CCAC Dropped the Ball… AGAIN!

While catching up on the weekend’s reading I came across an article Debate rages in coin world: Theodore Roosevelt or George Washington on new quarter? The article is about how the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee debated whether to recommend that Teddy Roosevelt be placed on the obverse of the new America the Beautiful Quarters.

Introduced in 1932, the Washington Quarter was intended to be issued as a one-time circulating commemorative to honor the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The quarter was born of controversy when Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon chose John Flanagan’s depictions over what had been determined to be a more artistic version by Laura Gardin Fraser. Although Mellon was a collector of great fine art that was later donated to the National Gallery of Art, many knew he was a sexist and refused to consider that a woman’s work was better than a man’s.

As the Great Depression deepened, no quarters were struck in 1933. Toward the end of the year, US Mint director Nellie Tayloe Ross was asked by the Federal Reserve to produce more quarters for circulation. Rather than use a new design, Ross ask the Treasury Secretary William Woodin for permission to continue to use Fraser’s design. Since Ross and Woodin did not want to undergo a new design competition, the Fraser designed continued until it was “updated” in 1999 for the 50 State Quarters Program.

Numismatist see Teddy Roosevelt as the father of the coinage renaissance when he tried to conspire with Augustus Saint-Gaudens to bring classic design to American coinage. Roosevelt call this his Pet Crime. Roosevelt was instrumental in the Mint using Saint-Gauden’s designs for the $10 gold eagle and his famous design on the $20 gold double eagle coin that continues to be celebrated today. Add the wonderful work by Bela Lyon Pratt on the gold quarter and half eagle coins along with Victor David Brenner’s Lincoln cent and the stage was set for a period of timeless classics.

Under his presidency, Roosevelt made conservation a national priority. He placed more land into the public trust than any other president and created the US Forest Serive to care for that land. Roosevelt elevated the importance of the National Park Service to be more than a caretaker of public land but make it accessible to everyone while protecting its beauty. His service to conservation has not been matched by any president since.

With his work on coinage and the lands that will be featured on the new series, it would be a natural recommendation to have Roosevelt adorn the obverse of these quarter. However, the article reports that the CCAC backed down because of the alleged lack of support by congress.

The CCAC is supposed to be an independent organization that is supposed to recommend what is best for the design of American coinage. It is supposed to be a non-partisan and non-political organization that apparently succumbed to the politics of the day. Rather than doing what is right, the CCAC wilted at the chance to refresh the sameness of the one coin’s design in the same way that Roosevelt bristled at the designs of Charles Barber in the early 20th century.

I am sure that members of the CCAC will ask that if there is no support for the design then why propose it? Because at some point, it is more important to do the right thing than taking the politically expedient path. It would put congress on record as being against a populist idea, albeit a small population of populists. It would show that the CCAC was an organization that understand the issues of coin design and not a rubber stamp body of sometimes bland coin designs.

The CCAC must re-evaluate their role as and advisory committee and advise. If this is not possible, then the CCAC only duplicates the role of the Commission of Fine Arts and should be disbanded.

A Look At 2010 in Coins

Around this time last year, I wrote that 2009 would be quite a year. As 2009 comes to an end, I know why I am not a prognosticator. With the down economy, the convergence of so many coin programs, and the performance questions of the US Mint it is difficult to call 2009 a successful year; yet it was not a failure.

Some of the success of this year included the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Coin, the District of Columbia and US Territories Quarters, and the Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent program. Although finding the cents and quarters have been difficult to find in change, these new coins had nice designs and was a chance for people to learn about Lincoln’s life and the history of our territories.

As the Lincoln Cent enters its 101st year of production, it will be given a new reverse. The Union Shield was selected as the symbol of a united country. The shield is featured in many of the frescos painted by Constantino Brumidi throughout the US capitol. Brumidi was the Artist of the capitol during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. The fresco shown here is one of the eight trophy panel from room S-128 (from the Senate side) of the capitol. It was design by Brumidi and painted by English artist James Leslie.

Starting in 2010, the US Mint will begin the American the Beautiful Quarters Program. It will be a program with 56 quarter-dollar coins featuring designs depicting national parks and other national sites. Although this program might be overkill, the designs show that the program has the promise to show new and interesting designs. The first five quarters for 2010 will honor Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Yosemite National Park in California, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. It will be interesting to see if this program will catch on.

In the second year of the Native American $1 Coin program, the theme for the 2010 reverse is “Government–The Great Tree of Peace.” The reverse design features five bound arrows and the Hiawatha Belt. Hiawatha was the helper to the Great Peacemaker who negotiated peace amongst the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk tribes in the area now known as New York state. The alliance was known as Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois Confederacy, and is featured on the reverse. The words “Great Law of Peace” is also on the reverse to honor the constitution that created the confederacy. It is a wonderful design that follows up the great design of 2009.

