July & August 2020 Numismatic Legislation Review

Seal of the United States CongressDuring a class for my master’s degree, a professor was fond of reminding us that politics is a contact sport. He meant that metaphorically, but the point was direct. Politicians will do what they can to get their job done, regardless of the inside consequences.

Unfortunately, the contact sport has spilled out of the halls of congress into the mainstream. Regardless of whether the proposal has merit and the politician is proposing with good intension, the game no longer is about the substance but the team everyone is on.

S. 4326: 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act
Sponsor: Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-WY)
Introduced: July 27, 2020
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Jul 27, 2020
Introduced in Senate — Jul 27, 2020
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S4326.

For example, S. 4326, 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act, would allow the U.S. Mint to strike silver dollars to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the last Morgan Dollar and the 100th Anniversary of the first Peace Dollar. The bill does not limit the number of coins, and does it have an end date.

The bill is not a commemorative coin act. It says that “all coins minted under this Act shall be considered to be numismatic items.” The bill does not add surcharges to the coins’ sale, and the government keeps the seignorage.

Given the popularity of the Morgan and Peace Dollars, it would be logical to consider that the amount of seignorage earned from their sale would provide a good windfall for the government. Give the collectors something to excited about and pocket some change by doing so. A bill like this should be a no-brainer. Right?

I contacted an old friend that has survived the last 20 years on Capitol Hill. Aside from wondering why he was not receiving battle pay, we talked about pending legislation. When I asked about the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act, he laughed at me.

“If it passes the Senate, the only way it will make past the door of the House would be if (someone) is sick.”

The “(someone)” is one of several members of Congress on one of the teams known to use constitutional procedures against the other team. They have objected to coin-related bills passed by the Senate because they revenue-generating measures. They cite Article I Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution (All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;) to block bills passed by the Senate.

Since a member of the red team introduced S. 4326, the blue team will block the bill from being introduced in the House. Unless the Speaker of the House can convince these members to withdraw their objections, this bill will not pass.

Not all is lost. A version of the bill (H.R. 6192) was introduced in March by Rep Andy Barr (R-KY). If the red and blue teams play nicely together and pass this version, the U.S. Mint may be selling 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollars next year.

H.R. 7995: To amend title 31, United States Code, to save Federal funds by authorizing changes to the composition of circulating coins, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Mark E. Amodei (R-NV)
Introduced: August 11, 2020
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Aug 11, 2020
Introduced in House — Aug 11, 2020
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR7995.

Rep. Mark E. Amodei (R-NV) introduced H.R. 7995 in August. At this time, the Government Printing Office has not published the text of the bill. Judging by the title as introduced, the bill will require the U.S. Mint to change circulating coinage composition.

Without the text of the bill, it is impossible to judge its merits. I will see if this bill is worth discussing when the bill’s text is posted.

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The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild Needs Your Help

Once again, the State Department is about to do something that negatively affects a part of numismatics. Even if you are not an ancient coin collector, the ability to collect and study ancient coins helps give all of us clarity into history.

If the State Department permits the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy to pass, it will signal an end to ancient collectors’ ability to participate in the hobby. First, it will be the restriction of ancient Roman coins, then others will follow. Soon, every coin will become cultural property and locked in a museum, never to be seen again.

I heard it explained that coins were never meant to be static items. The rulers of ancient lands intended for the coins to circulate with their image. It was supposed to tie people to the empire. It was so important to pay the soldiers and circulate the money that coiners accompanied many armies. They would strike coins using the looted material and move on to the next conquest.

Most of these coins are not rare or even scarce. They are common, often seeing hoards of hundreds and accumulation of thousands across Europe. Some of the scarce coins can be readily found on the market and in museums.

However, if we listened to the archeologist, every crumb they find from the ancient past belongs in a museum. The necessity to save every widow’s mite is like wanting to save the Cross of Coronado.

From Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild:

ACCG needs your help in defending collector rights under the law – Please comment now! It’s fast and easier than ever. No need for elaborate arguments or research, others have already taken care of that. What we need now is to demonstrate that import restrictions on ancient coins affect a lot of caring people and law-abiding people from all walks of life and all political persuasions.

The deadline to send a comment to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) has been extended to July 14, 2020. Comments can be left at:

If you want more detailed information and a sample letter to the CPAC, read:

In fact, read it anyway. It contains a lot of useful information.

We should stand up for the hobby, whether you collect ancient coins or not!

March 2020 Numismatic Legislation Review

Seal of the United States CongressAs part of an action-filled month, there was one numismatic-related bill introduced in congress. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act (H.R. 6192) to allow the U.S. Mint to strike tributes to the 1921 Morgan and Peace Dollars.

H.R. 6192 is a replacement for the 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 3757). That bill will die in committee because two commemorative coin bills are already the law. The Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 (Public Law No. 116-65) and the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (as part of Public Law No. 116-94) will appear in 2021.

The new bill is different in that it is not a commemorative coin bill. It was introduced is a bullion bill, which means that the government will keep all of the seigniorage. It would have been nice to have a commemorative bill that would raise money for the ANA.

The bill also does not have an end date. If passed, the U.S. Mint can strike bullion Morgan and Peace silver dollars starting in 2021 and into eternity. Although reports claim that the U.S. Mint “does not currently have any intention of creating an ongoing program and issuing coins after 2021,” does not mean they will not change their mind.

The only change I would recommend is to amend the bill to be like the 24-karat gold bullion bill. Allow the U.S. Mint to use the Morgan and Peace dollar designs the first year but allow the U.S. Mint to come up with new designs every year. Consider how much more successful the 2017 Centennial Coins would have been if they were struck in silver.

H.R. 6192: 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)
Introduced: March 11, 2020
Introduced in House — Mar 11, 2020
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Mar 11, 2020
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR6192.

Weekly World Numismatic News for March 29, 2020

In 2013, Heritage Auctions asked the public to suggest names and and designs for the mythical $1 trillion coin. This was one of the proposals.

Stop me if you heard this before. A naive member of Congress wants to the Secretary of the Treasury to use his authority under Title 31, Section 5112, paragraph “k” of the United States Code (31 U.S.C. § 5112(k)) to mint a special platinum bullion coin. That coin would have a face value of $1 trillion. After minting two coins, the U.S. Mint would sell them to the Federal Reserve, who would deposit $2 trillion in the general treasury.

This time, the scheme was cooked up by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a freshman member of Congress. Apparently, Tlaib read that the Federal Reserve has more than a $2 trillion surplus. Rather than allow the Fed to use it to sure up financial systems in a crisis, she wants to transfer the money out of the semi-autonomous agency and put it in the general treasury to fund her version of a stimulus.

It is not the first time in the last ten years this idea came up. Back in late 2012, conservative pundits pushed Congress to do the same thing. The drumbeat for this idea became so loud that cooler heads finally prevailed, and the jokes about how to design such a coin quickly faded into history.

Tlaib is trying to learn from history by proposing that not only should the coins be struck but transferred to the Federal Reserve. By removing the $2 trillion liability from the Treasury Department’s books, it places the debt on the Federal Reserve.

If we were to ignore the law (31 U.S.C. §5136) will require the U.S. Mint to deposit the money int into the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund, the costs of striking these coins including the design and administration is required to be deducted from the $2 trillion. It is a small percentage of the total, but it counts.

Then there is the question of operating capital. What will the Federal Reserve do if it needs the money to keep banks open during this crisis? By taking its operating capital, the Federal Reserve will have to raise money on a market that will become more restrictive when the United States central bank cannot perform. One analyst said it would be like tying the Fed’s arms and throwing them into the deep end of the pool. Everyone will panic, jump in to save them, and will drown.

