The U.S. Mint announced that they will hold a one-day forum to “share perspectives on the past, present, and future of the numismatic hobby.” It is part of their preparation for the U.S. Mint’s 225th anniversary in 2017. The agenda will be the future of the Mint and the numismatic environment as a whole.
“It seems only appropriate that, while we as a bureau are celebrating our history, the Mint is also looking for ways to improve the way we engage our customers and invigorate our relevance into the future,” said United States Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson.
It will be interesting to hear the discussion and to observe the outcome of this forum because of the limited things the U.S. Mint can do without an act of congress. Although the U.S. Mint can create medals without an act of congress many of the medals they produce are required by law such as the duplicates of the awards to congressional gold medal recipients. As for legal tender coins, most of what the U.S. Mint does is governed by legislation. Although there is some leeway in areas like special finishes for proof and other non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins, what the U.S. Mint is allowed to produce is governed by law (see 31 U.S. Code §5112).
One area that they U.S. Mint has had a lot of freedom is the with the 24-karat gold special issue coins. As part of the bill that created the Presidential $1 Coins, there was a section (31 U.S. Code §5112(q))) that allowed the U.S. Mint to string $50 gold bullion coins of .9999 purity (24-karat). The law says that only the first issue must resemble the 1913 Type 1 Buffalo Nickel. Subsequent designs are at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury with designs reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
Subsequently, the U.S. Mint used this law to issue the 2009 Saint-Gaudens Ultra High Relief Gold Coin, 2014 Kennedy Half Dollar 50th Anniversary Gold Coin, 2015 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin, and the 2016 Centennial Gold Coins. Even though the coins are popular and their low mintage does help generate interest, these coins are not affordable to the ordinary collector.
One way to make these available to the average collector is to strike a version as a medal, similar to the First Spouse medals that resemble their gold counterparts without a denomination. First Spouse medals are struck on the same planchet as the modern dollar coins.
The U.S. Mint does not have the freedom other world mints have. It is highly regulated by a congress with a parochial view on its constitutional obligation to coin money (Article I, Section 8). Remember, the U.S. Constitution says that “The Congress shall have Power… To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin,” not micro-manage the process.
From a collector’s perspective, I am not sure what the U.S. Mint can do. They can take notes and recommendations from this forum and ask congress to make changes. However, given the behavior of the members of congress does anyone really think that they will craft any reasonable legislation?
Shortly after the press release landed in my Inbox I responded to the U.S. Mint expressing my interest in attending.
Those interested in attending should submit requests to USMintNumismaticForum@usmint.treas.gov by no later than Sept. 15, 2016. Individual requests to attend should include the person’s affiliation (e.g., hobbyist, coin dealer, coin grader, etc.). Seating is limited and submitting a request does not guarantee admission. Attendance will be at the cost of the participant. Detailed information will be provided to confirmed attendees. For those unable to attend or who do not receive an invitation, any formal presentations made by the Mint during the forum will be made available online as soon as practicable after the event.