On August 9, 2022, Ventris C. Gibson, Director of the United States Mint, invited members of the numismatic media to a press roundtable at the ANA World’s Fair of Money. CoinWeek editor Charles Morgan attended alongside Larry Jewett (Coin World), Dr. Ursula Kampmann (MuenzenWoche), and Amanda Miller (ANA). What follows is a transcript of the conversation.
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Moderator: Well, thank you all for joining us today. We really appreciate this opportunity to get you with Director Gibson and exchange comments and questions. We’ll start with Larry. I don’t know if you want to express your questions for others to hear —
Larry Jewett (Editor, Coin World): I’ll start one.
Larry: It’s an open forum as far as I’m concerned. Basically, Director Gibson, thank you, first of all, for spending some time with my colleagues and me in the interview we just had. My questions will be brief and limited. There is a resolution before the House now that would call for the creation of 120 different coins. I was wondering if this program would have a negative impact on the production facilities if it is mandated.
Ventris C. Gibson (U.S. Mint Director): Well, first and foremost, I think it’s important to know that the proposed legislation only has two cosponsors, and it takes 290 cosponsors to pass.
Larry: There’s a little more work to do.
Ventris: A little more work to do, number one. Number two, the House Finance Committee, our oversight committee as well, one of the things they want to take a look at it because they too have to weigh in on if it’s feasible and possible to get it done. Then, the third part of this is that it would have to be done under this current Congress. So right now, we will certainly have input into that legislation, and we would be able to have a better feel for where it goes, especially since it requires so many more cosponsors than it currently has. So it would be premature for me to guess, but we stand ready to support Congress in what they assigned us to do.
Larry: Thank you.
Charles Morgan (Editor, CoinWeek): Director Gibson, I’ve asked an iteration of this question to every Mint director I’ve had the fortune of talking to going back to Phil Diehl and Ed Moy. But I think given the fact that we’ve had this period of COVID disruption to our circulating coinage in the United States, maybe it’s a more pressing question than before. As the Mint Director, do you think about or conceptualize an end of circulating coinage? In particular, I think about the costs to produce the cent, the nickel and the dime, and how essentially we have one circulating coin, the quarter, that really is the heavy lifter. We have a 50-cent piece that, short of some sort of redesign, is not going to be suitable for commerce, and we have a dollar coin program that has failed to capture America’s imagination and is not seen in everyday use. Is this something that you think about? Do you believe that there will be a future for circulating coins 10 or 20 years from now?
Ventris: Well, first and foremost, I am not a futurist, but what I can tell you is, as of this day and for the foreseeable future, of course, circulating coins and paper is the currency of the United States of America. And it will take an act of Congress to change that decision-making going forward. And thus, as of this time– Throughout the pandemic, we delivered. We were one of the few mints in the world that continued to operate and produced at unprecedented numbers. In fact, for the two-year period of the pandemic, we produced 30 billion coins. There was no disruption in the supply. What we found is there was a distribution opportunity, that we’ve seized an opportunity to change. And that is over 125 million households retain their coins because they weren’t getting out, shopping that is. As a result, we’re working with the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve is working with the banks, and we are still providing the circulating coins that the nation needs.
Now, flow back is that getting the other coins back into the economy, and we’re working not only with the Federal Reserve, but also with the U.S. Coin Task Force, and just all sorts of marketing strategies to tell households, “It’s okay to bring those coins and turn them in.” So, circulating coins for the future is still there, in my view, and until such time as someone says, “Ventris, since we’re an operational arm of the currency process, stop making it,” we’re going to continue to push ahead. Just remember now, separate from numismatic and bullion, we produce, on average, 1.2 billion coins a month.
Charles: Thank you.
Ventris: You’re welcome.
Ursula Kampmann (Editor, MuenzenWoche): Might I continue the question, getting the change not back into circulation, it’s a problem that’s all over the world and has been discussed by most mints all over the world, has been something that the minting community has found a different approach– I’m sorry, I’m not a native speaker. [chuckles] Has found different approaches to. How important do you think to share the discussion worldwide with all the other mints to suggest your solutions, and find solutions from other mints… how important do you think this to be? And do you plan to be an active part of the Mint Directors Conference about the conference scene of international mints and the minting community?
