Within a few days, I and thousands of others will be in Rosemont, Illinois, attending the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money. Collectors, dealers, journalists, and others will come from all across America and from many foreign destinations to enjoy a week of immersion in the art, history, and romance of coins, tokens, medals, and paper money. If you plan to be there and would like to chat, track me down at Stack’s Bowers Galleries or at Whitman Publishing.
Mint Director David Ryder will be on hand for at least part of the show, and the U.S. Mint will have a fine display of coins and medals for sale.
In terms of coins sold at a premium, numismatists are the U.S. Mint’s best customers, and by far. Accordingly, many customers have ideas to share. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to the vast majority of Mint programs. I have been very close to the Mint ever since I was a kid, have studied and written about Mint history, and have advised in many ways. At the request of the Treasury Department, I testified before Congress in the early 1980s when Armand Hammer and the Occidental Petroleum Company through California Senator Alan Cranston stated that the Mint was very poor at marketing its products, and that Occidental in the private sector could do much better. Ed Milas, president of the Professional Numismatists Guild, and Margo Russell, editor of Coin World, also testified. Afterward, we were received at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. The proposal was defeated, and I received a nice letter of thanks.
On April 2, 1992, when the Mint was celebrating its bicentennial, I was the keynote speaker at ceremonies in Philadelphia and at the nearby Federal Reserve Bank. In recent years under the aegis of Mint publicist Admiral Tom Jurkowsky, one of the finest and most numismatically-oriented Treasury employees I have ever met, I and some others, including Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker, went behind the scenes at the four mints and did a great deal of research, making important discoveries we shared.
As of now, I have these suggestions for Director David Ryder and the congressional committee supervising Mint operations:
- As collectors take notice of dates and mint marks on coins, please take these from the edges of the golden dollars and put them on the face. Right now there is no way at all to tell what date a Presidential or Native American dollar was made if it is in an album or certified holder. This will cost nothing to do and will please a lot of people.
- The so-called Native American dollar should have a name change back to Sacagawea dollar, as the obverse is the same as introduced in 2000. Naming the coin for reverse changes makes no sense, at least to me. In 2009 the Lincoln cent was made with four different reverses, but the name of the Lincoln cent was not changed. This will cost nothing to do and will follow numismatic tradition.
- Make it possible to buy single Mint State or circulation-type coins. As an example, I love the golden dollars, but in order to get circulation issues, I have to buy roll quantities. Instead, I order them singly from Littleton Coin Co., which works out fine. However, a lot of Mint customers might like to order directly. It would be okay to add a shipping charge for single coins.
- A proposal is in the works to make a Morgan dollar and a Peace dollar as a commemorative or tribute issue in 2021, to observe the 100th anniversary of the discontinuation of the Morgan dollar and the inception of the Peace dollar. Some of these are proposed to have “CC” mint marks. If so, please be sure to set up equipment in the Nevada State Museum, in the old Carson City Mint building, and strike them on-premises. It would be a gross violation of numismatic tradition to strike coins with “CC” mint marks at any other location. This is a matter for Congress, not for Director Ryder, but as the idea is in consideration, it is not too early to insert some realism.
The above said, I’ll see you here next week. In the meantime, continue enjoying the summer.
If you wish to contact me or send any inquiries, you may direct them to my e-mail .
Jamie Thompson says
Wonderful suggestions. The only thing I’d add is that there already is a former U.S. Mint press in the Nevada State Museum (the original Carson City Mint), so why not use that? Commemoratives aren’t usually large production quantities, so that press might be adequate. It might also be nice to produce other limited edition official CC coinage there from time to time, which I’m sure would create great interest in the numismatic community.
Excellent ideas, Mr. Bowers! While I appreciate edge lettering, it seems better suited to mottos and other nonessential components of a design. Returning the date and mint mark to the Sacajawea dollar’s obverse would make them less subject to wear, along with restoring the balance possessed by the original design.
If I may, I’d like to add another (perhaps unorthodox) idea: bring back the half dollar. The denomination circulated regularly prior the tragic death of JFK; it was rare to receive multiple quarters in change. Unfortunately the Mint’s multiple blunders doomed its future, most critically not changing its composition to cupronickel in 1965 and, arguably, not resuming the Franklin design. That said, the half’s long absence from circulation could be taken as an opportunity to make the revived coin more convenient by reducing its size and possibly making it multisided. Such a “new half” would reduce both the number and weight of coins needed when making change.