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Donna Pope, Former U.S. Mint Director: In Memoriam

Donna Pope.

By CoinWeek News Staff …..
Donna Pope, who served as the 33rd Director of the United States Mint under Presidents Reagan and Bush, has died. She was 91 years old.

Life Before the Mint

Pope was born Donna Marie Kolnik in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 15, 1931. A lifelong Republican, she served in the Ohio State Legislature from 1972 to 1982 before being appointed by President Ronald W. Reagan to serve as Director of the Mint in 1981. One of seven women who have served as Mint Director, she replaced her colleague Stella Hackel Sims, who had overseen the release of the disastrous Susan B. Anthony dollar.

A Time of Historic Change

Pope’s tenure at the Mint was one of tremendous change. While the Mint put production of small dollar coins on an indefinite hiatus, Pope expanded production in other areas more geared towards popular demand. With the release of the 1982-D Washington Bicentennial half dollar, the Mint reintroduced its commemorative coinage program 28 years after the end of the “Classic” period. Collector enthusiasm for commemorative coins saw each issue sell millions of pieces in the program’s formative first years.

Pope also saw the introduction of the American bullion coin program. Under her watch, the American Gold and Silver Eagles were released. The programs continue to this day and are among the most recognized and popular bullion coins in the world.

A reduction in the cost of producing the copper cent was a key concern for Pope. Under her leadership, the Mint developed a less expensive copper-plated zinc alloy that has kept the diminutive denomination in circulation for 40-plus years after its introduction.

Beyond the coin issues of her tenure, Pope saw the Mint’s operating infrastructure undergo modernization and reorganization. While Reagan’s budget cuts impacted Mint operations, Pope expanded the production capabilities of the Denver Mint in 1984-85 and gave branch mint designations to the San Francisco Assay Office and the West Point Bullion Depository. Both moves were popular with collectors.

During Pope’s time as director, the Mint began automating various processes of die and coin production. As a leader in the industry, she also built relationships with leading world mints. In 1990, she, along with future Mint Director David J. Ryder, were among the first U.S. officials to visit Soviet mints in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

After the Mint

Pope served as Mint Director for two terms. After her second term, Pope worked with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to develop its centennial coin program. She also resumed her work in Republican politics, serving in the administration of Ohio Governor George Voinovich. After Pope retired, she moved to Colorado.

Donna Pope is preceded in death by her husband Raymond. She is survived by a daughter and four grandchildren.

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