Ventris: First and foremost, being a leader in the minting process and in mintage worldwide, one of the things that we take a lot of pride in is our leadership role in that regard. The quality of our products is unprecedented. The engagement from our numismatic community and others is unprecedented over the past few years, even more so because of the pandemic. And as we learn and grow exactly what the path forward looks like when it comes to just the quality of everything we do, we’re Six Sigma, we’re ISO 9000. We’re all the business processes that make things more efficient and our precious metals are beautiful.
One of the things that I am fully supportive of is the transition of the Mint Directors Conference to the International Mint Directors Association.
Ursula: That’s the new name.
Ventris: I support that 100%. I also have had an opportunity to talk about how we must always remember that manufacturing requires people, and the machines can’t run on the plant floor without people. And thus, while we have a technical committee and we have a sustainability committee, we need a human capital committee. And that comes from my experience because all of us are experiencing talent shortages, from those that are our suppliers, from other employers. And so, what does that future look like? And that’s a great opportunity to have a conversation. The other part is leading in a different environment now. It would be really good for the mint directors to come together and share what that leadership lesson has been, and what we think needs to be on the cutting edge of our leadership in a manufacturing and production environment. So, I do plan to be active.
Ursula: It sounds like. I love that.
Ventris: Thank you.
Amanda Miller (ANA Communications Coordinator): Yeah. Kind of changing directions a little bit. As the US Mint director, what are you most looking forward to releasing to the public from the US Mint itself?
Ventris: Well, thank you. I’m looking forward to the continued high quality of our products. I’m looking forward to Morgan and Peace for 2023. I’m looking forward to our 250th anniversary as a nation and what numismatic product we’re working on towards that. I’m looking at youth and sports and connecting with youth numismatists, absolutely. In fact, I’m here tomorrow morning to meet with them because it’s so critical to that connection and to our survival, as a community, meaning coin collectors. And I’m also looking forward to taking care of my workforce. They’ve come through two years. We have created all sorts of great programs for them. And I wish you could just see, just as the passion of all of us who collect coins, the passion that these employees bring to minting coins is phenomenal. And they have ideas too. We’ve now created a forum for them to surface those ideas.
We have toyed around with a couple of things, even in just my beginnings, I said, “Well, wouldn’t it be cool to have a coin?” And everybody looks at me, “Yeah, she doesn’t know the process.”
And so, people like Robert are educating me but more importantly, I’ve spent several visits to all of the mints and to Fort Knox because the protection of national assets is super important to us. But what does that coin for the Semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary look like? And then, the most important item, we continue all the programs too, and our Congressional Medal of Honor programs, etc. It would be nice if the United States got the next Olympics, then we would do the gold medals for that. So, I would be excited about that too.
But I am looking to thank the numismatic community, because through the pandemic, and all of the years, we wouldn’t be the– the partnership is so important to each other. We survive because of each other. And thus, I want to introduce a coin that is in recognition of the numismatic community. And so, we’re working with our Chief Engraver [Joseph Menna] and others. So, stay tuned. I don’t want to give away just now but in talking with a few people, they said it would be phenomenal if we could do it. So, stay tuned, please. I look forward to it.
Charles: We’re going to go around the same order or do I– Okay. [laughs]
Moderator: I was letting Larry finish…
Larry: In the poker terms, my call.
Charles: It seems like in September, we’re going to have an unprecedented event, and that’s going to be the auction that will be conducted by Stack’s Bowers for the Silver Eagle and Gold Eagles and the Dusk to Dawn set. What was the thinking on the part of the Mint that led to the decision to auction these coins? Will this be a template for how the Mint might promote other numismatic programs in the future?
Ventris: Well, the last auction that we had was in, I think, 2000, 2001 timeframe.
Charles: For the 1933 Double Eagle?
Larry: Yeah, for the Double Eagle.
