Mnuchin under investigation for Fort Knox trip

Being Secretary of the Treasury does have its perks.

On August 21, Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Louisville chamber of commerce. Joining him on the flight was his wife, actress Louise Linton.

Later in the day, Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) visited the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky becoming the first civilians to visit the facility since 1974. The U.S. Mint posted a picture of Mnuchin holding a gold bar in front of a balance scale.

Conspiracy theorists have comment, “is that’s all that’s left?”

On August 21, 2017, was the total eclipse of the sun that stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. Although the path of the total eclipse passed over part of Kentucky, the Fort Knox area experienced only 96-percent of the eclipse.

During the trip, Linton posted a picture of her departing a government plane on Instagram noting her attire. In the context of a diva actress, this type of braggadocio is expected. But as someone flying at government expense during what is supposed to be a government-sponsored trip.

When a concerned citizen questioned her choices in the context of a government trip, Linton responded in a way that one would expect of a diva, self-centered actress. But as someone traveling using government-sponsored transportation, Linton’s comments were not well received.

A day later Linton apologized for her comments, removed the Instagram post, and made her profile private.

Days following the trip, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of the Treasury asking for information about the trip. CREW is questioning the use of government resources for what they claim is a personal trip. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, also wrote to the Treasury Department asking for records of justification for Mnuchin’s use of a government plan for the trip.

Because of the outrage about the trip, The Washington Post is reporting that the Treasury Office of the Inspector General will be looking into the trip “… to determine whether all applicable travel, ethics, and appropriation laws and policies were observed.”

Cabinet officials can request to use government flights under specific criteria. These flights are flown mainly using Air Force resources and are costlier than a commercial flight. It is recommended that cabinet officials use military resources only in the case of national security or for employees whose security could not be guaranteed in the commercial environment.

A source has suggested that Mnuchin may have violated government policy by using the government plane for this trip. Mnuchin does not face a threat that requires additional security that would justify his using government resources. Further, since Linton is not a government employee, her travel is not reimbursable by the government. It was predicted that Mnuchin will be required to pay the difference between a commercial flight and the cost of the government flight. He will also be required to reimburse the government the full cost of Linton’s portion of the trip.

Lack of leadership at the U.S. Mint

Following the sell out of the 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set, a few readers asked if I was going to post a comment. I declined to let the rest of the industry have this discussion. I would rather have a discussion about a different issue related to the U.S. Mint: the lack of leadership.

Since the resignation of Edmund Moy as of January 9, 2011, the U.S. Mint has not had a permanent director. Even though Moy’s term would have expired on September 5, 2011, there has been no permanent leadership as required by law.

Since Moy’s departure, there have been three people acting as director and two attempts at nominating a director that was not acted upon in the Senate.

As of this post, the U.S. Mint has not had a permanent director for 2,407 days or 6 years, 7 months, 3 days and counting. This appears to the longest vacant position in the federal government.

In the past, this seemed to be a good thing because the government professionals taking the reigns of leadership seems to have made decisions that did not appear to hurt collectors. That was until the 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set was sold without household limits.

Given the current state of the government where it is estimated that over 40-percent of the positions open for appointments, including those that do not require Senate confirmation, maybe this is something we have to live with regardless of consequences.

July 2017 Numismatic Legislation Review

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

H.R. 965: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Rep. Ann M. Kuster (D-NH)
Introduced: February 7, 2017
This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. — Feb 23, 2017
Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Unanimous Consent. — Jul 26, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR956.
S. 312: Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act
Sponsor: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Introduced: February 6, 2017
This bill redesignates the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, in New Hampshire, as the "Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park."
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. — Feb 6, 2017
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks. Hearings held. — Jul 19, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S312.
S. 1568: President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Introduced: July 17, 2017
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 17, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-S1568.
H.R. 3274: President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Mccarthy (R-CA)
Introduced: July 17, 2017
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Jul 17, 2017
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/115-HR3274.

Why collect NCLT coins?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commemorative Coins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why collect these coins?

