By CoinWeek News Staff ….
The 115th Congress of the United States has been a memorable one. Beginning on January 3, 2017 under President Obama, it will come to an end on January 3, 2019, halfway through President Trump’s term in office.
And despite vocal criticism of “wasteful” government spending and corruption–which often explicitly targets commemorative coin programs–even a Congress like the 115th still finds the time and tax dollars to spend on numismatics. The 2019 American Legion Centennial Commemorative Coin program is one such endeavor, but there are many other bills waiting for approval.
To keep you up to date, here is a list of all proposed commemorative coin legislation introduced to the 115th Congress that has yet to be enacted into law.
First up is a coin that sounds like it could be an honest-to-goodness hit with the general public.
On January 13, 2017, bills to commemorate the athletic and cultural achievements of American boxing legend Muhammad Ali were introduced. H.R. 579 was sponsored by Representative Jon Yarmuth, a Democrat representing Kentucky’s Third District, while Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S. 166 in the Senate.
Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) was born in Louisville, part of Yarmuth’s district.
After winning the light heavyweight gold medal at the age of 18 in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Clay turned professional, and within a few years he had won several heavyweight titles. Clay’s brash, confident and cocky persona was entertaining to many, offensive to some, and inspiring to a generation of black youth in America. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and refused to serve in Vietnam. Famous matches against rival boxers, including Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman are important touchstones of American sport in the 20th century.
Ali’s position as a role model for African-American pride only grew in the decades after his retirement. He died in 2016 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s.
The commemorative bill authorizes the production of a maximum of 100,000 $5 gold coins and a maximum of 350,000 silver dollars. Both precious metal coins would meet a minimum purity of 90%. In addition to the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville would be consulted as to the design of the coins.
The surcharges of $35 per gold coin and $10 per silver dollar would go to the Muhammad Ali Center, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, and the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of Louisville. Proof and Uncirculated versions of the coins would be produced.
Army 1st Infantry Division Centennial
The Duty First Act (H.R. 1582) was introduced by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK5) on March 16, 2017. The bill authorizes the Treasury Department (and, by extension, the Mint) to produce a three-coin commemorative program honoring the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in 2017. If approved, a maximum of 20,000 90% pure $5 gold coins, 100,000 90% pure silver dollar coins and 200,000 clad half dollar coins would be issued.
Designs would be “emblematic of the 100 year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division”. The Secretary of the Treasury would consult with the Society of the 1st Infantry Division and the U.S. Army Center of Military History as to the content of the designs, which would then be reviewed by the CCAC. There would be no design contest for the 1st Infantry Division coin.
Typical surcharges of $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver coin and $5 per clad coin would be imposed and paid out to the Society of the 1st Infantry Division for the renovation of the 1st infantry Division Memorial in Washington, DC.
The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest active division in the entire United States Army. It was first organized in 1917 during World War I and has seen service in every major American conflict since then. Nicknames include “The Big Red One” due to the red numeral one on its shoulder patch and the “Fighting First”.
National Purple Heart Hall of Honor
Democratic Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY18) introduced a bill on March 22, 2017 to commemorate recipients of the Purple Heart Medal and the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, New York (part of Maloney’s district).
The previous month, Maloney and other public figures announced the intended introduction of the bill at the Hall of Honor on February 22–the birthday of the man who inaugurated the Purple Heart in 1782, George Washington. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1683) authorizes the production of another three-coin set consisting of a gold $5 coin, a silver dollar coin and a clad half dollar coin. Mintages will be limited.
Surcharges will go to Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Inc. to help fund the work of the Hall of Honor to memorialize the sacrifice of our soldiers who have been wounded or killed in service to our country.
The H.R. 2256–the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 was presented to the House by Representative Fred Upton (R-MI6) on April 28, 2017.
It honors the life and legacy of Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire selected in 1985 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under its “Teacher in Space” program to be the first American civilian in space. McAuliffe was one of seven crew members onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986. Schools and scholarships have been named in her honor, and programs like FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition Of Science & Technology; founded in 1989) have been started to carry on her work promoting science education.
Upton’s bill authorizes the Mint to strike a maximum of 350,000 one-dollar silver coins in both Proof and Uncirculated finishes. The coins would weigh 26.73 grams, be 1.5 inches in diameter, and consist of at least 90% pure silver.
The obverse would feature an image of Christa McAuliffe, while the reverse would focus on her legacy as a teacher. The standard inscriptions (LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the year 2020, etc.) would be present on the appropriate side of the coin as mandated by law. The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee would review candidate designs and the Secretary of the Treasury would select the final design after consultation with FIRST, the McAuliffe Family, and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA).