Ventris: Yes, the Double Eagle. And this was an opportunity to see how we would survive in this day and time with that, especially with people being able to auction, not necessarily in person, but through the use of technology. We thought this would be a good program to try. Now, is that a predictor of the future? No, it’s something else we want to see what else we can do from a more positive engagement perspective and give others an opportunity to get on board through another medium. So, I’m excited to see how that will go. I plan to go. And I hope to try and auction off a couple of coins myself. [laughs] We’ll see how that goes. But no, I think it’s just one more opportunity to get out there.
Ursula: Once again, I switch completely the topic. It’s a kind of interesting situation that female persons are the majority in a room where it’s about numismatics. It has changed in the last five years. A lot of state-appointed mint directors are women. For you, as a woman, do you think that it will change the numismatic community a little bit and you can have an impact on bringing more women into the hobby, or do you think that will be very difficult? How do you think the role of women in numismatics will evolve?
Ventris: I believe it will evolve and I believe to the positive of increasing the representation not only among the dealers and collectors but the entire community overall. The reason why I think so is because if you look at the population of women throughout the world, then we’ve grown in percentage of those in the working environment.
The second part of this is that for the United States, this is the first time in the history of coinage on the circulating side that we have featured prominent women that made a difference. They were trailblazers, they were the pioneers in building our nation’s history. And for them to go on a quarter is significant and has been so well received. In fact, if you look at that community of collectors trying to get those coins from the circulating side, like, “I want some bags and rolls,” to the actual Proof and Uncirculated sets has been tremendous. And so that being said, I absolutely believe that there’s a future. One of the discussions that I would love to have that guided that human capital comment earlier about the future of the workforce and where we are, is whether we really at the mint directors’ level should also talk about manufacturing typically does not have a high percentage of women. So, it’s a greater conversation than just being a collector but how do we get people engaged in that environment? Because that too, will drive change.
Ursula: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Amanda: I have to ask. Are you a collector and what do you collect?
Ventris: I have coins that have been given to me over my lifetime. I always tell this story, if you don’t mind. I have five brothers. When I was a little girl, I had an uncle who was sight-impaired. And when he came over, he would give my brothers 50 cents each and give me a quarter because I was a girl.
So that’s all right. That was my Uncle Steve.
Bless his heart. That was many moons ago.
Robert Kurzyna (Philadelphia Mint Superintendent): Everybody’s got one of those uncles.
Ventris: A great guy, I loved him to death. But anyway, when I figured out that he patted us on our heads, I pulled my hair back in a ponytail. So, the next time he came over and he pats my brothers, he gave me 50 cents. When he figured out I had duped him, he said, “Okay, well, you deserve 75.”
Even though he’d only give me 50 anyway. From that time, I did all the quarters in the little containers that we would do from Sunday school and that sort of thing. But collecting I did not do. Since joining the Mint, I have turned, and in fact, I spent way too much money here today and yesterday, and I have ordered a number of products since I’ve come on board. And I have a granddaughter who’s a year old, I made a one-year gift out of something for her. And starting with my grandkids, I have four, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to be the one that helps change.” One of the things I love to do with the collectors is maybe all of us together as a community to do a grandparents’ awareness. And maybe film something, this would be something I’d throw out to you guys, where we as grandparents, one, are presenting coins to our grandchildren and letting that excitement be seen because we have to appeal to the heart before we can ask for the hand, isn’t that right?
Ventris: If we want to build that youth, that’s potentially something we could all do because we walk all walks of life and that’s where we can make a difference. So, however, we can connect with the youth and just bring more excitement to the program would cause others to also be collectors. My granddaughter’s great-grandmother gave her her coin set. And she only had about 50 or 60 different but it’s going to make a difference in her life while she doesn’t understand it right now, she will a few years from now. And I was excited to see some of the kids come through, that was really good.
Charles: It seems that, as time has gone by, the Mint has evolved its understanding of the way the secondary coin market works. Case in point the auction that [at the time of the roundtable was] getting ready to happen. But how important do you think it is for the Mint’s numismatic program and maybe its bulk program to be a good steward of the product so that the end collector who traditionally would try to buy the material from the Mint directly isn’t stuck in a sort of prisoner’s dilemma where they have to pay exorbitant premiums for the product on the secondary market by market makers who basically have squeezed them out?
Ventris: This is my expert. I can respond, but I love to give Robert an opportunity.