To make the ensuing chaos even worse, to prevent the bank failures and to prop up the bank-related insurance programs, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Treasury will have to get very creative to fund the insurance program. Like they did in the late 1980s during the Savings and Loan fiasco, the Treasury had to sell bonds and bills to make the depositors whole. Back then, the economy was better, and there were willing buyers. Today, if the coronavirus crisis continues and worldwide investors become spooked because the Fed failed to help, the costs of that paper (interest rate) will skyrocket.

When the government borrows money on the open market at high interest rates, the payment for just the interest (servicing the debt) becomes part of the national debt.

Take two platinum coins and give them a face value of $1 trillion each. Make the Federal Reserve buy these coins. The result will be a ripple of actions disrupting everything, like when a stone is thrown in the middle of a calm lake.

There was a time when freshman members of Congress were pushed to the background and told to shut up and learn. It was to allow them to learn from more senior members and to prevent them from saying and doing stupid things. Maybe Congress should go back to that practice.

And now the news…

 March 23, 2020
Two styles of silver coins at the Perth Mint. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg  → Read more at bloomberg.com

 March 24, 2020
The fifth auction of coins from the legendary D. Brent Pogue Collection skyrocketed to a total of more than $15 million at Stack’s Bowers Galleries in Santa Ana last week.  → Read more at news.justcollecting.com

 March 25, 2020
Stock market crash safety sought by concerned investors is coming in the form of shiny precious metals that include gleaming gold and silver coins. Even though stock market drops usually coincide with a price hike in gold and silver, both equities and precious metals soared on March 24 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 11.37%, or 2,112.98 points, to reach 20,685.04 for its biggest percentage gain since March 1933 and its largest point rise ever.  → Read more at stockinvestor.com

 March 27, 2020
— A proposal to land the Apollo lunar module on the reverse side of a new $1 coin has been waved off by the committees reviewing the design.

The historic moon lander was among the three subjects considered for New York's dollar in the U.S.  → Read more at collectspace.com

 March 27, 2020
Sales of retail gold coins are revealing just how desperate investors are to find a safe haven. People have always been willing to shell out more for retail coins than gold sold in the spot market. But that premium has more than doubled — and at times quadrupled — over the past two weeks as investors seek a safe place to park their cash in the face of global market turmoil.  → Read more at bloomberg.com

 March 28, 2020
The frenzy to buy physical gold is driving demand for well-known coins like the Krugerrand, Maple Leaf, or American Eagle. A Swiss-issued coin is one of the few still to be had.  The market for physical gold has dried up after four Swiss refineries were forced to shut due to the coronavirus, as finews.com reported on Tuesday.   → Read more at finews.com
Coin Collectors News
news.coinsblog.ws

 

No 2021 Silver Dollars For You!

The 2021 commemorative coin calendar is full and it does not include a commemorative Morgan or Peace silver dollar.

Last October, Congress passed the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 (Public Law No. 116-65) to be issued in 2021. In December, they passed the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (as part of Public Law No. 116-94). With two commemorative coin programs in 2021, there is no room for the 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act.

The odds of Congress creating a third commemorative program for 2021 is less than 1-percent.

When H.R. 3757 was introduced, the American Numismatic Association sent out a press release and asked the members to write their member of Congress. The numismatic press also carried that mantle at the beginning. Some suggested that a commemorative Morgan Dollar could be struck at the former mint in Carson City.

But that was in July, 2019, prior to the World’s Fair of Money.

During the World’s Fair of Money, a new Board of Governors was installed to allegedly lead the ANA. Since then, there has been little said by the ANA about H.R. 3757. This is the opposite of the response lead by Farran Zerbe.

Zerbe’s proposal for what became the Peace Dollar led to the appointment of a committee that lobbied Congress for the coin’s creation. It was not an easy road for the proposal, but Zerbe persisted, and a bill was passed.

Zerbe, who was ANA President from 1908 t0 1910, showed extraordinary leadership in getting this bill passed.

Many others have stepped up to represent the community with the support of the ANA and the hobby. Amongst the community’s achievements are the Bicentennial coins and the 50 State Quarters program.