Why not?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jovita Carranza Sworn in as 44th Treasurer

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, administer the oath of office to Jovita Carranza, left, as the 44th Treasurer of the U.S., Monday, June 19, 2017, at the Treasury Department in Washington. Jovita Carranza’s daughter Klaudene Carranze, holds the Bible and her goddaughter Lily Hobbs stands second from right. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Through the din of Washington, it was lightly reported that Jovita Carranza was sworn in as the 44th Treasurer of the United States on June 19, 2017, by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Joining Carranza at the ceremony was her daughter Klaudene Carranza and goddaughter Lily Hobbs.

Since the appointment of Georgia Neese Clark by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, there have been 16 women appointed as Treasurer of the United States. Carranza is the seventh Latina to hold the job and the fourth straight since the appointment of Rosario Marin in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

Carranza will oversee the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint. Since there have been problems reported with Cabinet secretaries getting senior officials to be accepted by the head of the presidential personnel office, the current structure at the U.S. Mint will stay in place. Carranza will take an active role overseeing the mint until a director is appointed.

Image courtesy of the Wasihngton Post

What is the Mint doing with the Mutilated Coin Redemption Program

Coins found in the recycling stream.

Coins found in the recycling stream.

Last year, the U.S. Mint suspended its Mutilated Coin Redemption Program when it alleged that a company in New Jersey was importing counterfeit coins from China to redeem as mutilated coins. Formal charges were brought against the persons involved in March and the U.S. Mint extended the suspension indefinitely last May.

The mutilated coin redemption industry is a multi-million dollar business. Most of the businesses involved with this industry are recyclers that find coins in cars and machines that are recycled. Recycling these metals require the use of heavy machinery that takes apart the items and compresses them to transport to processors. Six compressed cars can take up the same amount of space as one full-size car. More can fit in the same space if the metal is shredded.

Although some of the coins are removed from the cars, others end up in the machinery. After processing through high pressure and high heat, the found coins are in no condition to be sent to banks for redemption. Most of the time, these coins are cut, bent, or badly scorched making them impossible to process using normal coin counting mechanisms. According to an industry representative, recyclers can find an average of over $2 per car and over $10 in coin-operated machines as they are taken apart and crushed.

Scrap IkeCoin-operated machines are not as well made as people suspect. For every time you might have had a coin “stuck” and lost in the machine, the coin might have dropped into an area outside of the coin bin and between internal parts. When the machines are serviced, the coins are usually dumped into bags and taken back to the company to be placed into coin counting machines. In many cases, the count between the expected amount of money and the number of items sold are not exact. This type of “shrinkage” is part of their business risk plans.

When the coin-operated machines are taken out of service, many are cleaned and inspected for loose coins. But the way the machines are designed, it is common that many coins are missed. They will continue to stay within the machine until it is discarded for scrap.

Cars and other machines sometimes gain a second life overseas. Machines are sold as surplus, repaired by their new owners and put into service around the world. These machines end up in the recycle system when they fall beyond the ability to be repaired. International recyclers recover U.S. coins from these cars and coin-operated machines. This is not including the scrap cars that are shipped overseas for recycling. Brokers buy the coins from recyclers and ship them to the United States. Currently, there is an estimated $1 million in mutilated coins being held by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) while the redemption program is suspended. It is also estimated that more than $50 million in mutilated coins are being stored overseas while shipments are suspended.

As the mutilated coins accumulate, recyclers are now paying for storage and security over and above their regular business expenses. Some have sold their mutilated coins to other recyclers and brokers at a discount to avoid paying the storage costs. Those accumulating these mutilated coins are hedging on the mutilated coin-recycling program being restarted soon.

Brokers handling the import of these coins have filed suit against the CBP for blocking and holding the shipments of mutilated coins. Plaintiffs cite a report from a company called FormerFeds Group, a company made up of former federal lawyers and other senior officials, that said the accusation of importing mutilated coins from China is not true and that the amount of “junk” (non-coins in the batch) are within tolerances of the program. They are requesting that the court grants an order to release the coins and to compel the U.S. Mint to resume the Mutilated Coin Redemption Program.

Hong Kong-based Wealthy Max Ltd. publicly opened and sampled 13 tonnes of mutilated U.S. coins waiting for shipment in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong-based Wealthy Max Ltd. publicly opened and sampled 13 tonnes of mutilated U.S. coins waiting for shipment in Hong Kong. The coins come from piles of metal generated by automotive shredders and via incinerated waste streams.