Continuing the Presidential $1 Coins, 2010 will include coins for Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. We may see an increase of interest in these coins with the introduction of the dollar honoring Lincoln as we pass the (ho-hum) early 19th century presidents.

Along with the Presidential dollars will be the First Spouse Gold Coins. Along with the presidents will be gold coins to honor Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Buchanan’s Liberty, and Mary Todd Lincoln. President James Buchanan was not married. His first spouse coin will be a reproduction of the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle designed by Christian Gobrecht minted and issued from 1840 through 1907. The reverse design depicts the future President as a boy working as a bookkeeper in his family’s small country store design by Artistic Infusion Program Associate Designer David Westwood.

To round out circulating coinage, no changes are in store for the nickel, dime, and half-dollar.

Commemorative coins for 2010 will include the 2010 Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin. The Boy Scout commemorative celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. The program will produce 350,000 silver dollar coins with the $10 surcharge will be paid to National Boy Scouts of America Foundation who issues grants to local council for the extension of scouting in hard-to-serve areas.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life will also produce 350,000 silver dollars in proof and uncirculated version to honor disabled veterans. The $10 surcharge will be paid to the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation to support the construction of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, DC.

Considering what happened this year, it will be difficult to predict what will happen to the American Eagle Bullion and American Buffalo 24-Karat Gold coins. Because of how the law is written, American Eagle bullion will be produced but we are not sure whether American Eagle proof coins will join them. I hope the proof coins will be produced in 2010, but with the current Mint administration, we will not know until they announce a commitment to their production.

I hope 2010 sizzles as much as 2009 fizzled!

Fresco image from Constantino Brumidi: Artist of the Capitol.
Coin images courtesy of the US Mint.

Yet Another Rotating Coin Series

On Wednesday, the US Mint announced the America the Beautiful Quarter Series, a 56 quarter series to “honor” national parks in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and territories. As part of the announcement, the US Mint announced the schedule of the national parks and historic areas that will be depicted.

According to the US Mint, a “restored” version of the 1932 portrait of George Washington designed by John Flanagan. Either this could mean that the Mint engravers will either fix the “spaghetti hair” portrait of the 50 State Quarters or change it to resemble linguini.

Pardon me if I fail to show excitement.

We just finished the State Quarters program and had the DC and Territories Quarters added to the end. This year we celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the century anniversary of the Lincoln Cent. The Presidential $1 Coin series is in the middle of some of the dullest presidents in US history. And we cannot forget the Native American $1 Coin that probably has the best reverse design of all 2009 coins. Including the circulating coins without rotating reverses the total is 18 different coins being struck this year.

I agree with Mike Zielinski when he wrote on the Coin Update blog:

Although I did enjoy the 50 State Quarters series, I think reusing the same concept over and over again becomes dull. With no disrespect to the sites selected for the impending quarter series, I would rather see a single design that could become an iconic and lasting symbol of our generation [rather] than another collection of 56 designs representing 56 different things.

Let’s think of these quarters as a stimulus package for the collecting suppliers who will sell new folder and albums to house the coins in this series.

Below is the B-roll provided by the US Mint. Starting around 2:23 of the clip are scenes from within one of the branch mints showing the production of quarters.

Still Not Finding 2009

I went to my bank and branches of three other banks to look for rolls of Martin Van Buren dollars and Lincoln Birth and Early Childhood cents. I know that the William Henry Harrison dollars are the current issue, but I was not able to find Van Buren dollars when they were in active release.

One bank I went to had just emptied the cent bags from its coin counting machine. The teller showed me the three bags of cents that will be sent to their contractor to be counted and sent back to the Federal Reserve. They did have Harrison Dollars and some John Quincy Adams dollars, but no Van Burens. A teller in another bank showed me a box of cent rolls they just received from the Federal Reserve. All the rolls had mixed coins, no new cents.

I also asked for District of Columbia quarters. Only one bank had a roll.

I have heard that Lincoln cents have started to be found in pocket change west of the Rockies and DC Quarters in the northern midwest states. But friends living throughout the Northeast Corridor have not found any of these coins in change.

Last year, I found my first 2008 coin in mid-June. Other than the special distribution of dollars and quarters, I don’t expect to see 2009 coins until June or July.

TR Could Appear on the Quarter

It is being reported that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee is considering changing the obverse of the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coins (Public Law Number 110-456 [GPO: Text or PDF]). My source pointed that that the law does not specify what is to be on the obverse of the coin only that the 1998 George Washington design. Rather than recommend a design with Washington on the reverse, the CCAC is considering honoring Theodore Roosevelt on the obverse.