Where is that support today?

Where has the ANA been since August 2019?

Like the 1921 Peace Dollar, a 2021 commemorative coin would not only highlight history but make sure the public knows about the ANA’s place in that history. It would introduce new collectors to one of the 20th century’s best designs and the ANA at the same time.

Aside from the public relations boost, 40-percent of the program’s surcharge would be paid to the ANA. With a mintage limit of 500,000 coins with a surcharge of $10 per coin, a potential $2 million could have been added to the ANA’s treasury.

A one-time payment of $2 million would provide a cushion of 35-percent, based on the ANA’s published 2019 budget. It would furnish a down payment on new education initiatives and outreach to promote the ANA’s growth.

The ANA has been business-as-usual with little said from the current Board.

It is difficult to understand why the ANA Board of Governors would let this opportunity pass. Is this a sign of leadership we are to expect during its two-year term?

November 2019 Numismatic Legislation

Seal of the United States CongressRather than celebrate the centennial of Women’s Suffrage on a $20 note, congress passed the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2423, Public Law No. 116-71).

In 2020, the U.S. Mint will strike no more than 400,000 silver dollars with a design that is “emblematic of the women who played a vital role in rallying support for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Each coin will include a $10 surcharge that will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative.

H.R. 2423: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY)
Introduced: April 30, 2019
Summary: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act(Sec. 3) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 400,000 $1 silver coins that are emblematic of the women who played a vital role in rallying support for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.(Sec. 5) Such coins may be issued during the period beginning on January 1, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020.(Sec. 7) All surcharges received from the sales of such coins shall be paid to the American Women’s History Initiative of the Smithsonian Institution.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Apr 30, 2019
Mr. Scott, David moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Oct 28, 2019
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Oct 28, 2019
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 2423. — Oct 28, 2019
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. — Oct 28, 2019
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 28, 2019
Received in the Senate. — Oct 29, 2019
Received in the Senate, read twice. — Oct 29, 2019
Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent. — Oct 31, 2019
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Nov 4, 2019
Pursuant to the provisions of H. Con. Res. 72, enrollment corrections on H.R. 2423 have been made. — Nov 14, 2019
Presented to President. — Nov 18, 2019
Signed by President. — Nov 25, 2019
Became Public Law No: 116-71. — Nov 25, 2019
This law can be viewed at http://bit.ly/116-HR2423.

Currently sitting in limbo is the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1865). After the bill passed the House, it was sent to the Senate who made a technical change. By law, the bill is sent to a conference committee that irons out the differences. Once completed, the bill is sent back to both chambers for an up-or-down vote.

The Senate passed the bill by Unanimous Consent. In the House of Representatives, it was a different matter. The passage of this bill was bundled with other legislation that was rejected by the House, mainly on procedural grounds. Because the resolution to pass the bill failed, it was tabled to be considered again at another time. At that time, the House Rules Committee can unbundle the bills and try again.

Now you know why Otto Von Bismark compared the making of laws to that of sausages!

H.R. 1865: National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Rep. William J. Pascrell (D-NJ)
Introduced: March 25, 2019
Summary: (Sec. 3) This bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 $1 silver coins, and 750,000 half-dollar clad coins that are emblematic of the National Law Enforcement Museum in the District of Columbia and the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers throughout the history of the United States.(Sec. 5) Treasury may issue such coins only during a one-year period beginning on January 1, 2021.(Sec. 7) All sales of such coins shall include specified surcharges, which shall be distributed to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Inc., for educational and outreach programs and exhibits.
Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. — Mar 25, 2019
Mr. Scott, David moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. — Oct 28, 2019
Considered under suspension of the rules. — Oct 28, 2019
DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 1865. — Oct 28, 2019
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote. — Oct 28, 2019
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection. — Oct 28, 2019
Received in the Senate. — Oct 29, 2019
Received in the Senate, read twice. — Oct 29, 2019
Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. — Nov 12, 2019
Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent. — Nov 12, 2019
Message on Senate action sent to the House. — Nov 13, 2019
ORDER OF BUSINESS – Mr. McGovern asked unanimous consent that it be in order at any time to take from the Speaker’s table the bill H.R. 1865, with the Senate amendment thereto, and to consider in the House, without intervention of any point of order, a motion offered by the chair of the Committee on Appropriations or her designee that the House concur in the Senate amendment submitted for printing by Representative Lowey of New York in the portion of the Congressional Record designated for that purpose in clause 8 of rule XVIII; that the Senate amendment and the motion be considered as read; that the motion be debatable for one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations; that the previous question be considered as ordered on the motion to adoption without intervening motion or demand for division of the question; and that House Resolution 708 be laid on the table. Objection was heard. — Nov 19, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-HR1865.

Finally, there was one bill added to the virtual hopper by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

S. 2815: National Purple Heart Honor Mission Commemorative Coin Act
Sponsor: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Introduced: November 7, 2019
Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. — Nov 7, 2019
This bill can be tracked at http://bit.ly/116-S2815.

Happy Anniversary to Modern Coinage

The dual-dated Bicentennial reverse designs are still very popular amontst collectors

On July 23, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Coinage Act of 1965. Congress passed the bill in response to the coin shortages caused by the rising silver prices. When it was signed, the act eliminated silver from circulating dimes, and quarters while reducing the amount of silver used to strike half-dollars from 90-percent to 40-percent for five years. After five years, the half-dollar would be struck using the same copper-nickel clad composition as the lower denominations.

The act forbade the striking of silver dollars for five years ending an experiment with the striking of Peace Dollars in 1964. There are rumors that at least one 1964-D Peace exists despite the U.S. Mint’s insistence that all of the coins were melted.

Finally, the act made all coins and currency produced in the United States and specific bank issues as legal tender, which reversed the demonetization of the Trade Dollar in 1867.

The Coinage Act of 1965 marks the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” coinage.

After fifty-four years of modern coinage, there continues to be collectors and dealers who turn up their noses at modern coins.

Although the stories behind many of the classic issues are interesting, modern coins provide a diversity that is meaningful and affordable for the average collector.

The first coin of the modern era that had a public impact was the dual-dated coins with the reverses honoring the nation’s bicentennial. The bicentennial was a two-year celebration preceded by three years of hype and prep. When the coins were released, many people searched their change, looking for the coins. It was the first time in many years that half-dollar and large dollar coins circulated in significant numbers since finding them in change was exciting.

The Susan B. Anthony dollar was less than successful because it was confused with a quarter

The modern era also saw a big flop when the Susan B. Anthony small dollar coin entered circulation. Even though the U.S. Mint tried to simulate the 12-sides on the coin’s design, the size and the reeded edge was confused with the quarter. People stopped using the Susie B. thus ending whatever momentum dollar coins had.

The most successful program of the modern era was the 50 State Quarters program. The program started strong with a lot of interest. Unfortunately, a downturn in the economy and the television hucksters overselling the potential value of the series turned away a lot of potential collectors.

As the success of the 50 State Quarters program grew, Congress passed laws to create several other circulating commemoratives. The programs include the Westward Journey Nickels, Abraham Lincon Bicentennial cents, and the Native American $1 coin program using the golden-colored planchets of the Sacagawea dollar.

The modern era saw the return of the commemorative coin programs. Some were very popular, like the 2001 American Buffalo Commemorative Coin and 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin programs. There were less popular coins, but none had flopped as bad as the 2013 Girl Scouts of the USA Centennial Silver Dollar.

Unlike previous commemorative coin laws, modern laws help the U.S. Mint limit the time these coins can remain on sale. It also limits their production to one year.

