On September 21, 2012, bills were introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives which if passed would have a significant impact on United States commemorative coin programs. Each bill seeks to prohibit surcharges raised from the sale of numismatic items to be distributed to organizations outside of the federal government.
All modern commemorative coin programs have been authorized by Acts of Congress. The authorizing legislation for each program has typically included surcharge amounts to be added to the cost of each coin and later distributed to one or more beneficiary organizations. Since 1982, more than $418 million in surcharges have been raised through commemorative coin programs. Most recently, the two commemorative coin programs for 2011 raised an estimated $5.5 million in surcharges to be distributed to the Army Historical Foundation and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The surcharges raised from the 2012 programs are authorized to be distributed to the National Infantry Foundation and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.
Existing law does carry some requirements to be fulfilled before surcharges raised from a commemorative coin program may be distributed. United States Code Title 31, Section 5134(f) indicates that surcharges may only be distributed provided that all numismatic program costs have been recovered. Additionally, the recipient organization must demonstrate that they have raised funds from private sources in an amount equal to or greater than the funds generated from commemorative coin surcharges. If the matching funds are not raised within two years of the conclusion of commemorative coin sales, then the surcharges are deposited in the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts.
The bills S. 3612 and H.R. 6495 Commemorative Coins Reform Act of 2012 would specifically prohibit the payment of surcharges to private organizations or entities. It is instead specified that surcharges collected in connection with the sale of any numismatic item should be used to recover all numismatic operation and program costs. Any excess amounts would be transferred to the general fund of the Treasury for the purpose of deficit reduction.
S. 3612 was introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint and currently has seven cosponsors. H.R. 6495 was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash and currently has one cosponsor. Both bills have been referred to committee. In order to become law, one of the bills must be passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and then signed into law by the President.
The bills specify that the prohibition of payments would apply to any commemorative coin program established or numismatic item produced pursuant to an Act enacted on or after the date of enactment of the Commemorative Coins Reform Act. As such, this year’s commemorative coin programs as well as future programs that have already been authorized would not be impacted by the prohibition.
Laws have already been passed to authorize the following future commemorative coin programs with the indicated beneficiary organizations:
- 2013 United States Army 5 Star Generals Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the Command and General Staff College Foundation.
- 2013 Girl Scouts of the USA Commemorative Coins -surcharges distributable to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
- 2014 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Sesquicentennial Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the United Negro College Fund.
- 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins – surcharges distributable to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
- 2015 US Marshals Service Commemorative Coins – first $5 million of surcharges distributable to the US Marshals Museum with additional amounts distributed in thirds to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.