Theodore Roosevelt is credited with starting a modern renaissance of US coinage. When Roosevelt became president in 1901, he expressed his disdain for the sameness of the coinage designed by then chief engraver Charles E. Barber. Roosevelt want our coinage to reflect the greatness of the nation. He wanted a more modern classical design. Roosevelt enlisted the help of the greatest sculpture of the time, Augustus Saint Gaudens, to execute what Roosevelt called his “pet crime.”

Duriung Roosevelt’s presidency, he was directly involved with the redesign of the gold coinage using the designs of Saint Gaudens on the eagle ($10) and double eagle ($20), Bela Lyon Pratt’s incuse design for the half-eagle ($5) and quarter eagle ($2.50) coins, and Victor David Brenner’s Lincoln Cent. The other Barber designs coin were retired by 1916.

In addition to Roosevelt’s influence on coinage, he was instrumental in growing the number of national parks and protected areas in the United States. Roosevelt, who spent a lot of time in the Badlands in the Dakota Territory influenced his view by setting aside 42 million acres of national forests, 53 national wildlife refuges, and other areas including the Grand Canyon.

Roosevelt started the program that lead to the National Wildlife Refuge system and established the US Forest Service to help maintain these natural resources.

To honor Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation work and preservation of many national parks and refuges and his “pet crime” for his redesign of US coinage, it would be fitting to honor him on the National Park Quarters. As a fan of our 28th president and his work, I have advocated that Theodore Roosevelt be honored on US coinage. If the CCAC follows through with this recommendation, it would make the National Parks Quaters more palatable.

Image of Theodore Roosevelt is from the White House website.

Where Was the ANA?

Over the last few days, I have not read many complementary reviews about the America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008, now Public Law Number 110-456 (GPO: Text, PDF). Not only did I write about earlier this week, but Susan Headley at About.com wrote about how many of her readers did not like the concept.

So where was the ANA? The American Numismatic Association has been representing the collector community in all matters numismatic. The ANA was instrumental in convincing congress to create the 50 State Quarters Program. The ANA does talk with congressional leaders about numismatic issues. But with very few positive things being said about what is now law, why did the ANA not say anything this time?

I am sure there will be excuse that between the holidays and that the recent burglaries of dealers that included the firm owned by ANA President Barry Stuppler may have diverted some attention from this bill. But there are others in the ANA who could be asked to speak on the community’s behalf.

One person who could have spoken on behalf of the membership is David Ganz. Ganz is a former president of the ANA, numismatic author, lawyer, and politician who worked with the ANA to lobby congress for the 50 State Quarter Program. Ganz could have spoken with Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) and said that this is not the area to spend political capital. Rather, the Ganz could have offered to bring the idea to the ANA to allow the members to come up with fresh ideas.

When the National Parks quarters fail to capture the public attention like the 50 State Quarters, I believe the collector community will be blamed for not “being on board,” even though we were not consulted. The community will lose credibility in a manner similar to the coin shortage of the 1960’s and it will take a few years before congress will listen to the ANA again on coinage matters. It could have been avoided if the ANA would have spoken to Castle and expressed concerns when the bill was announced last June, long before the holidays!

If it is the job of the ANA to protect the hobby, the ANA failed at its job.

A Call to Veto Quarters Bill

Apparently, I an not the only one who would like to see the president veto the recently passed H.R. 6184, America’s Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008. Eric Lurio, blogger at The Huffington Post, also thinks this is a bad idea.

Lurio, who admits to purchasing annual sets, compares the excessive coin issues to the excessive stamp issues that helped kill philatelics. “The thing that destroyed philately was too much product,” writes Lurio. “Back in the day you’d have at most ten to fifteen commemoratives and some “regular” issues with weird denominations. That was cheap. It was fun. Not any more it’s not. There are fifty commemoratives, all expensive.”

Readers have sent quite a few private messages admitting to what I called “collector fatique.” Someone also suggested that congress has “Jumped the Shark” with this measure.

Today is the tenth day (not including Sundays) since the bill has been received by the president. Although the Senate will convene for a pro forma session—a session just to say congress was in session—the president could still not sign the bill today. With no session scheduled for tomorrow, it is possible that the result will be a pocket veto.

“Coins are a medium of exchange, not advertising. Sure the designs should be pleasing, if not beautiful, but don’t do tourist traps,” concludes Lurio, “It’s just not right.”

I cannot imagine what Teddy Roosevelt would say about this!

2009 Will Be Quite A Year

As we end 2008 and look to 2009, numismatists are going to have a lot of options to add to their collections. There will be quite a number of coins that will excite many. But the shear numbers may be overwhelming to others. However you feel, the US Mint will have a very busy year. Let’s look at what is coming up in the new year.

First, three coins will not see any changes. The “Return to Monticello” Jefferson Nickel introduced in 2006 will not be changed. Neither will the Roosevelt Dime, in circulation since 1946, and the Kennedy Half Dollar, as it has been since 1964 except for the Bicentennial issues.

For 2009, we will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of Abraham Lincoln. In celebration, congress has authorized the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program as part of Public Law 105-145. As part of this program, the Mint will issue four reverse design representing Lincoln’s birth and early childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816), his formative years in Indiana (1816-1830), his professional Life in Illinois (1830-1861), and an extraordinary presidency in Washington, DC (1861-1865).

As part of the Lincoln Cent program, the US Mint will issue a 2009-S VDB non-circulating coin that will be struck in the .950 copper alloy used when the 1909-S VDB was first struck. Also, Public Law 109-285 was passed earlier this year that created Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar to round out the celebration of our 16th president.

To round out the State Quarter program, 2009 will issue quarters to honor the District of Columbia and five US territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The DC and US Territories Quarter Program authorized by congress in an amendment as part of an omnibus budget bill at the end of 2007.

The same omnibus budget bill also removed the motto “IN G-D WE TRUST” from the edge of the dollar coins. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) who was defeated for re-election.

The Presidential $1 Coin Program continues in 2009 to honor presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor. Harrison had the shortest term when he died one month into office after contracting the flu following his refusal to wear an overcoat during his two-hour inaugural address on a cold day in March, 1841. All of the packaging options with Presidential $1 Coins will not be offered in 2009 after not selling well the last two years.

Along with the presidents, the First Spouse Gold Coins will be issued for Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler, Julia Tyler, Sarah Polk and Margaret Taylor. Letitia Tyler was the first President’s wife to die in the White House. Julia Tyler became First Lady after marrying John Tyler in 1844.

Native American $1 Coins program will begin in 2009 with a design honoring the “Three Sisters’ agriculture, in which corn, beans and squash growing in the same mound enhanced the productivity of each plant. It was a unique program that lead to the concept of crop rotation we know today. This change was authorized by Public Law 110-82 and add edge lettering to these coins.

That brings the total number of circulating coins to 18! Proof sets will have 18 coins and the uncirculated Mint Sets will have 36 coins. Although the Mint has not announced pricing, it would be fair to guess that the prices will raise with more coins in the set. Clad and Mint sets should see a modest price increase. Silver proof sets will add an additional silver quarter and is likely to see a $10-15 rise in price.

Beyond circulating coinage, the Mint will produce the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar to honor the 200th anniversary of Braille’s birth. It is being touted by the Mint as being the first coin with readable Braille.

Precious metals programs will change in 2009. First, only the bullion issues of the American Eagle coins will be strucl. The Mint has discontinued the collector’s uncirculated coin program, eliminating the W mintmark from their portfolio. American Eagles will be available in proof and bullion coins in one-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and tenth-ounce denominations.

American Buffalo 24-Karat Gold Coins will also continue in 2009 but without fractional issues. The Mint will offer only one-ounce proof and investor bullion coins.

Last, but certainly not least, is probably the most intriguing coin that will be issued in 2009: the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. The coin’s design will be a high-relief $20 gold piece on a double-thick, 24-karat gold planchet (sometimes called a piefort) 27 millimeters in diameter. The design will feature Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ original 1907 design where the date will be in roman numerals (MMIX). The inspiration for this coin came from 1907 when the Mint tried to strike an experimental double eagle coins using two stacked $10 eagle planchets. When the Mint’s management realized that congress would have to approve the striking of the coin for circulation, the project was abandoned and the test pieces were melted. Aside from the date, the only difference between the 1907 test pieces and the 2009 bullion issue is that the the motto “In G-D We Trust” will be added over the rising sun as it appeared in 1908. It is expected that these coins will be struck in proof-only varieties.

It will be quite a year!

US Virgin Islands Selects Quarter Design

Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands announce the results of the people’s vote to choose the design of their quarter that will be released in 2009. The design chosen was Virgin Islands Beauty, Yellow Breast, Yellow Cedar Tyre Palm. The governor’s website describes the coin as:

A geographical rendition of the Virgin Islands, which includes the 3 major islands, and the official bird of the Virgin Islands (the Yellow Breast or Banana Quit (Coreba Flaveola) and the official flower of the Virgin Islands (Yellow Cedar or Yellow Elder (Tacoma Stans)) representing the natural wonder and beauty of our islands. These are placed on the background of a beach with the Tyre Palm (coccothrinax alta) native to the Virgin Islands, and the inscription “United in Pride and Hope” the Official Motto of the Territory found on the Virgin Islands Territorial Seal.

“I am proud to forward a recommendation to The United States Mint for the Virgin Islands Commemorative Quarter design. After a three week-long voting period, Virgin Islanders have collectively selected an overall favorite design, and I thank the community for its participation in this truly historic process,” deJongh said.

Three more territories to go!

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