The $1 silver coin will have a retail premium of $10 over face value. This surcharge will go to the FIRST robotics program.
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is the oldest seafaring branch of the military, with roots going back to 1790. Yet it’s taken until relatively recently for a commemorative coin proposal to be drafted.
The United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017 (H.R. 2317) was introduced on May 3, 2017 by Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT2). Christopher Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Senate version, (S. 1021), on the same day.
This program would consist of a $5 gold coin, a $1 silver coin and a clad half dollar. All would be available in Uncirculated and Proof versions, with at least two mint facilities to be used – one for Proofs, and (at least) one for Uncirculated pieces. Maximum mintages of 100,000 gold coins, 500,000 silver dollars and 750,000 half dollars would be set. The gold coin would weigh 8.359 grams, have a diameter of 0.850 inches, and be composed of 90% gold and 10% alloy. Specifications for the silver coin are a weight of 26.73 grams, a diameter of 1.5 inches, and a composition of at least 90% pure silver. The clad half dollar would weigh 11.34 grams and be 1.205 inches across.
The design of the Coast Guard commemoratives must be “emblematic of the traditions, history, and heritage of the United States Coast Guard, and its role in securing our nation since 1790”. The law specifies that past and present representations of Coast Guard service members must be incorporated into the motif, and concern both the wartime and peacetime functions of the Guard. The CCAC would review designs and the Treasury Secretary would make the final selections after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security (which the Coast Guard became part of in 2003), the National Coast Guard Museum Association, and the CFA.
Interestingly, the Coast Guard is the only U.S. military service without a museum. The creation of a national museum was authorized in 2004 by Public Law 108-293; this commemorative coin program is meant to be one avenue of funding for that project. Surcharges of $35 for the five-dollar gold, $10 for the one-dollar silver, and $5 for the clad half dollar coin will go to the National Coast Guard Museum Association.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Founded in 1959, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is named for Canadian physical education teacher James Naismith, who invented basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts on December 21, 1891. The Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that honors and supports professional and amateur players, both male and female, from around the world.
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of its founding, a bill (H.R. 1235) was introduced to the House of Representatives on February 27, 2017 by Richard Neal (D-MA1). He had introduced a previous version during the 114th Congress. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a similar bill (S.1503) in the Senate on June 29, after having done so in the previous Congress as well (S.2598).
No more than 50,000 gold coins (with a face value of $5) can be minted. Each 0.850-inch diameter gold coin must consist of 8.359 grams of 90% pure gold. A limit of 400,000 silver dollar coins are allowed; each 1.5-inch diameter silver coin must consist of 26.73 grams of at least 90% pure silver. And a maximum of 750,000 clad half dollars would be struck. Each 1.205-inch diameter clad coin must weigh 11.34 grams. The coins would come in both Proof and Uncirculated finishes.
But the most exciting aspect of the program is the shape of the coins. All three will be dome shaped according to the current wording of the bill. This follows the extraordinary success of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin series.
And also like the Baseball Hall of Fame coins, there will be a design competition to choose the common obverse for the commemorative program. All designs are to be “emblematic of the game of basketball”, and the general public is invited to compete. A prize of at least $5,000 will be awarded to the winning designer, though the process by which they are chosen has yet to be determined.
The following table gives the relevant surcharges, all of which would go to the Basketball Hall of Fame to fund an endowment that will allow the organization to continue its work:
The bill passed the House on September 25, 2017 and introduced to the Senate the next day (effectively rendering the Warren bill moot).
John F. Kennedy
On July 17, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) introduced H.R. 3724, the President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Coin Act. The bill authorizes the striking of 500,000 silver dollar coins to commemorate the life and presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who served as our nation’s 35th president from 1961 through 1963. Each 90% pure coin would weigh 26.73 grams and have a diameter of 1.5 inches. The artwork on the commemorative would be “emblematic of the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy”. The year 2020–the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s election to office–would also be included.
In addition to the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the Treasury must also consult with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation as to the coin’s design. The Foundation would be the sole beneficiary of the $10 surcharge. Proof and Uncirculated versions would be struck.
End of World War II 75th Anniversary
2020 is also the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, and so, on August 2 of last year, Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II Commemorative Coin Act (S. 1718). The Act authorizes the production of 50,000 gold $5 coins, 500,000 silver $1 coins, and 750,000 clad half dollars.
Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA1) introduced the House version (H.R.4044) on October 12.
Gold coins would consist of 8.359 grams of 90% pure gold and have a diameter of 0.850 inches. The silver dollar would consist of 26.73 grams of 90% pure silver, with a diameter of 1.500 inches. Each clad half dollar would weigh 11.34 grams and have a diameter of 1.205 inches. Designs for the three coins will be “emblematic” of the “great sacrifices made by millions of people of the United States 75 years ago to bring a victorious end to World War II.” The commemoratives will be available in Proof and Uncirculated finishes.