Robert: There have been some significant changes in the way that we’re looking at our channels. One channel that’s grown exponentially in this past year is the enrollment process. So, we created that enrollment process to give individual collectors an opportunity to enroll in advance for coins that they want. And again, that has been very, very successful. Now as the bulk manager, I can tell you that bulk dealers are not permitted into the enrollment process.
Secondarily, we also review those enrollments in advance of the product drop, check addresses, check names, check email addresses, and really scrub those lists to see if people are trying to get in there that really don’t belong there. And so the enrollment process has done a number of wonderful things for our website’s performance. Our most recent two, what we call “high-value” drops, have gone very, very smoothly, with no interruption. If we think back to about 14 or 15 months ago, the web was crashing, and people were unhappy. So, we’ve implemented some things that help the web performance, in terms of technological solutions that look for bots and scripts and things that people were using to place themselves in the line above others with equal standing, but they’re using technology. So, we’ve addressed that. We’ve addressed the enrollment process.
[Another] thing that’s important is we have two channels. We have a direct-to-consumer channel and we have a business-to-business channel. So that’s the bulk program, the business-to-business. We recognize that. We monitor that. We make products available to our wholesale distributors, but in a controlled manner. We prioritize the direct-to-consumer but we also want the business channel to work through a business channel, which we’re establishing and that’s part of the authorized bulk purchasing program. So, we are separating our channels in such a way that the individual consumers are not in this prisoner’s dilemma. We’re also monitoring how we address our bulk customers to make sure that they have what they need to run their business but that is in parallel with the direct consumer. I think it’s working. Is it perfect yet? No. But that’s my job to make sure that I monitor and make adjustments as necessary.
Ventris: And you would be pleased to note that one of the reasons why I wanted to be here all week and be out signing and talking to individual contributors and others is to hear their experiences because that helps us inform things that we can do better. And because any organization is always going to find or how can we make sure we’re responding to consumers and engaging our customers at their level. One of the things that I found being here is I’ve had more compliments about the change, then come complaints about it. Those that have complained have given me specific examples because that’s the technology example I can take back. And that is something, and as I said, we’ve gotten more positive responses than negative ones right now. So, we will continue to evolve as Robert has said.
Robert: And, Ursula, if I can go back to your comment about women, what’s interesting to me is that when having coins or a coin introduction ever been on television, other than the Coin TV and the numismatic interests? The Today Show featured Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey talked about Maya Angelou, both of those shows are primarily run by women. And I can’t think of, in my lifetime, when a quarter has been discussed on national television to such a level by women, about women, for women-themed quarters. I think we’ve come a long way. Wasn’t that the Virginia Slims slogan? We’ve come a long way?
Robert: But I’m dating myself.
Ursula: That’s absolutely true. The discussion about what we put on the heads of our coins, that’s a very, very active discussion and I think that’s very important, too, all around the world. Another question about the foreign market. How important are foreign collectors and foreign bulk buyers for you as the US Mint? Is that something you are thinking about or not?
Ventris: Absolutely. I don’t want to get ahead of Robert because this is an exciting topic for him but let me just say my small spiel. And that is, first and foremost, any numismatic collector is important to us. The United States domestically, of course. Internationally, of course. And whatever we can do to feed that appetite, where we can, we’ll meet what we can do. That being said, I believe we have a number of opportunities to partner with other nations in numismatic products. We’ve done that with the Pride of Two Nations. So let me let Robert talk some more because, like I said, this is where he lives.
Robert: We currently have about 15 international bulk members in our bulk program and we offer them a slightly distinct channel from the domestic channel. And by that, I mean, we have a minimum order requirement in order to qualify for the discounts. We have four discount levels within the bulk community, all of them earned every year. Every year we reset to the minimum discount level, which is 3% to everybody. And then every other month, we’ll look at net revenue through the program and they’ll be elevated as they meet the criteria for the next step. So, our discounts run from 3% to 5% for these bulk dealers.