Without fanfare, the U.S. Mint published a request in the Federal Register (81 FR 75922) asking for comments regarding the Mutilated Coin Exchange Program to supplement the information it has already gathered. The notice was published on November 1, 2016, without a follow up from the U.S. Mint press office. The U.S. Mint allowed for a two-week comment period that ended on November 15, 2016.

According to the Federal Register, the “Mint is considering include requiring participant certification, coinage material authentication, chain of custody information, and annual submission limitations.” They were seeking comment on that and other possible factors to better secure the program. There is no indication as to whether this is tied to the case brought by the brokers handling foreign recycling.

Coins make up a very small minority of the amount of scrap in the recycling stream. But with the problems caused by the U.S. Mint’s refusal to properly deal with this issue, it is taking up a lot of time and money both here in the United States and with long time business partners abroad.

Credits

Post election numismatic analysis

Rhett Jeppson, nominated to be the 39th Director of the U.S. Mint

Rhett Jeppson, nominated to be the 39th Director of the U.S. Mint

Most of the votes have been counted. Electors to the Electoral College have been selected. The post-election analysis is in high gear. Why not add the numismatic twist to the environment.

The immediate impact of the election results is that Rhett Jeppson will not be confirmed to become the Director of the U.S. Mint. Even though the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for his nomination on March 15, the chance of the GOP-led Senate confirming any of President Obama’s appointment nominations are non-existent.

Jeppson was hired in January 2015 as Principal Deputy Director. Jeppson was hired as a member of the government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) program. In July, it was announced that Jeppson would be nominated as the Director. Since the nomination will likely die in committee, Jeppson will remain on the U.S. Mint staff as a government employee. Although he has not announced his intentions, Jeppson is likely to continue as Principal Deputy Director.

It is unlikely that the next administration will nominate Jeppson or anyone in the near future. Considering that there has not been political appointee running the U.S. Mint since January 2011, maybe President Obama could use his power to convert the term appointment into a permanent government employee. This way, the U.S. Mint can be run by competent managers rather than a pol who might do something like not ordering enough planchets to maintain a major bullion program.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is not affected by a change in administrations because the position of the director is a permanent government employee. Len Olijar will remain Director of the BEP as long as he is a government employee in good standing.

As for any of the pending legislation, do not count on anything being passed. Given the results of the election, sources say that the partisan rancor is so fervent that even the most cordial relationships have turned icy. These feelings are not limited to cross-party relationships. There is a growing divide between ideological members in both parties that could almost split the congress into four parties.

To suggest that the partisan bickering to escalate during the lame duck session would be an understatement. Remember, congress passed a continuing resolution, not a real budget, in late September that will expire on December 9. If a budget is not passed by December 9 then the government will have to be shutdown.

The 114th congress will adjourn being one of the most ineffective congress on record.

For the 115th congress that will convene on January 3, 2017, there will be 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats with three runoffs pending (two in Louisiana). Although the Republicans lost 7 total seats, they continue to hold a majority. Currently, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services. Although it is not known if Hensarling will remain as chair of this committee, it is likely the new leadership will continue the previous policies. If the attitudes of this committee do not change, there may be very few commemorative coin programs that get through this committee.

Although revenue generating bills are required to be introduced in the House of Representatives (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 4), the Senate has been known to introduce commemorative coin bills without argument from their House counterparts. For the 115th congress, the Senate will have 51 Republicans and 48 Democrats with a runoff in Louisiana scheduled for December 10. However, Senate rules make the composition somewhat irrelevant because of their ability to filibuster.

Under the Senate’s filibuster rules (Senate Rule XXII), a senator can inform the presiding member that they intend to filibuster the debate. At that point, the presiding member will set the bill aside to allow other business to continue because the Senate can only work on one item at a time. This means that a filibuster stops all other floor actions. By setting the bill aside and not bringing it to the floor, this allows for other senate business to continue while the leadership tries to gather support for a cloture vote.

