Collecting Small Dollars: Presidential Dollars

This is last article of a 4 part series:
  1. The Susie B
  2. The Golden Dollar
  3. Native American Dollars
  4. Presidential Dollar Seriesyou are here

Presidential $1 Coin Common Reverse

The Presidential Dollar program had an interesting history. Passed by congress in December 2005 and later signed by President George W. Bush, the Presidential $1 Coin Act (Pub. L. 108-145) ordered the U.S. Mint to create a $1 coin to commemorate the Nation’s past Presidents and an accompanying $10 gold coin to commemorate the President’s spouse (First Lady). Coins appeared in order that the president served and the president must be deceased for two year prior to the coin’s issue. Since Jimmy Carter is still living, he was bypassed and the last coin was struck in honor of Ronald Reagan.

For the first time in the modern era the date, mintmark, and mottos “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” struck into (incuse) the edge of the coin. The last time edge lettering was used on circulating U.S. coinage was in the 1830s.

Altered Washington Dollar Edge. Read more here

When the Presidential dollar was struck by the U.S. Mint, the coin went through the normal striking process. To add the edge lettering, the coins were sent to a press that would add the edge lettering before sending the coins to be bagged. With the edge lettering being a new process for the U.S. Mint, it was no surprised that coins left the Mint without the mottos stamped in the edge. Dubbed the “godless dollar” the error caused an uproar over some people suggesting that the government was conspiring against religion by leaving the motto off of the coin. This was described as either a willful omission or a way to attack religion. There was no narrative that accepted that the U.S. Mint said this was just a mistake. Reacting to the outrage, congress passed a law to move the motto from the edge to the obverse of the coin. “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” the date and mintmark was left on the edge.

If you are going to buy Presidential dollars with missing edge lettering, it is advisable to buy them encapsulated by a third-party grading service. After the error was discovered, unscrupulous people began to file the edges of the coin in an attempt to fool collectors. The third-party grading services know how distinguish the legitimate error versus the fake.

Dollar Coin Edge Lettering

Other collectible edge errors include the doubling of the lettering. When encapsulated by the grading services, it is called either “DOUBLE EDGE LETTERING” or “OVERLAPPED LETTERING” depending on the service. Doubled lettering is a rarer mistake than missing edge lettering. Similar to the missing edge lettering error, there has been attempts to alter coins to make it look like they have these errors which it is advisable to buy these coins encapsulated by a third-party grading service.

If you are looking for different ways of collecting Presidential Dollars, the U.S. Mint offered First Day Covers for each of the presidents. Each colorful cover includes the stamp of the day postmarked from the capital or city the president was from on the first day that the coins were issued. They also include one uncirculated Presidential dollar struck on the first day of production. These first day covers are the only way to guarantee that you own coins that were struck on the first day of their production. With information about each president, it makes for an attractive set.

Another option to collecting Presidential Dollars is to collect the coin and medal set. Each specially produced card includes an uncirculated dollar for each president and a 1.5-inch bronze medal of the corresponding first spouse coin. The only difference in design between the medal in this set and the first spouse coin is the medal does not have a denomination. If the president was widowed or not married at the time of his presidency, a special Liberty gold coin was produced. The coin and medal set contains a medal similar to the gold coin. Remember, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson became widows and then remarried during their term. There are two cards for each president with different first spouse medals.

Series Details

Presidential Dollars
2007:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
2008:
James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
2009:
William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor
2010:
Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln
2011:
Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield
2012:
Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland
2013:
William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
2014:
Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt
2015:
Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
2016:
Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

First Spouse Gold $10 Coins
2007:
Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty,† Dolley Madison
2008:
Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty,† Martin Van Buren’s Liberty†
2009:
Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler,‡ Julia Tyler,†† Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor
2010:
Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty,* Mary Lincoln
2011:
Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield
2012:
Alice Paul,¶ Frances Cleveland (first term), Caroline Harrison,‡ Frances Cleveland (second term)
2013:
Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson,‡ Edith Wilson††
2014:
Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
2015:
Elizabeth Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson
2016:
Patricia Ryan “Pat” Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan
Footnotes:

President was widowed prior to inauguration
First Spouse died during the president’s term
††
Married the president during the president’s term
*
James Buchanan was the only bachelor president
President Chester Arthur was widowed prior to inauguration. However, the authorizing law gives the coin honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration

The Presidential Dollar series covered 39 presidents representing 40 terms were issued.

Along side of the presidents, there have been 35 first spouses were honored (Frances Cleveland appeared twice), four different Liberty coins were issued, and one First Spouse coin was issued to honor suffragette Alice Paul.

Credits

Collecting Small Dollars: Native American Dollars

This is Part 3 of a 4 part series:
  1. The Susie B
  2. The Golden Dollar
  3. Native American Dollarsyou are here
  4. Presidential Dollar Series

As part of the law that created the Presidential $1 Coins, congress authorized the creation of the Native American dollars. The law says that the obverse would continue to feature the portrait of Sacagawea and the revers depict “images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.” Selection of the theme is to be made in consulting with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Congressional Native American Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Congress of American Indians, and after public review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Although the law required Sacagawea to remain on the obverse, the date, mintmark and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” were relocated to the edge of the coin.

Dollar Coin Edge Lettering

Aside from being thoughtful themes, the designs have been met with critical acclaim by the Native American interest groups, historians, and artists. As part of the program, the U.S. Mint has created lesson plans for teachers to use as supplementary material for their classes that coordinate with the release of the coins. These materials show how the lessons fit within the Common Core education requirements.

The Native American $1 Program is a straight forward series. Each year the reverse changes for the chosen theme. Business strike coins are struck in Philadelphia and Denver while proof coins are struck in San Francisco.

For collectors of special sets, the U.S. Mint includes the Native American $1 coin in the Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set. These sets also include the uncirculated Presidential $1 Coins (through 2016) and an uncirculated American Silver Eagle coin that was minted at West Point. The American Silver Eagle is the collector version, not the bullion coin that is sold through investment channels.

Since 2014, the U.S. Mint has produced a Coin and Currency Set that includes a proof Native American $1 Coin and a $1 Federal Reserve Note in the most recently issued series printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The coin and note are attached to a folder with information about the theme of the coin. In 2015, the Mohawk Ironworkers coin was struck as an enhanced uncirculated coin minted in West Point and included a Federal Reserve Note from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Since the Mohawk Ironworkers were depicted as helping build the New York skyline, it was deemed appropriate to pair the coin with a Federal Reserve Note also from New York.

Reverse Designs

Future Designs

Currently, the following reverse themes have been approved for future Native American $1 coins:

  • 2018: Jim Thorpe
  • 2019: Native Americans in Space
  • 2020: Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945

In the last installment, we look at Presidential Dollars.

Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Collecting Small Dollars: The Golden Dollar

This is Part 2 of a 4 part series:

2000 Sacagawea Dollar

With the failure of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, congress produced legislation to change the coin to have a golden color and a smooth edge. After several suggestions, Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was eventually chosen. When the deisgns were reviewed, Treasury picked Glenna Goodacre’s design with the profile of Sacagawea in three-quarter view and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, carried on her back.

Since there are no known images of Sacagawea, Goodacre searched for someone she could model her design on. Goodacre found Randy’L He-Dow Teton is a member of the Shoshone-Cree tribe to be the model. Teton was a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in art history and was working for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe when Goodacre visited looking for Shoshone woman to be her model.

The unveiling of the Sacagawea Dollar design at the White House with (L-R) First Lady Hillary Clinton, Sacagawea Model Randy’L He-dow Teton, and Designer Glenna Goodacre.

The reverse was a beautiful flying eagle designed by Thomas D. Rogers. The original Sacagawea dollar was produced from 2000-2008 with the only changes in the treatment of the coin to prevent toning.

The 2000 Cheerios Dollar

There are two significant varieties of Sacagawea dollars from the 2000 first year of issue. As part of a promotion, the U.S. Mint partnered with General Mills to include a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar with a special card in boxes of Cheerios cereal. Others would contain a certificate for a coin or a similarly packaged uncirculated 2000 Lincoln cent. It wasn’t until many years later that it was discovered that the coin from the Cheerios box was different from the circulation strikes. The difference between the Cheerios dollar and the circulation strikes is the Cheerios dollar has an additional tail feather and has a different, bolder shape. Of the 5,500 reported Cheerios dollars struck, only a few hundred have been found.

There have been stories of estate finds where the coin was selling for under $100. Most of the time the coin has been encased in a third-party grading service holder and selling in excess of $4,500. Finding them in the original package as they were part of the Cheerios box would be a great find.

A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG

When Glenna Goodacre was to be paid $5,000 for her artwork, she asked to be paid with 5,000 Sacagawea dollars. Goodacre had the coins encapsulated by third-party grading services. These dollars were specially burnished and presented to Goodacre by Mint Director Philip Diehl. Goodacre subsequently sold the coins herself and earned more money. These coins are only available encapsulated and average $500-650 per coin. A few at higher grades may cost more.

A special issue was struck in 1999 in 22-karat gold in an attempt to convince congress to authorize their sale. On twelve have survived and they sent into space aboard Columbia on mission STS-93 in July 1999. The U.S. Mint reports that the coins are stored in the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anyone selling gold Sacagawea dollars is likely selling a gold-pated coin that is not a genuine finish by the U.S. Mint.

In the next installment, we look at the Native American dollar series.

Credits

  • Sacagawea Dollar image a composit of images from the U.S. Mint.
  • Image of unveiling courtesy of USA Coinbook.
  • Cheerios Dollar image courtesy of user Yokozuna at the Coin Community Forum.
  • Image of the Goodacre Dollar courtesy of ICG.

Collecting Small Dollars: The Susie B

This is first article of a 4 part series:

By the mid-1970s, the appeal of the large dollar had diminished when the U.S. Mint found that the Eisenhower dollar was not circulating. After conducting the study, it was decided to replace the 38 mm (1.5 inches) coin with something smaller.

The U.S. Mint tried testing several different shapes and composition only to be met with opposition from the vending machine industry and their powerful lobby. Even though the U.S. Mint tried to convince congress to approve a multi-sided coin, congress made the decision to change it to a round coin with an eleven-sided inner border.

As the discussions about the coin continued, Treasury proposed a bust of Liberty with a Phrygian hat on a pole, a modern update to earlier designs designed by Frank Gasparo. However, the League of Women Voters lobbied for the inclusion of a woman on a coin. As the idea gained support in congress, chose suffragette Susan B. Anthony for that honor.

U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro proposed a classic Liberty design for the new small dollar coin

When the coin was released to an excited public, the excitement disappeared when it was mistaken for a quarter. Since the coin, nicknamed the Susie B, was only 2 mm larger than the quarter, it did not help that the coin was made of the same alloy and had a reeded edge. It was even denounced by the seeing impaired community as not being distinctive enough to tell the difference tactically.

There were over 757 million coins struck in 1979, 89 million in 1980, and 9.7 million in 1981 that did not circulate well. By the end of 1981, the U.S. Mint reported that they had 520 million surplus coins. The lack of circulation gives the collector the ability to collect a nice set. Even with the 41 million dollars struck for 1999, there are 12 coins to make a complete set.

To extend the collection besides the usual date and mintmark series, a collector may add proof coins and varieties. For circulated strikes, there was an alteration in the design of the 1979 coin that is noticeable around the date on the coins struck in Philadelphia. The 1979-P Type 1 coin is called the Narrow Rim or Small Date variety where it looks like there room between the date and the rim. When looking for Type 2 Wide Rim or Near Date coin, it looks as if the date is almost touching the rim. The Type 1 coin is more plentiful and is inexpensive. The Type 2 Wide Rim coin is less plentiful but still affordable at less than $40 for a nice example.

1979 Susan B. Anthony Varieties

Comparison of “S” Mintmarks on Susan B. Anthony Proof coins

If you add proof coins to your collection, the 1979-S and 1981-S proof coins also have two varieties based on the condition of the “S” mintmark. The 1979-S Type 1 has an “S” that is filled in, almost looking like a blob. It was later fixed to look clearer later in the year creating a Type 2 coin. The difference between the Type 1 and Type 2 1981-S proof coin is subtler. The Type 1 “S” looks the same as the one used for the 1979-S Type 2 and on 1980-S coin. The 1981-S Type 2 proof coin has a much clearer “S” than the others. When trying to assemble a complete series of Susie B Dollars, the 1981-S Type 2 proof coin is the most expensive with an average of $120 and considered the key to the series.

When putting together a complete 16 coin Susan B. Anthony Dollar set, remember that the 1999 proof coin was struck in Philadelphia. It was produced for the regular proof set and in its own presentation case, both are readily available.

In the next installment, we look at the Golden Dollar.

Credits

  • Coin image is a composite of images from the U.S. Mint.
  • Composit image of proposed dollar design courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History via Wikipedia.
  • 1979 SBA Rim Variety identification image courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts
  • “S” mintmark comparison image courtesy of Stuart’s Coins

COINS Act is Deja Vu all over again

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) once again introduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017 (COINS Act). Similar to the same bill he introduced in the last congress, the COINS Act (S. 759) proposed to end the production of the $1 Federal Reserve Note, reduce the production cost of the five cent coin by changing its composition, and eliminating the one cent coin. Mike Enzi (R-WY) is a co-sponsor.

“With our country facing $20 trillion in debt, Congress must act to protect the American taxpayer,” in a statement issued by McCain’s staff. “By reforming and modernizing America’s outdated currency system, this commonsense bill would bring about billions in savings without raising taxes.”

Of course “common sense” has a very different definition in Washington than the rest of the country. The first attempt to introduce a bill to end the production of the $1 note started in 1991 by then Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and died at the end of the 102nd Congress. Kolbe introduced the legislation every session until his retirement in 2007 following the adjournment of the 109th congress. McCain has introduced the bill in the last three sessions of congress.

“Change can be hard sometimes, but switching to a dollar coin could save our country $150 million a year,” Enzi said. “Our country is in a difficult financial position because we didn’t value the cost of the dollars we spent. We can’t afford to keep that up, and these innovative opportunities are a way to save taxpayer money that is really just being wasted with each new dollar we print and penny we mint.”

I am sure that the usual arguments about eliminating the paper dollar will come up again. Even though a GAO report has shown that eliminating the paper dollar could save the government about $4.4 billion in production and handling costs, economic surveys have claimed a potential $16-18 billion benefit for the government.

When the public is asked about eliminating the paper dollar, the arguments usually line up along generational lines. Surveys have shown that Baby Boomers (those born before 1964) and those older are overwhelmingly not in favor of eliminating the the paper note. The GenXers, those born 1965-1980, are almost evenly divided while the Millenials, those born since 1980, do not care because they are mostly tied to their credit and debit cards.

The Baby Boomer that writes this blog is in favor of eliminating the paper dollar. In the past, he was in favor of eliminating the one cent coin but is beginning to have second thoughts.

For the longest time, the Massachusetts delegation have held these types of bills back. This is because the Dalton, Massachusetts based Crane & Co., the maker of currency paper, has been the exclusive currency paper supplier to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing since 1879. Although Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has become a more powerful figure in the Senate, she is not a favorite amongst the majority and is tolerated by the more centrist members of her own party. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) does not have the gravitas either of his predecessors, the late Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, to yield influence. The only power the Senators have would be to filibuster any measure that would eliminate the $1 note. Sen. Warren has railed against military-related spending for non-essential equipment so that members of congress could keep these jobs in their districts. Would she be willing to follow her lead that could reduce the revenue of a company in her home state?