Surcharges include the typical $35 for the gold coin, $10 for the silver and $5 for the clad half dollar. A special version of the silver dollar will include a $50 surcharge. These will be paid to the National WWII Museum Inc, which will also review the commemorative’s designs.
Plymouth 400th Anniversary
On December 4, 2017, Junior Senator Edward “Ed” Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill (S. 2189) that authorizes the production of commemorative coins celebrating the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower and the founding of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts by the Pilgrims in 1620. Representative William Keating (D-MA9) introduced similar legislation in the House (H.R. 4539) the same day.
The Plymouth 400th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury and the United States Mint to commemorate 400 years since the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock by striking $5 gold, $1 silver and half dollar clad coins. It also celebrates the signing of the Mayflower Compact, the settlement of Plymouth Colony itself, and the native Wampanoag that provided critical to the colony’s survival.
As far as mintage limits go, a maximum of 100,000 $5 .9000 fine gold pieces, 500,000 $1 .9000 fine silver coins and 750,000 clad half dollars will be minted. Each $5 gold coin will weigh 8.359 grams and have a diameter of 0.85 inches. Each $1 coin will consist of 26.73 grams of silver and have a diameter of 1.5 inches. And each clad half dollar commemorative will weigh 11.34 grams and have a diameter of 1.205 inches. Proof and Uncirculated versions will be struck.
Surcharges from the sale of the coins will “assist the financing of a suitable national observance in 2020 and 2021 of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing and historic events…”. Thirty percent of the proceeds will go to Plymouth 400, Inc. to distribute to local historical and tribal organizations as the corporation sees fit.
Another 30% will go to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants to support their library and other facilities.
Twenty percent will go to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to fund educational programs. The tribe is one of only two federally recognized Native American tribes in Massachusetts; the other is the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head, who will receive 5% of the surcharges.
The surcharges are, of course, $35 for the $5 gold, $10 for the $1 silver, and $5 for the clad half dollar.
As for designs, the Plymouth 400th Anniversary coins must be “emblematic” of the Mayflower landing, the signing of the compact, the founding of the colony and the contributions of the Wampanoag tribes to its success and survival. The year “2020” will be incorporated into each design.
Per its legal mandate, the CCAC will review potential designs for the program and deliver its recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury. The secretary will also consult with all of the groups and organizations mentioned above, as well the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
National Law Enforcement Museum
And finally (or, should we say, so far?), on December 21, 2017, U.S. Representative David Reichert (R-WA8) introduced a bill to Congress authorizing the United States Mint to produce commemorative coins honoring the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC. The National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 4732) provides for a maximum of 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 silver $1 coins, and 750,000 clad half dollars to be struck in 2021.
The museum’s mission is to “honor and commemorate the service and sacrifice” of law enforcement officers all around the country. It is also meant to serve as a “bridge” between the past and the present of law enforcement, improve the public’s understanding of and increase public support for law enforcement, and to help provide for law enforcement safety. It was authorized by Public Law 106-492, the National Law Enforcement Museum Act, which was signed by President Clinton in 2000. Construction didn’t begin until April of 2016, but the museum is set to open officially in September of this year.
Surcharges for the National Law Enforcement Museum commemorative coin program follow a familiar pattern: $35 for the gold coin, $10 for the silver, and $5 for the clad half. All surcharges will go to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is in charge of building the museum.
Designs will be solicited from artists working with the Mint and reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and the Officers Memorial Fund.
Thematically, the proposed commemorative coin programs listed above do not deviate from contemporary norms. If anything, Congress as a whole is “playing it safe” with the subjects it has chosen to honor. Military themes have become more and more predominant in recent years, with the American Legion coin series already in pre-production and four programs sitting in committee right now (five if you count the John F. Kennedy commemorative, since the president is also commander-in-chief and the bill mentions his service in WWII). One might also tie the National Law Enforcement Museum commemorative into a broader, national security version of this theme.
Two of the programs from the 115th Congress concern sports. Again, not a rare theme among modern commemoratives.
And, in a nod to the early years of the classic period of American commemoratives (or at least its intent), two programs celebrate historical anniversaries of national significance: the Plymouth 400th and JFK commems.
The only program that appears to do anything “new” is the Christa McAuliffe commemorative, which honors a notable American woman not associated with politics and celebrates science, education and teaching. But even here, Congress has been proposing some version of this program for many years.
Could we do better? Probably not right now. Congress doesn’t owe coin collectors anything, and perhaps Washington has better things to do with its time after all.
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