not available, yet.

The Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote. It was the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. To amend the constitution, it passed the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, the Senate on June 4, 1919, then by 36 of the 48 states on August 18, 1920.

How do you create a design to commemorate the Nineteenth Amendment? Will there be one quarter per state? If so, what would be on Maryland’s quarter? Maryland rejected the amendment in 1920, the legislature ratified it in 1941, but the vote was not certified until 1958.

Then there is Mississippi that rejected the amendment in 1920 but passed it in 1984 becoming the 48th and last state to ratify the amendment (Alaska and Hawaii were not admitted to the union at the time and are ineligible to vote on the amendment).

While it is appropriate to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, maybe it should be a commemorative coin with the proceeds going to an organization like the League of Women Voters.

H.R. 5308: To amend title 31, United States Code, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue quarter dollars in commemoration of the Nineteenth Amendment, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Introduced: March 15, 2018
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Mar 15, 2018
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR5308.

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