POLL: Real or Real Fishy?

Yesterday I wrote about the announcement that the fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars by Q. David Bowers will include evidence that a 1964 Morgan Dollar exists or has existed. As part of their press release, they sent out an image of the cover with the coin. I questioned whether this is real given that their image appears to be of a circulated coin.

After the story posted I have heard from a few readers in private email (I wish you would post it to the page for everyone to read) strongly on one side or another. One person asked why I question the well-respected Q. David Bowers. I responded that just because he is respected does not mean he is not fallible. Bowers is still human and can make mistakes. Besides, we do not learn about our world if questions are not asked.

To add to the suspicion, if you look at the image carefully, there appears to be doubling in the portrait. Look at the left side of Liberty’s face in the image of the 1964 coin and see the doubled image. There is also doubling over Liberty’s throat. Compare it to a known mint state Morgan Dollar and the questions mount.

You decide! Click on the images to enlarge and use the slideshow controls to examine both coins. Do you see the doubling? Do you see the wearing? What do you think?
 

Do you think the report of the existence a 1964 Morgan Dollar is real?

No, it's a fish story to sell books. (40%, 10 Votes)
Maybe but I am just not sure. (24%, 6 Votes)
Let's wait and see when the book is released. (24%, 6 Votes)
Given the source of the information it has to be real. (12%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 25

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Credits

Is the 1964 Morgan a fish story?

A Guide Book Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed.That explosion you might have heard was the collective minds of the numismatic community when it was revealed that a 1964 Morgan Dollar exists, or at least once existed.

The press release issued by Whitman Publishing for the new fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, by Q. David Bowers, that included the following paragraph:

The pricing, text, and certified population data in the fifth edition have been edited and updated. New research covers counterfeit error coins and other topics, including a numismatic bombshell: recent discoveries and photographs revealing the previously unknown 1964 Morgan silver dollar. (emphasis added)

Whitman included an image of the cover as part of its promotion of the book and features this coin. Its grey matte appearance with some flatness on Liberty’s face gives the appearance of a circulated coin.

No other information has been provided.

Close-up of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar

Close-up of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar from the cover of A Guide Book to Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed. by Q. David Bowers

Without seeing the evidence that is published in the book, the condition of the coin can lead one to question its authenticity. If the coin was a trial or experimental strike that coincides with the striking of the 1964 Peace Dollar, then should the coin appear uncirculated?

What if this coin was part of a rogue like the 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet? Did it really exist as a legitimate coin?

We will find out on September 27, 2017 when the book is scheduled to be released to retail outlets (or preorder on Whitman’s website). Until then, we are left to wonder if this is legitimate or a great fish story to sell books?

Cover photo courtesy of Whitman Publishing.

Proof was in the change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

Sometimes I am amazed at what other people find in their daily change. While I tend to pick up a few foreign coins or some old wheat cents, I have never picked up anything really interesting until the other day.

During a visit to a numerically named convenience store for a cold beverage, I noticed that there were a few “golden dollars” in the register. The cashier hesitated to give them to me but I told her I was a collector and was interested especially since the one on top was very shiny. After trading three paper notes for the coins my suspicion was correct. The coin is a 2009-S James K. Polk Presidential dollar.

While the coin can be used for one dollar in trade, whomever purchased it paid more and could have sold it for at least $5 rather than placing it in circulation. While we do not know the conditions that caused this coin to be in the cash register at the time I stopped in the store, it has been rescued from circulation and will find its way into a collection. I will probably add it to my coin club’s charity auction this December.

U.S. Mint gets partisan

United States MintLike almost every business and government agency, the U.S. Mint has been leveraging social media to engage collectors and possibly attract new collectors to purchase coins. One of the places that the U.S. Mint engages the public is on Facebook.

During the last few weeks the U.S. Mint has been appropriately promoting their products but interspersed between their posts are quite a number of posts have been several posts talking about the history of the president featured on the last coin issued in the Presidential $1 Coin program.

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

The 39th and final coin of the Presidential $1 coins honors Ronald Reagan, the 40th president. Bypassing Jimmy Carter who has survived for 91 years, Reagan ends the series. As part of the release of the Reagan dollar, the U.S. Mint is promoting the release of the coin but seems to have gone overboard promoting Reagan and not the coin.

Aside from their over promotion of Reagan on social media, the U.S. Mint has a special section about Reagan’s life on their website. The information rivals something that would appear something on a history-related website or the Reagan Library.

Regardless of how one feels about Reagan, a federal agency should never favor one president over another. If the U.S. Mint has done the same for each of the presidents, then this would not be a problem. But to single out Reagan is counter to the nonpartisan mission of the U.S. Mint.

Why did the U.S. Mint pick Reagan for this type of treatment? Aside from the partisan issues, Reagan’s presidency would not be considered the most historic of those honored on dollar coins released in 2016. Gerald Ford was appointed Vice President in 1973 upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew. This was the first time that someone was appointed Vice President under the terms of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to becoming Vice President, Ford was the House Minority Leader at the time and was well respected by both sides of the aisle.

Ford became the 38th president following the resignation of Richard Nixon marking the first time a president rose to the office without being elected to a national office. Using the 25th Amendment, Ford appointed Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) as the Vice President.

Aside from presiding over the nation’s bicentennial, his transition from House Minority Leader to President not only tested the constitution but helped prove its strength in society. Although it was a difficult period for economic and world history, Ford was a significant figure in maintaining the union during this time.

Political rhetoric and correctness may have been a driver for the U.S. Mint to single out Reagan. Reagan was just another president compared to the tumultuous rise of Ford. If one president had to be honored for 2016, Ford’s presidency was more historic and deserves recognition.

2016 Presidential Dollar Releases
2016 Richard M. Nixon dollar coin

2016 Richard M. Nixon dollar coin

2016 Gerald R. Ford dollar coin

2016 Gerald R. Ford dollar coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar coin

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar coin

All images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Riding off into the sunset

2016 Reagan coins

2016 Ronald Reagan dollar & 2016-W Nancy Reagan $10 gold coin

If there is news that you want buried, you would release the news on Friday afternoon. Washington politicians are notorious for creating these media dumps late on Friday. By the time the media can digest the dump, the press offices are closed for the weekend leaving the media to try to explain the stories based on what they have. However, the public is into its weekend and fewer are paying attention.

On the Friday before the Independence Day celebration weekend, the U.S. Mint released the Ronald Reagan dollar and Nancy Reagan first spouse coin marking the end of the program.

The Presidential Dollar program has had an interesting history. Passed by congress in December 2005 and later signed by President George W. Bush, the Presidential $1 Coin Act (Pub. L. 108-145) ordered the U.S. Mint to create a $1 coin to commemorate the Nation’s past Presidents and an accompanying $10 gold coin to commemorate the President’s spouse (First Lady). Coins appeared in order that the president served and the president must be deceased for two year prior to the coin’s issue. Since Jimmy Carter is still living, he was bypassed and the last coin was for Ronald Reagan.

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

2012 First Spouse coin featuring Alice Paul

First Spouse gold coin, they bore the image of the first spouse of the corresponding president with historical information about the spouse on the reverse are issued for each spouse. For the cases where the president was widowed prior to taking office, the obverse of a contemporary coin was used and a historical image is used on the reverse. The only exception was the 2012 coin honoring Alice Paul to coincide with the Chester A. Arthur presidential dollar. Since Arthur was widowed prior to his inauguration, the law gave the honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration. The program ended with the issue of the Nancy Reagan coin.

For the first time in the modern era the date, mintmark, and mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust” struck into (incuse) the edge of the coin. The last time edge lettering was used on circulating U.S. coinage was in the 1790s.

With the edge lettering a new process for the U.S. Mint, it was no surprised that coins left the Mint without the mottos stamped in the edge. Dubbed the “godless dollar” the error caused an uproar over some people suggesting that the government was conspiring against religion by leaving the motto off of the coin. This was described as either a willful omission or a way to attack religion. There was no narrative that accepted that this was just a mistake.

Our national nightmare ended when congress updated the law (Pub. L. 110-161) to move the motto from the edge to the obverse of the coin. E Pluribus Unum, the date and mintmark was left on the edge.

Then there was the breathless story by National Public Radio that decried the tax dollars being wasted by the approximately $1.4 Billion of dollar coins being stored in the Federal Reserves’ vaults. The story was filled with partial truths and did not properly explain the situation. When I tried to reach out to NPR, I was rebuffed by a reporter who decided a low-level Treasury staffer who did not have the first clue about reality was more credible

While the media was blaming the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve, they forgot to read the law. According to the law, there were mintage minimums that congress wrote into the law including the one that said the Sacagawea dollar was to comprise one-third of the dollar coin production. As part of the legislation, the U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve were supposed to promote the coin’s use and provide educational materials for the public.

Congress, who wrote and passed the original legislation, was tripping all over themselves to introduce bills to end the program while pounding their collective chests claiming they were acting in the public interest.

This nightmare ended when then Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ordered a reduction in the production of all dollar coins. None of the bills introduced to eliminate the dollar coin were ever heard in committee and died at the end of the 113th congress.

But the series couldn’t continue without one more controversy. The way the law was written, it was interpreted that it would end with the first living president. In this case, the program would have ended with the coin honoring Gerald Ford since Jimmy Carter is still living. This did not sit well with the fans of Ronald Reagan who have spent the time since his convalescence and death trying to plaster his name all over everything including an airport that employed air traffic controllers he fired placing the nation’s skies at risk.

The same members of congress that introduced bills to eliminate the program were now demanding the program be extended by one president. Ironically, they waited until after the resignation of Mint Director Edmund Moy and approached the acting Director Richard Peterson. Although Peterson was named acting director, he was a career government employee with impeccable credentials but had to have a different relationship with the politicians than an appointed director would. The matter was deferred to Treasurer Rosie Rios and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew who approved the extension of the program.

Presidential Dollars
2007:
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
2008:
James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren
2009:
William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor
2010:
Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln
2011:
Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield
2012:
Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland
2013:
William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
2014:
Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt
2015:
Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
2016:
Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

First Spouse Gold $10 Coins
2007:
Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty,† Dolley Madison
2008:
Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson’s Liberty,† Martin Van Buren’s Liberty†
2009:
Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler,‡ Julia Tyler,†† Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor
2010:
Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan’s Liberty,* Mary Lincoln
2011:
Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield
2012:
Alice Paul,¶ Frances Cleveland (first term), Caroline Harrison,‡ Frances Cleveland (second term)
2013:
Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson,‡ Edith Wilson††
2014:
Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
2015:
Elizabeth Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson
2016:
Patricia Ryan “Pat” Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan
Footnotes:

President was widowed prior to inauguration
First Spouse died during the president’s term
††
Married the president during the president’s term
*
James Buchanan was the only bachelor president
President Chester Arthur was widowed prior to inauguration. However, the authorizing law gives the coin honor to Alice Paul, a suffragette who was born during Arthur’s administration

When the Reagan dollar was issued, 39 presidents representing 40 terms were issued.

Along with Nancy Reagan, 35 other first spouses were honored (Frances Cleveland appeared twice), four different Liberty coins were issued, and one was issued to honor suffragette Alice Paul.

President Reagan horseback riding at Rancho del Cielo

President Reagan horseback riding at Rancho del Cielo with Freebo (his daughter’s dog) and Victory the golden retriever following.

As the program now quietly rides off into the proverbial sunset, maybe it is time to let the America the Beautiful Quarters® complete their run through 2021 and give the circulating commemoratives a rest.

Credits

  • Coin images courtesy of the U.S. Mint
  • Reagan on horsback “April 4, 1986 photo courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.” Downloaded from PresidentialPetMuseum.com

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