Finally, the modern era has given us the bullion coin series. It started with the American Silver Eagle program that was created to provide a way for the United States government to sell off silver saved in the Defense National Stockpile. As a result, the U.S. Mint has used the program to experiment with different finishes, including burnished and reverse proof.

Congress passed the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 a few months later after being lobbied by the gold mining interests. This law created the American Eagle Gold Bullion Program.

2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse

Even more significant was Title II of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005. Title II established the American Buffalo 24-Karat Bullion Gold Coins program. The law required the coins struck from .9999 put gold using the design of the 1913 Type 1 Buffalo Nickel as designed by James Earle Fraser. After the first year of issue, the U.S. Mint could change the design after vetting the design with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. This law allowed the U.S. Mint to produce coins like the 2009 High Relief gold coin and the 100th-anniversary tributes to the Mercury dime in 2016.

After 54 years there are a lot of exciting choices for the modern collector. And this does not consider the collection of errors or varieties, like the three types of 1972 Eisenhower dollars or the wide versus narrow lettering on the reverse of the 1999 Lincoln cent.

It is past the time for the numismatic community to embrace the collection of modern coins more than it has. There may be few modern coins that are worth thousands of dollars, but they are available to capture the interest of potential collectors. After all, how many of us started collecting by searching pocket change.

The Story of Tubman on the $20: a mass of lies, evasions, folly, and hatred

Mockup of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman

When there is a discussion on the design of United States currency, there is no way to avoid politics. Politics drives the designs, composition, and the economic condition that goes behind every coin in your pocket. Politics governs the currency printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, including the overall management of it through the Department of the Treasury.

Aside from my interest in the nuance of politics, beyond reports on cable news, it is why there is a monthly report on legislation that would effect numismatics. Whether it is a proposal for a commemorative coin or the creation of a commission to celebrate something in history, every bill introduced in Congress has the potential to change numismatics.

Paper currency is less regulated than coins. Coining money is mentioned in Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The federal regulation of currency began with the National Bank Act of 1863. Whereas the Constitution says, “Congress shall have Power…to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin,” there is no provision for paper currency.

The Constitution does not say that Congress should design the coins, but they do, sometimes to the detriment of the final result. But the design of the currency is left to the Department of the Treasury.

There is no set process that the Treasury goes through to decide on the design of the nation’s currency. The process changes for each new Secretary that heads the department. In the previous administration, Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew, went through his version of the process to decide that the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the $20 Federal Reserve Note will be replaced with Harriett Tubman by 2020.

According to sources, although the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would have preferred a little more time to create the master engraving plates to make this change, the timing of the announcement would not present a significant problem.

Lew resigned as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury on January 20, 2017, with the inauguration of a new administration. Steven T. Mnuchin was sworn in as the 77th Secretary of the Treasury on February 13, 2017.

Steven T. Mnuchin, the 77th Secretary of the Treasury

Sources report that Mnuchin did not interfere with the BEP’s efforts to redesign the $20 FRN immediately. As the work continued, the BEP also continued to work on additional anti-counterfeiting measures for U.S. currency. Specifically, the BEP was looking into changes that would first impact the $10 note followed by the $5 bill.

The paper $5 note was a more significant focus for the BEP. In working with the U.S. Secret Service, they were finding that many counterfeiters were using bleaching products to remove the ink from the paper to use it to print higher denominations, predominantly $20 bills. One internal report suggested that the criminal would see a net gain of $14 for each $20 note they could produce.

Although it costs more to counterfeit $20 bills this way, it is a lower risk for the criminal. As we have seen, few people pay attention to the problem and those that do find that the currency passes the iodine pen test. After all, it is currency paper.

Bleached Counterfeit Currency

An example of a $100 Federal Reserve Note printed on a bleached $5 note (Image courtesy of Prescott Police Department via AOL.com)

Interference from Mnuchin came after his first three months in office. It started with a question from a reporter who asked the president about the change. The president’s statement was followed by a cabinet meeting where the president said something to Mnuchin about the change. Then, a source reports that the president said something to Mnuchin who agreed to do something without raising concerns.

Mnuchin did not directly interfere with the process. Instead, he used the budgetary process to direct funds away from the development of the proposed change in portrait.

Mnuchin was able to hide the change from the public because of the nature of Treasury’s budgetary process. Since the BEP is self-funded by the profits (seigniorage) that is deposited in its Public Enterprise Fund, all Treasury had to do was obtain Congress’s permission to use a set amount from the fund without providing details.

Treasury and BEP were able to hide the changes in the CFO’s Annual Report by using internal reorganization to obfuscate where the spending was going.

In short, Mnuchin ordered the BEP, which is lead by a career professional and not a politician, to move the resources away from the redesign and prioritizing other aspects of currency redesign. Mnuchin purposely slowed the redesign process in a way that gives Treasury and the BEP deniability.

A statement published on the BEP website, BEP Director Len Olijar wrote in response to the news reports, “BEP was never going to unveil a note design in 2020.” That was not the policy of the Treasury Department and the BEP when Secretary Lew announced the change. Mnuchin changed it at the request of the president.

The story of the “delay” of the redesign with Tubman’s portrait appeared in The New York Times. In the story, the Times used an image from the original announcement that depicted Tubman superimposed on the $20 bill. Sources suggested that Olijar, under orders from Mnuchin, was to try to discredit the story in any way possible. Rather than continue with the fact, albeit flawed compared to previous reports, the statement went on to pick on an inconsequential aspect of the story, the image published by the Times.

“The illustration published by the New York Times was a copy of an old Series note with the signatures of former officials, with a different image superimposed on it.”

As my source said, “let’s attack the messenger and not the message.”

Unfortunately, Olijar, a career government employee, is caught in the middle having to work with the politicians. He loses credibility by contradicting the previous reporting, which is unfortunate because sources have suggested that some other than Mnuchin “ordered” Olijar to issue the statement.

There is an old expression that one should never discuss politics, religion, and sex/money/pick something in polite company. It is impossible to be polite when talking about coins and currency before their manufacture. It spreads through the entire process. Or as George Orwell aptly said:

In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

They will come for you next!

I said that if we do not act that we would become victims!

A man came into my shop the other day. Like all new visitors, my assistant greeted him with her usual charm while he looked at the eclectic inventory in the showroom.

The man was different than others. On a slow morning, he lingered around the set of auction catalogs I have for sale while saying little to my assistant who felt uncomfortable with this man in the shop. Another customer came into the shop and my assistant took care of them while I watched this gentleman.

After a while, he came to me and, in a heavy accent I could not identify, asked if I was the store’s owner. He pulled out a few folded pieces of paper and showed me a sheet with the article “Coin jewelry is not legal everywhere” I wrote on this blog in April 2016.

He pointed to one of the pictures and asked if I knew anything about the coin. I asked why and he said he was interested in purchasing one. For some reason, I had a feeling that he might have had other interests in mind.

Examples of the coin jewelry from the orignal post

I explained to that I do not carry a lot of jewelry since it is not a specialty of my business. When I do have jewelry in stock it does not sell well. He opened the paper and asked if I knew anything about the jewelry on the page.

I explained that the article he is holding is from a blog post I made explaining how some countries have restrictions regarding the usage of their coins for jewelry. When he pressed for more information I said that it was noted in the posting that the images came from Etsy and I do not know any of the sellers. Their goods were used as an example for the posting.

It felt like I was being interrogated. I asked if he was a member of law enforcement or any other government investigative agency, he mumbled something I did not like. I asked him to leave. My assistant had called the police.

The police arrived and escorted the man out of the shop and questioned him before letting him drive away in his own vehicle. I noted the license plate. The officer came inside and said that this will be handled elsewhere and that I was not to report it any further.

About a week later, I was visited by someone representing a federal agency and a member of federal law enforcement who wanted to question me about the incident. After they produced proper identification, we went into my office to discuss the matter.