Now, given that, we recognize that the minimum order quantity for international people dealers is of necessity smaller than the minimum order requirement for domestic because it’s the United States coin, so we’ve adjusted our minimum order quantity to take into consideration our international partners, such that they can enjoy the benefits from the smaller tranche of coins that they would typically want to purchase. That’s been working very well. I can tell you that we met with four international bulk dealers here at this show, and I was introduced to a company in Asia that used to do business with us, that wants to resume business with us. And I just recently met with somebody from France, that is also interested in becoming a bulk dealer. So, yes, we’re very interested in serving the global community.
Ursula: Might I just add a short part of another question. What about Germany? What about the other nations? Where are your focuses right now? Where is the most clientele for your coins?
Robert: Our biggest community is in Germany.
Ursula: I thought so.
Robert: We have three or four German partners that we work with. We have partners in the Netherlands, we have partners in Great Britain. So, we are actively seeking those. Even here in this hemisphere, we have domestic dealers that are now beginning to reach out into Latin America for that. So yes, it’s a very interesting part of our business. And we are, frankly, in a global economy. And everybody that’s in the global economy uses some form of currency exchange. So, we’re very interested in finding those people that are interested in US coins. And, conversely, we’re interested in what they have to offer us in terms of maybe future partnerships, like the Pride of Two Nations that we did several years ago.
Charles: Director, what do you feel is or what do you anticipate being, perhaps, the biggest challenge that faces the Mint in the next few years? Will it be the labor issues that the we’ve been having in the economy, or maybe coin shortage issues, the feedback loop, or production costs? Or will it be something else?
Ventris: I don’t see anything going forward as a challenge. I look at them as opportunities because we have our lessons learned over time. We have just a great talent pool within the Mint now that brings a lot of experience, like Robert and some of the others at the various mints. And we have the chief engraver, Joe Menna, who’s an artistic excellence, giant guru. And we’re bringing in our Artistic Infusion Program specialists from many different walks of life as it pertains to art, from street art to all kind. First, I see the future of work. What does that look like for the Mint, process improvement all the time, making sure our products, like I said earlier, quality, and that we have sufficient quantity to keep the appetite of others going. But also, flow back, get coins moving, that’s part of– I have to always think not only of manufacturing, but I have to think about information technology for us. I think about our fiscal picture, what that looks like now and how it informs our revenue going forward. What else is on my plate? Human capital we talked about. I also have talked about some of the legislation that we may need.
One of the things that we’ve been very clear on since my arrival at the Mint is, “Let me know what we need to put forth to Congress to make our job that much easier but also can serve the American people.” So that’s something on our plate that we’re looking at.
Another avenue on the plate again is youth. I mean, that is huge for us. I’m in the demographics that collects coins, but my father is and others, where do we draw the line and make sure we’re pushing it because our survivability, as a community of collectors, is vital to who’s in that pool and who’s going to buy them? So, just getting that going. I have a lot on the plate, 250th anniversary, obvious one. Making sure that from a manufacturing perspective, that some of the equipment and such that we’re using that we’re progressing, that we’re introducing robotics where we can, if that’s possible. I know we have some robotics and packaging and the like, but just looking at what else is on the range of possibility. Having that connection with other mint directors where we could share information exactly. So, that’s a lot.
I also have protection. I have to make sure that the assets of our nation are protected, and that I protect the workforce as well. It’s not without saying that we exist in a different environment these days. I want to make sure that every employee can get to and from work safely. But more importantly, that while they’re at work, it’s my responsibility to take care of them. And the visitors too, our visiting centers, so our tour centers. That’s all on my plate. I don’t mind, I may not have come from manufacturing, but I came from people leadership and process improvement and just an array of programs that serves to inform and to do better. We have a great reputation as a mint and I want to keep it there. When I think of the Mint, I think of the highest quality. I think way up there. I’m with Tiffany’s, that’s our product. And we’ve always been number one in that regard.
Robert: With regard to human capital, the machines, you can be automated, the technology can be improved, but in the end, they’re going to be run by a human being. And that’s the real important part to keep in mind because you can automate, you can do a lot of things but you also have to keep in mind those people that are skilled workers that run those machines and watch the product because we are we are known for a certain level of quality and without skilled work force, an alert workforce and attentive workforce, that level of quality can’t be maintained.