Cloture, or closure, is the act to end the free-flow debate of the senate and apply restrictions, such as a 30 hour limit on debate. Cloture requires a three-fifths vote of the senate (60 votes) to agree on cloture. Anyone who remembers some of the past discussions on the composition of the senate, when one party controls 60 seats, they called that a “filibuster-proof majority.” Otherwise, any senator can threaten a filibuster and have that measure buried.

Although it is unlikely that the senate would filibuster the vote on a commemorative coin bill, but it would be obstructed by the another bill ahead of it in the queue.

Even though I would like for the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726 and S. 2957) to pass, I will not be holding my breath during the lame duck session this year or a new version introduced anytime next year.

Collectors of ancient coins need your help!

ACCGHere we go again… the government want to take your ancient coins away from you.

This is different from other conspiracy theories because since there is no mechanism for them. Here, foreign governments are working in collusion with the United States Department of State Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC). The problem with CPAC is that it is not a real committee. They are largely a rubber-stamp part of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs kowtowing to any foreign government who feels that items found in their country have been stolen from regardless of the evidence. This includes common ancient coins or coins that were removed from circulation long before the existence of the 1970 UNESCO Convention that created this situation.

If you want to read a more extensive discussion on the problems facing collectors of ancient coins, read my post “An ancient dilemma” from 2014.

The information comes from the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG). Even if you are not a collector of ancient coins you should appreciate that the problems with governments wanting to stop your hobby. If they go after the ancients, what is to prevent these countries from trying to recall obsolete money? We need to support the ACCG and the community to prevent overreach by foreign governments and a committee who does not care what the coin collectors think.

Here’s the current issue as outlined by ACCG Executive Director Peter Tompa

Dear Fellow ACCG Member:
 
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and its Cultural Heritage Center have announced a comment period for a proposed extension of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cyprus.  See https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/08/10/2016-19018/notice-of-meeting-of-the-cultural-property-advisory-committee
 
The U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee will review these comments and make recommendations based upon them with regard to any extension of the current agreement with Cyprus. 
 
According to U.S. Customs’ interpretation of the governing statute, import restrictions authorized by this MOU currently bar entry into the United States of the following coin types unless they are accompanied with documentation establishing that they were out of Cyprus as of the date of the restrictions, July 16, 2007:
 
1. Issues of the ancient kingdoms of Amathus, Kition, Kourion, Idalion, Lapethos, Marion, Paphos, Soli, and Salamis dating from the end of the 6th century B.C. to 332 B.C.
 
2. Issues of the Hellenistic period, such as those of Paphos, Salamis, and Kition from 332 B.C. to c. 30 B.C. (including coins of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, and his Dynasty)
 
3. Provincial and local issues of the Roman period from c. 30 B.C. to 235 A.D.
 
You may ask, why bother to comment—when Jay Kislak, CPAC’s Chairman at the time, has stated that the State Department rejected CPAC’s recommendations against import restrictions on Cypriot coins back in 2007 and then misled both Congress and the public about its actions?   And isn’t it also true that although the vast majority of public comments recorded have been squarely against import restrictions, the State Department and U.S. Customs have imposed import restrictions on coins anyway, most recently on ancient coins from Bulgaria?
 
Simply because, our silence allows the State Department bureaucrats and their allies in the archaeological establishment to claim that collectors have acquiesced to broad restrictions on their ability to import common ancient coins that are widely available worldwide.   And, of course, acquiescence is all that may be needed to justify going back and imposing import restrictions on more recent coins that are still exempt from these regulations.
 
Under the circumstances, please take 5 minutes and tell CPAC, the State Department bureaucrats and the archaeologists what you think. 

How do I comment?  Go to  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/08/10/2016-19018/notice-of-meeting-of-the-cultural-property-advisory-committee  to submit short comment just click on the green box on the upper right hand side of the above notice that says “submit a formal comment” and follow their directions.
If you are having trouble, go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov), and enter Docket No. DOS-2016-0054 for Cyprus, and follow the prompts to submit comments. What should I say?  The State Department bureaucracy has dictated that any public comments should relate solely to the following statutory criteria: 

  1. Whether the cultural patrimony of Cyprus is in jeopardy from looting of its archaeological materials;
  2. Whether Cyprus has taken measures consistent with the 1970 UNESCO Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;
  3. Whether application of U.S. import restrictions, if applied in concert with similar restrictions by other art importing countries, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage and that less drastic remedies are not available;and,
  4. Whether the application of import restrictions is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

