Michael Alexander of the London Banknote and Monetary Research Centre had an opportunity to speak with Ventris Gibson, Director of the United States Mint, during the World Money Fair in Berlin. They discussed the challenges faced by many world mints as a continuing trend sees the demand for cash and coin diminishing and about new collector coin programmes.
Fact: The spending habits of the wider public continue to change swiftly, and much of the public can readily admit to rarely carrying banknotes and coins for everyday purchases. The rise of and increasing options of electronic payments has resulted in this convenience for many on the go to desire a safe alternative to carrying cash. However, it has also meant a decrease both in the use of physical money and, as a consequence, in retail outlets accepting cash payments. The task at hand for world mints is two-fold, continuing the production of circulation coinage and developing meaningful collector coin projects. For the increasing number of mints producing popular bullion coinage, this means an additional assignment, and it may be that in the near future, only collector and bullion coins are minted.
With a career spanning more than forty years in both human resources executive and professional positions, Ventris C. Gibson, a former U.S. Navy veteran, first joined the United States Mint straight after serving as director of the District of Columbia Department of Human Resources from 2015 until October 2021. From that time until June 2022, Director Gibson served as Deputy Director. The position of U.S. Mint director is appointed directly and serves at the president’s pleasure, by recommendation or the advice and consent of the Senate. President Biden finally nominated Ms. Gibson to become the Fortieth Director of the United States Mint in December 2021. Her nomination was approved in June 2022 by the United States Senate for a term of five years. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Director Gibson, first during her presentation at the World Money Fair’s Media Forum and later when she was present at the U.S. Mint’s stand. She took the chance to speak with collectors in Berlin, who seemed very pleased to be shaking hands with the personable and friendly Director of the U.S Mint. Director Gibson kindly took a moment to answer a few of my questions, inform me about upcoming programmes, and offered a few words to inspire and encourage new coin collectors. Enjoy!
Michael Alexander: I am so pleased we have this time now at the World Money Fair. Before your appointment as U.S. Mint Director, you’ve had a remarkable career of public service, including an impressive tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I’d like to ask if this new position was something you had ever aspired to?
Director Gibson: I was greatly honoured to be nominated by President Biden to serve as Director of the United States Mint. I don’t have a background in numismatics, but I’ve been fortunate during my career to have worked for inspiring leaders under whom I developed my core values of fairness, integrity, and trust. The Mint’s motto is “Connecting America through Coins,” and those words are a true responsibility to me.
MA: As director of the U.S. Mint, were there any aspects of the job which took you by surprise, something you weren’t aware of or an “age-old” duty that is uniquely the responsibility of the director?
DG: No age-old adage comes to mind, but I greatly enjoy attending coin shows and interacting with Mint customers and coin enthusiasts. Seeing the interest and passion people have for coins produced by the Mint is inspiring to me. It’s very humbling to have people at coin shows ask for my autograph. It serves to remind me of the important work we do.
MA: During your presentation at the World Money Fair’s Media forum briefing, you spoke of the Women’s Quarters programme with great pride. Can you tell my readers how the series came to be, what it highlights, how it has been received by collectors, and remind them of the duration of the project?
DG: First, the Mint requires Congressional legislation to be passed and signed into law before we can change circulating coins. The Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020 was officially signed into law in January of 2021. This legislation includes the *American Women Quarters program — which started in 2022 and runs through 2025. Quite simply, the American Women Quarters program is important because it matters to have women on United States coinage. Our currency should reflect our Nation and the stories of the American people. Women have made great contributions to our country and it is vital that we recognize those contributions on our coinage. The program has been tremendously popular and well-received by collectors. As part of the program, the Mint has made educational materials available for free to school children and young collectors.
The law included legislation for an ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals to be honoured, reflecting a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts. The American Women Quarters program celebrates each honouree’s triumphs, resilience, and legacy. I think these quarters also speak to girls and young women — inspiring them to see women on coins and learn about their amazing achievements.
MA: Now that you’ve met real coin collectors close-up, so to speak, not only in the U.S. but now internationally, is there something, in particular, you would like to introduce as part of the U.S. Mint’s selection of products to perhaps spark the next generation of collectors in a similar way the original States quarters did?
DG: The Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act not only authorised the American Women Quarters Program, but it also authorised two additional, distinct circulating coin programs for 2026 through 2030. In 2026, the United States will celebrate its Semiquincentennial or 250th anniversary. During 2026, the United States Mint is authorised to redesign any of its legislated coins in commemoration of the Semiquincentennial. As such, the Mint is authorised to mint and issue up to five different quarters with designs emblematic of the Semiquincentennial. The legislated third program will run during 2027-2030, and authorises the Mint to issue quarters each year emblematic of sports played by American youth. During this period, the Mint is also authorised to mint and issue a redesigned half-dollar coin each year with designs emblematic of a sport tailored to athletes with a range of disabilities, including physical impairment, vision impairment, and intellectual impairment.
MA: You touched on joint-projects with various mints during your presentation. I think these kinds of projects are quite popular with modern coin collectors, myself included. Can you elaborate a little more for my readers about these forthcoming projects?
DG: By the time you publish our interview, the numismatic community will be aware of our joint project with the Royal Mint, featuring the 2024 Liberty and Britannia 24k gold coin and silver medal. This is currently in the design development phase. The 2024 Liberty and Britannia 24-karat Gold Coin and Silver Medal Program marks the first original design collaboration between two of the largest mints in the world. The program will feature a design jointly created by the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, Joseph Menna, and the Chief Engraver of the British Royal Mint, Gordon Summers. The joint design features allegorical Liberty and Britannia, both iconic emblems of their respective nations.