Ventris: Like I said, I’ve spent time at the mints and I’ve spent time with the coin operators, the pressers, those that do cooling, dying, burnishing etc. And I tell you what, what gives me chills, even talking about it, is after that press operator presses that coin and then takes and looks at every coin to ensure the quality. And then, if it doesn’t meet his or her quality, they set it aside. And then still, after it goes through that qualitative check with the individual, then the quality team randomly selects and checks the quality.
I watched one of the individuals cleaning the coins after they had been perfectly done and minted, ready to go into packaging, and how she washed it. And she said, she opens her book to find the formula for that particular set. I spent time with her and just watching how she did it in the towels. It was almost like carrying and feeding and bathing a baby, so I wish you could see it because it will bring joy to your heart to know what goes into minting a coin.
Ursula: I just wondered, you have seen right now only the US Mints or did you visit also foreign mints? And if you did so, is there anything you admire in a foreign mint or–?
Ventris: I have not made it to a foreign mint yet. I wanted to make sure I understood how everything operated domestically. I’ve gone to some of our vendors like our fulfillment center PFS, I’ve gone to a number of places have for us here in the United States. So now have an invite from Marie, Royal Mint, I have an invite from France and Australia.
Robert: And Perth.
Ventris: And Perth. Yes.
Ursula: That’s very important.
Ventris: I could go on a world tour.
Robert: The director has met with key account executives from several mints during this very week. They all understand the same kind of things that they need to be doing as leaders. Because, frankly, after COVID, this is the new environment, people are used to working at home. As leaders, people need to step up and bring their A game to engage their employees and make sure that we’ve got an actively engaged workforce. [crosstalk]
Ventris: But yes, I do plan to try and get out as much as I can, but without sacrificing anything that needs to be done here.
Charles: If you wouldn’t mind, I kind of like to double back to a topic I brought up a little earlier and maybe put it in a different context. One thing that struck me, I went to the Mint Directors Conference in Bangkok a few years ago to give a marketing presentation. I heard what I thought was a very compelling presentation by a representative from The Royal Mint in the UK. I believe the point that he was making, it concerned the shrinking of the minting industry as a direct impact of the elimination of small denomination coinage. I’ve also been told that due to the volume of those coins that are produced, if the cent were eliminated, that would certainly change the cost basis of all other coins, because it would directly impact staffing.
You also mentioned that you and your team are thinking about the types of issues that need to be brought to Congress’ attention so that perhaps legislation could be drafted to give you the tools you need to achieve the mission in a more efficient way. So maybe if your ideas were voiced through the proper channels it could impact policy and legislation.
Having said all of that, do you have any opinion on whether or not the one-cent US coin should be phased out or perhaps maybe, like Canada has a $2 coin, and perhaps the reason the $1 coin may not circulate as much as we’d like is because it’s not valuable enough and perhaps we might need a $2 circulating coin, or perhaps the 50-cent coin might circulate more if it were a different size? Are these topics or issues that you find any currency in thinking about?
Ventris: Well, everyone talks about the Lincoln cent or the penny, as we affectionately know it as. Right now, there is no discussion about what happens to the penny. There’s no interest Congressionally about that at this time. As to me and as to the Department of Treasury, the penny is our currency. You would be amazed that dependency penny actually fills the gap when other coins are not available. And when you think about circulating coins and the value of coinage, especially for the Lincoln cent, it is so important to recognize that those who are unbanked or underbanked, we have vending communities, we have so many others that utilize coin as a method of survival. And thus, at this time, there is no thought to doing anything other than producing the penny as we have come to know it. There’s no appetite for me to introduce legislation to do anything different with any of the elimination of the coins or reduction in it.
Robert: However, we are looking at different metals.
Ventris: Alternative metals.
Robert: Alternative metals that will reduce the cost. So, that is in the picture. We have a coin studies group inside the Mint, that analyzes all of that data.
Ventris: That’s right.
Ursula: Hasn’t there been an examination of another metal for the penny about 10 years ago, something like this, or–?
Ventris: It could have been. I don’t recall 10 years exactly. I know what we’re doing now relevant to alternative coins. So, the legislation is pending before Congress.
Robert: I guess, anytime you’re in a manufacturing environment, you’re looking at your cost structure and the raw materials that contribute to that. So, it’s not something that you look at and forget about for the next 10 years. You continuously look at that and see, because the world is changing, technology is changing, there may well be metals that come up that we’ve never thought about.
Ventris: That’s right. But the Secretary of the Treasury has legislative authority to do research and development on alternative metals. And that’s what we’ve been doing within the Mint, looking at that, and looking at other mints and whether what they’ve done is relevant to changes in some of the makeup of the raw materials for circulating coins. We continue to look at that, and what would be best to replace that penny with but the broader range of the alternative metals is not just about the penny, but about all of the circulating coins, what we can do different. The difference that we must always be mindful of is our coinage lasts for many, many years. A penny, what, 50 years ago, still looks like a penny, and feels like a penny. So, anything we do, we want to continue that legacy, that it will last.
Ursula: I just want to add something which was the most, most impressive I ever heard at a Congress about changing the metal and it was coming from the US Mint. They said we could spare, I don’t know how much money, on using that metal. But the other industries, especially the vending industry has to spend about four times the money we are able to spare, and therefore, we are not willing to give that up to do it. And it was so impressive to me because that was something that was completely the opposite of all the mints and all the procedures of the mints. I have seen the US Mint then as a servant to the public good. I don’t know whether this–
Ventris: Well, that’s exactly right. In fact, the group that Robert talked about, one of the– you know how you have your guiding principles of whatever we’re doing, and that included making sure that whatever we do, if we change the construction and the content and the structure of any of our circulating coins, that it had to be bending proof, that it has to be easy to transition and so that it would not have any cost for them, so that’s part of our running goals.
Moderator: Are there any final questions?
Charles: All right, I have one.
Ursula: You always have one.
Charles: It’s a numismatic question. Do you think the Mint would benefit if it had very limited, but real discretion to use its own marketing to develop one or two noncirculating commemorative coin programs per year, which could be issued alongside the congressionally mandated programs? That way, Congress can still come up with whatever ideas they have for a commemorative coin program, but the United States Mint could say, “Well, we have a pretty good idea that if we do a collector coin based on videogames”, or something like that, that it would be really popular with younger people and therefore appeal to a broader base of collector.
It just seems that the Mint has been put in a non-competitive position. And I realize that, in some respects, the Mint is a very conservative institution. But the fact is, that all of your global competitors have tools that allow them much more latitude when it comes to creating numismatic collector products.
Ventris: Well, I would like to say I would love to do that, but I also know what’s on our plate. [laughs] And the planning process by which for the numismatic community in getting all of those beautiful precious metals out, right now, we’re talking about the 250th anniversary. And every month, we have a product meeting where we go through all of what we have pending from the Congressional Gold Medals to everything that we have pending. And when we introduce new products, it has to be done at least two years in advance. And some people say, “Can’t you do it better, faster?” “Well, you don’t know what else we’re doing.” [chuckles] We’re doing many things. So, I would love to say yes. I’ve often thought about one of the things I want to do is a coin for Selena [Quintanilla Pérez, the Mexican-American singer and entertainer who died in 1995]. I think that would get that youth community engaged and going, and everybody says, “Hold your horses. Here’s the process.” And I understand and respect it, but to your answer, if it was just Ventris, yes. But on behalf of the United States Mint, yes, but I have to check more.
Robert: I’d like to add, Charles, that our Artistic Infusion Program is constantly looking at the talent pool that they’re bringing in. And I’ve heard mentioned just tangentially that they’d like to see maybe some street art come into the Artistic Infusion Program and what that would look like. There is some consideration for kind of expanding the visual horizons, if you will. But these things take time and they need to be well thought out.
Charles: Well, my final comment. I guess I am really happy with the way the quarter program is working. Since the Tubman note was discussed and became a hot potato, I felt like representation and having money that reflects America as it is now and to valorize the people who built our modern country is important. But I think we are long overdue for a total design update on our coinage. It is unprecedented in the history of the Mint that we have allowed coin series to continue for so long a redesign.
Ventris: Yeah. Well, I tell you what, I’m so excited about our future. When I came on board, the American Women’s Quarters Program had been approved. And it was how do we move it? And I said, “You know what? This is the biggest thing that ever has happened. We need a massive public relations campaign. We need some people that are behind it, like the Oprahs behind Maya and others. I put the team together with Treasury, and they came up with a wonderful public relations program.
Just this week, we have a new deputy director. Her name is Kristie McNally and she was the CFO for the Mint. She is officially on board. She went to Philly to do NBC Today— when does it air?
Moderator: August 27th.
Ventris: August 27th on the American Women’s Quarters Program and the next five women, and wrapping up how we done it this year as well. So, we want to bring that much attention to all of our products, because it makes it– we had unprecedented number of people wanting just the quarters. And while that’s circulating side, it’s still good to get everything enthused about what we’re doing. So, thank you.
Charles: Well, thank you.
Robert: The Women’s Quarters, each one of the launches was dedicated to the people that were involved. So, Sally Ride, we went to the elementary school that’s named for her. Wilma Mankiller, we met with her relatives and–[crosstalk]
Ventris: Well, we went out to Oklahoma and had over thousand people. For Dr. Sally Ride, I love that you brought that up, I went to the Sally Ride Elementary School, we have been working with them six months prior to launching Dr. Sally Ride, and every and they gave the Mint a book. Every student from pre-K to fifth grade made their own Sally Ride coin and it was displayed all over the school. And on the day that we unveiled it, we gave every student one, we also had a young lady she had to be seven years old, who wrote a song and sang it. [singing] “My name is Dr. Sally Ride, Dr. Sally–”
Ventris: It still plays in my head. And their parents were there, grandparents were there. And the kids pretty much ran the program, but it was phenomenal. And just to have that connection, made it worth all of the effort. And so, I take that book to every mint and let the employee see this is what you’re doing and how it impacts the community. And going forward to all of our shows, we’re going to try and pull an employee from each of the Mint facilities to come to the show so they can see what their work has resulted in. That’s part of our strategy to infuse our workforce further.
Charles: That’s great. Well, thank you very much for the chance to speak with you.
Ventris: Thank you.
Ursula: Thank you very much.
Moderator: Thank you all for joining us today, and thank you.
THANK YOU for such a fascinating article. I’m glad to see that Director Ventris is concerned about modernizing our coinage system. Despite the extent to which e-payments have become the norm there’s still a need for coins and bills, especially for small transactions and for use those segments of the population who for whatever reason are outside of the electronic banking system.
My own thoughts as someone with a lifelong interest in numismatics:
I doubt there’s any viable solution, but reform is hampered by the extent to which Congress can – and will – insert itself into coinage matters as compared to legislatures in other nations. While Canada readily eliminated its cent and withdrew bills in favor of $1 and $2 coins, the combination of lobbying and political grandstanding in this country almost certainly means we won’t take similar steps in the foreseeable future.
I’m sure I’m not the only collector who feels that the commemorative program has gotten out of hand. Again, any group that has a favorite cause seems able to find someone in Congress who’ll support their ideas. At least it _does_ seem that the idea of 120 (!!) commems for one theme has fallen flat.
It’s old news, but the 50¢ piece’s demise can also be laid at the feet of Congress. By acceding to mining interests who wanted the coin to be struck in silver post-1964, Congress and the Mint instead ended up ensuring that almost every half dollar ended up being hoarded and/or melted rather than continuing to circulate. With no disrespect to the martyred JFK, perhaps it’s time to reissue the half dollar with a new design, likely in a smaller size, and maybe even using bimetallic and/or multi-sided planchets.
But that’s just my 2¢. Or $2, allowing for inflation.
Awesome article. Thank you for putting the enrollment process in. Much better!! My thought for kids. Let’s get NGC, PCGS, and other grading companies (engage the mint) to encapsulate one of the new quarters (or other coins), start speaking engagements in classrooms across this beautiful Country. Just a one hour classroom discussion on the history of coins. WOW, what a hit this would be. Each kid gets a limited edition encapsulated coin from the grading companies. This would create a whole new pool of collectors. What an opportunity! Also regarding world mints. If there is not, there should be an international competition for the coin of the year award! Each mint puts forth one coin. This year it would be the colorized purple heart coin. Thank you mint! Happy Holidays to all.