(See 19 U.S.C. § 2602 (a).)   Yet, collectors can really only speak to what they know.  So, tell them what you think within this broad framework.  For instance, over time, import restrictions will certainly impact the American public’s ability to study and preserve historical coins and maintain people to people contacts with collectors abroad.  (These particular restrictions have hurt the ability of Cypriot Americans to collect ancient coins of their own culture.)  Yet, foreign collectors—including collectors in Cyprus—will be able to import coins as before.  And, one can also remind CPAC that less drastic remedies, like regulating metal detectors or instituting reporting programs akin to the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme, must be tried first.   Finally, Cyprus is a member of the European Union, so why not allow legal exports of Cypriot coins from other EU countries?
 
Be forceful, but polite.  We can and should disagree with what the State Department bureaucrats and their allies in the archaeological establishment are doing to our hobby, but we should endeavor to do so in an upstanding manner. Please submit comment just once, before the deadline on September 30, 2016.
 
Thank you for your help,

 
Peter,

 
Peter K. Tompa, 
Executive Director
Ancient Coin Collectors Guild

July 2016 Numismatic-related legislation

As we do every month, we look back at the previous month’s activity in congress that will affect us numismatically. July started with congress on their 4th of July break coming back for a one week session before leaving to attend their respective conventions.

Prior to leaving, congressed passed the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act (Public Law 114-196). The law authorizes the formation of a commission to organize the national celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States on July 4, 2026. It was signed by President Obama on July 22, 2016. Section 5, Paragraph (c)(2)(F) of the new law recommends that the commission encourages “Federal agencies to integrate the celebration of the Semiquincentennial into the regular activities and execution of the purpose of the agencies through such activities as the issuance of coins, medals, certificates of recognition, stamps, and the naming of vessels.”

Those of us who are old enough to remember, this was the first time in the modern era that circulating commemoratives were issued. The quarter, half-dollar, and dollar coins all had special reverse designs that were issued in 1975 and 1976. These coins remain popular amongst collectors and an interesting curiosity when non-collectors find the quarter with the drummer boy reverse in their pocket change. Although circulating commemoratives are not a new concept since the advent of the 50 State Quarters series, there is an opportunity to consider something interesting to celebrate on all U.S. coinage rather than just certain denominations.

The only other piece of legislation legislation of concern was that the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017 passed the House on July 7, 2016. The bill authorizes the U.S. Mint to withdraw up to $30 million from the Public Enterprise Fund for its operations. This is an increase of $10 million from when the bill was originally submitted in June.

If you missed my previous explanation on the funding of the U.S. Mint, you can read “No Taxpayer Money Is Used by the US Mint” at your leisure.

May 2016 Numismatic Legislation

When I went to graduate school for a degree in public policy, I had no idea that the basic tenants of politics would change so drastically. Watching what congress is saying, what they are doing, and the response by the media and public has been something that historians will have a good time with in the future. Today, it is difficult to keep up with policy issues that are not discussed in sound bites or come with bumper sticker-sized slogans. Thankfully, there are Internet resources for those of us to keep track of our pet issues.

On the Coin Collectors Blog we watch coin-related legislation because the U.S. Mint cannot do anything without congressional approval. My favorite site for watching legislation is Govtrack.us. Although they use the same information as Congress.gov, I like the look and feel of Govtrack.us.

Clearing the smoke and other debris, I found two pieces of numismatic-related legislation that were introduced in May:

H.R. 5168 Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
• Introduced: May 6, 2016
• Referred to the House Financial Services Committee
• This bill is related to S. 2890

Summary:

  • Design with image of Christa McAuliffe with reverse depicting her legacy as a teacher
  • Issued in the year 2018
  • Mintage Limit: 350,000 Silver dollars in uncirculated or proof
  • Surcharge of $10 per coin payable to the FIRST robotics program

This bill can be tracked at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr5168.

S. 2957 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
• Introduced: May 19, 2016
• Referred to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
• This bill is related to H.R. 2726

Summary:

This bill can be tracked at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s2957.

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: