On July 7, 2011, the bill H.R. 2453: Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri. If approved, the Secretary of the Treasury would be required to mint and issue gold and silver coins in commemoration of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known to the world as Mark Twain.
The life and works of Mark Twain remain in the collective consciousness of the country, having been the topic of over 100 books and over 250 doctoral dissertations in the last twenty years. His two most-famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, remain in print over 100 years after they were first published. According to the findings of the bill, Mark Twain “was a unique American voice whose literary work has had a lasting effect on our Nation’s history and culture.”
Mark Twain has previously been depicted on a one ounce gold medallion produced by the United States Mint in 1981. This was part of the short lived American Arts Gold Medallion Commemorative series, which depicted notable American artists.
H.R. 2453 calls for the production of up 100,000 $5 gold coins and up to 350,000 $1 silver coins to be issued during the one year period beginning January 1, 2016. The gold coins would have a weight of 8.359 grams, diameter of 0.85 inches, and composition of 90% gold and 10% alloy. The silver coins would have a weight of 26.73 grams, diameter of 1.5 inches, and composition of 90% silver and 10% copper. Each would be struck in proof and uncirculated qualities.
Designs for the coins will be emblematic of the life and legacy of Mark Twain. The design selection would be made by the Treasury of the Secretary following consultation with the Commission of Fine Arts, the Board of the Mark Twain House and Museum, and review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
A surcharge would be added to the sales price of the coins: $35 for the gold coin, and $10 for the silver. That surcharge will be split into four equal parts, to be paid to the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut; the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, California; the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, New York; and to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.
This is now the third attempt to pass legislation to authorize commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain. The first attempt was made in the 110th Congress for gold and silver coins to be issued in 2010. This issue date would have coincided with the 175th anniversary of his birth and the 125th anniversary of the publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The second attempt was made in the 111th Congress for gold and silver coins to be issued in 2013, with no particular anniversary noted in the legislation.
Under current law, only two commemorative coin programs may be approved for each year. For 2010, programs were ultimately authorized to celebrate the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America and to honor American Veterans Disabled for Life. For 2013, programs have been authorized to commemorate the centennial of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America and to recognize the United States Army 5-Star Generals. So far, no commemorative coin programs have been authorized for 2016, which would be the year of issue for the latest proposed Mark Twain commemorative coins.