On September 22, 2012, the Senate passed a bill which would authorize the minting and issuance of gold and silver commemorative coins in commemoration of Mark Twain. The bill was originally introduced on July 7, 2011 and passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year on April 18, 2012.
The findings of the bill describe author Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the name of Mark Twain, as one of the best known Americans in the world whose literary work had a long lasting effect on the history and culture of the United States. More than 6,500 editions of his books have been translated in 75 languages.
If the bill becomes law, it would require the issuance of up to 100,000 $5 gold coins and up to 350,000 silver dollars with designs emblematic of the life and legacy of Mark Twain. The gold coins would be struck in 90% purity and have a diameter of 0.85 inches and weight of 8.359 grams. The silver dollars would be struck in 90% silver and 10% copper, with a diameter of 1.5 inches and weight of 26.73 grams.
Both proof and uncirculated qualities of each coin would be produced. The coins may only be issued during the one year period beginning January 1, 2016. The bill provides for a surcharge of $35 per gold coin and $10 per silver coin to be added to the sales price. These surcharges would be distributed to the following:
- Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut
- University of California in Berkeley, California
- Elmira College in New York
- Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri
The Senate passed the bill with two amendments. The first specifies that the surcharges distributed to the University of California are to be for the benefit of the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library. The second requires the Secretary of the Treasury to take such actions necessary to ensure that the commemorative coin program does not result in any net cost to the government.
In order for the bill to become law, the House of Representatives must approve the amendments of the Senate and then the bill must be signed by the President.
This is the third attempt to authorize a commemorative coin program honoring Mark Twain. Previous bills had been introduced in the 110th and 111th Congress, which would have required the issuance of commemorative coins in 2010 and 2013, but neither gained the necessary support to become law.
Mark Twain has been depicted previously on a one ounce gold medallion produced by the United States Mint in 1981 (pictured above). This release was part of the American Arts Gold Medallion series, which were not legal tender but contained a stated amount of gold.