I was told that the man who came into my shop was an agent for an unnamed foreign government. This government has been visiting collectible stores and shows to intimidate people into “returning cultural items” from that country. The country that this person represents considers this legal even though it violates my Fifth Amendment right of due process.

Apparently, the person that visited my shop is responsible for the “confiscation” of items from more than a dozen antiques and collectibles shops in the mid-Atlantic region.

It is not the first time we have heard the foreign governments have tried to go around the United States’ right of due process by trying to confiscate coins under the guise that they are “national treasures.” In 2013, I wrote “Why you should care about restrictions on collecting ancient coins” sounding an alarm for people to act.

People did not act or act strongly enough. It has allowed a foreign government to pervert the 1970 UNESCO Convention’s intent to steal legally obtained inventory from United States businesses they claim are national treasures.

In the next few weeks, I will be writing a short position paper to present to the American Numismatic Association in order to get them to work to protect collectors. It is time that the ANA and other numismatic organizations work together to protect the hobby and stop kowtowing to every country who wants to retroactively make a claim against United States business because a foreign government said so.

August 2018 Numismatic Legislation Review

John Sidney McCain III (1936-2018)

Although this is a numismatic blog, it is difficult to write about any aspect of Congress without recognizing the service of Senator John Sidney McCain, III. McCain died on August 25, 2018, from complications with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was buried on Sunday, September 2, 2018, next to his friend and mentor in the cemetery at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

McCain’s story of his stay at the infamous Hanoi Hilton has been long discussed and written about in the books he authored. He served as legislative liaison for the Pentagon to Congress before being elected to the House of Representatives from Arizona’s First District in 1982. After two terms in Congress, he ran for the seat that was being vacated by the retiring Barry Goldwater. McCain would go on to win five elections to the Senate before his passing.

John McCain was a true American Hero. What made him a bigger hero was that he was imperfect and stood up when he was wrong and took ownership of his mistakes. Something the colleagues he leaves behind in Congress should learn from.

To add a numismatic theme, military orders and medals are part of exonumia. To honor the late John McCain, here is a list of medals he earned during his service in the U.S. Navy:

  • Silver Star Medal
  • Legion of Merit with Combat “V” device and Star
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Three Bronze Star Medals; all three with Combat “V” device and the second two with stars
  • Two Purple Heart Medals; the second with a star
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Two Navy Air Medals; the first with a bronze star and the second with a Strike/Flight numeral “2” device
  • Two Navy Commendation Medals; both with Combat “V” device
  • Navy Combat Action Ribbon
  • Navy Unit Commendation
  • Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Two National Defense Service Medals; the second with a star
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
  • Three Vietnam Service Medals; the second and third with stars
  • Republic of Vietnam National Order of Vietnam—Awarded by the South Vietnamese government, it was the highest honor that can be bestowed on a non-military official by South Vietnam
  • Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross—Awarded by the South Vietnamese government for valor in combat
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device—Awarded by the South Vietnamese government for wartime service

A Combat “V” device is an award for Valor. These are given to those who earned the award for their service during battle. Stars are awarded when a medal is awarded more than once. The Strike/Flight numeral “2” device is awarded to service members whose award was earned during aerial combat.

As for the legislative update, August in Washington, D.C. is very hot and humid. Those of us who live in the area dread this month. Aside from the weather, it is the slowest month for everything. On the plus side, it is the month where we see less severe traffic as residents flee the area for their last summer fling. All that ends at the end of the month when it becomes time to get ready for the school year.

Congress usually takes off in August. If they are not campaigning for reelection, they are spending time at home. This year was different. There were a few floor sessions but the committees seemed to have a few hearings. While it is normal for committees to meet when there are no floor sessions, it is unusual for it to happen in August.

Other than having all members of Congress in town for John McCain’s funeral, there was no numismatic legislation to report for this month. With mid-term elections predicted to be contentious, it will be interesting to see if Congress will tackle anything that is not necessary between now and Election Day.

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