MA: A very popular programme, which saw disruption in 2022, was the Morgan/Peace dollar issue, which only began the year previously. I understand they are scheduled for 2023, and collectors seem to love this product. The halt was due to the inability of the U.S. Mint to procure the needed silver blanks from sources outside the U.S. or the Mint. Is there a reason the U.S. Mint does not produce planchets for their own use?
DG: Quite simply, the United States Mint does not have the ability to produce our own silver blanks. We have neither the necessary equipment nor resources to do so. We do produce blanks for our own circulating coins such as the dime and quarter, but we don’t make the raw material strip. That work is performed by vendors because we do not have the capability to smelt, roll, etc.
MA: Regarding the Morgan/Peace dollars, one of the greatest complaints I hear from collectors is the mintages are too small and they cannot order them online in time. Would it not be possible to just open the ordering period with a deadline, and the total number of paid orders becomes the final mintage?
DG: Feedback from our customers indicates they would like to order more than the current limit of three units per product per household, and I am pleased to share the news that we will soon increase the Morgan/Peace household order limit. **The Uncirculated Morgan and Peace dollar coins will go on sale in July, the Proof coins go on sale in September, and the Two-Coin Set goes on sale in November. There is also ample inventory available and plenty of time to subscribe, which is the best way to ensure receiving the coins you want. So far, we have yet to receive any reports from customers who are unable to subscribe.
MA: During this World Money Fair, there has appropriately been quite a lot of discussion about the decline of both coins and banknotes from everyday use in favour of electronic payments. Is there something perhaps you think mints and central banks can do. . . some kind of incentive to increase the use of banknotes and coins before they disappear from use entirely?
DG: We are acutely aware of the continuing trend toward digital payment, but one of the lessons learned during the pandemic is that there continues to be a strong demand for coins. We can’t predict the future, so we must do our best to be prepared to meet the needs of an ever-evolving environment. To this end, the United States Mint collaborates with offices in the Federal Reserve to closely monitor payment data to ensure the demand for circulating coins is met. The Mint and Federal Reserve both participate in industry workgroups and task forces working to ensure sufficient volumes of coins are available where and where it is needed.
MA: At the same time, both the public at large and collectors agree it may be time to discontinue the production and use of one and five-cent coins, both coins cost twice their face value to mint, and neither coin has any purchasing power as a stand-alone denomination. How do you view this?
DG: This is a question I get often, especially regarding the Lincoln cent, or penny, as we affectionately know it. At this time, there are no plans to discontinue the penny or the nickel. We are acutely aware of negative seigniorage for both coins, and we make every effort to control all costs to limit that negative seigniorage — or difference between production cost and face value — but there are no plans to discontinue either coin. I think many people would be surprised at the number of Americans who still actively utilise the nickel and the penny. There is a segment of Americans who are un-banked or under-banked and make regular use of these two coins.
MA: It may become a strategic balancing act for all mints to have the best of both worlds — a constant level or yearly increase in the production of circulation coinage, collector coins, and bullion in the face of electronic payments while, at the same time, turning a profit. Is this a challenge the U.S. Mint is poised to take on?
DG: Achieving that type of balance is a challenge. Because the demand for circulating coins can vary, we aim for a “level set” production throughout the year which allows for our production to be more efficient. We have seen very high demand for our precious metal bullion coins during the last three years and take great pride in how investors recognise United States Mint bullion coins are reliable in both their weight and purity. We continue to work to increase our numismatic program by offering high-quality products that excite our long-time customers and generate interest from people who have not previously bought any of our numismatic products.
MA: Lastly, I always ask those who I interview in positions such as directors of prominent mints if they’re coin collectors themselves, so I won’t break my streak and ask you the same question. If so, what’s caught your eye recently?
DG: I don’t necessarily consider myself a coin collector, but my favourite coin is the Lincoln cent. I find it very meaningful!
MA: Ventris Gibson, Fortieth Director of the United States Mint, thank you so much for your time during what I know was a very busy schedule for you and your very kind team here at the Fiftieth World Money Fair in Berlin.
DG: You’re very welcome. My pleasure!
*Personalities included in 2023 for the American Women Quarters Program:
- Bessie Coleman — the first African American and first Native American woman pilot
- Edith Kanaka’ole — indigenous Hawaiian chanter, Kuma Hula & custodian of native culture, traditions & natural land
- Eleanor Roosevelt — first lady, author, civil liberties advocate, and Chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission
- Jovita Idar — Mexican-American journalist, activist, teacher, and suffragist
- Maria Tallchief — America’s first prima ballerina who broke barriers as a Native American ballet dancer
*Personalities announced in 2024 for the American Women Quarters Program:
- Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002) — The first woman of colour to serve in Congress, she fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, and bilingual education.
- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (1832–1919) — Civil War era surgeon, women’s rights advocate, and an abolitionist who often crossed battle lines to care for wounded soldiers. Walker is the only woman to be awarded the Medal of Honour.
- Pauli Murray (1910–1985) — A poet, writer, activist, lawyer, and Episcopal priest. She co-founded the National Organization for Women with Betty Friedan and other activists in 1966.
- Zitkala-Ša (1876-1938) — Also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. Writer, composer, educator, and political activist, she advocated for Native Americans’ right to United States citizenship.
- Celia Cruz (1925-2003) — A Cuban-American singer and cultural icon. She became one of the most popular Latin artists of the twentieth century and was known as “The Queen of Salsa.”
** Mintages for the Morgan / Peace dollar programme
- Morgan Uncirculated — Philadelphia Mint — 275,000
- Peace, Uncirculated — Philadelphia Mint — 275,000
- Morgan, Proof — San Francisco Mint — 400,000
- Peace, Proof — San Francisco Mint — 400,000
- Morgan and Peace Two-Coin Reverse Proof Set — 250,000