By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …..
Donald Trump supporters can show their enthusiasm for the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful by purchasing Trump Dollar coins.
“Fed up with the political class?” ask the promoters. “Fed up with money that loses value?”
The pointed language matches the perturbed tone of the presidential candidate the coins honor; the copper, silver, and gold rounds invite coin collectors, metals investors, and Trump backers to express their disfavor of fiat money and political dogma by purchasing these bullion-based collector pieces, which are available in uncirculated and proof formats.
The Trump Dollar coins are issued by the Congressional Mint, a private minting firm located in Hudson, Wisconsin. They are among a multitude of Trump-emblazoned products hitting the market these days, including Donald Trump wine, Donald Trump steak and Donald Trump water. It seems Donald Trump approves of these capitalistic political messages; unveiling of the new Trump Dollar coins will be held at a First Day of Issue event at the Trump Tower in New York City on April 27.
While the coins are not legal tender (nor are they advertised as such), they hearken to the financial ideology of many Trump supporters who would prefer to see the U.S. monetary system return to the silver and gold standards, which the United States was on throughout much of the nation’s history.
Each coin contain one ounce of bullion metal.
The one-ounce copper $5 piece sells for $5 in uncirculated condition while the one-ounce Trump $25 silver coin is offered at $25. Proof examples of the copper and silver rounds are listed for $14.95 and $39.95, respectively, on the Congressional Mint’s website. Meanwhile, the $2,000 gold coin is available as a proof round in a three-piece proof set that also includes proof examples of the copper and silver rounds. The three-coin set sells for $2,450. Five percent of the net sales will be donated as proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides charitable assistance to wounded and hospitalized special operations military personnel.
The copper, silver, and gold coins share common obverses and reverses. The obverse is anchored by a bust of Trump looking just to the left of the viewer. TRUMP THE GOVERNMENT is inscribed along the top two-thirds of the obverse rim, followed by a trademark symbol. Below and to the right of “the Donald” are the words WORLD PEACE inscribed in two lines. In bold font, the phrase VOTE TRUMP is stamped directly below Trump’s bust. The date of the coin, borne in large font, is centered below and near the bottom obverse rim, just above small-print copyright mint symbols.
The reverse features a burning torch reminiscent of that held by the Statue of Liberty in New York City. The torch is surrounded with numerous phrases and slogans. These include FREE SPEECH FOR POLITICAL PURPOSE * NOT TO BE USED AS CURRENT MONEY, as found in small print along the top two-thirds of the rim. Below those words is the motto VOTE NON POLITICIAN. The respective face value of the coin is found to the bottom right of the torch; below the denomination, the TRUMPDOLLAR.US website address is listed. Toward the bottom left of the torch are the inscriptions LIBERTY DOLLAR and .888 LIB. DOLLAR. TRUMP DOLLAR is centered horizontally below the torch, and below that phrase, the one-ounce weight of the coin and its metal content is listed in small text. Copyright and mint insignias are featured in tiny print at the bottom center of the coin near the rim.
The Trump Dollars were designed by Bernard von NotHaus, who also designed the notorious, privately-minted Liberty Dollar several years ago. Heavily promoting his Liberty Dollars in magazines, online, and on television in the early 2000s, von NotHaus encouraged people to exchange their Federal Reserve notes for his private-issue bullion money. Von NotHaus drummed up interest in his gold and silver coins claiming the Federal Reserve was “unconstitutional and harmful.”
In 2009, the U.S. government charged von NotHaus with federal crimes and found him guilty in 2011 of “making, possessing, and selling his own currency.” In 2014, the 71-year-old von NotHaus was sentenced to three years probation.
A judge also ruled in 2014 that any Liberty dollars seized during von NotHaus’ legal melee must be returned to their original owners.
CoinWeek asked Robert Galiette, a noted numismatist and attorney, about the legal ramifications of the Trump dollar. Is the use of Trump’s likeness on coins without his expressed permission or involvement permissible, given his status as a public figure running for elected office? As is the case with virtually everything von NotHaus has done in the past few years, the answer to this legal question is rather complicated:
Regarding the Trump dollar and the Trump gold coin, it presents a number of interesting and relevant issues. When a person becomes a public figure there’s a lower expectation of and right to privacy, but not an absence of it. When a person is running for public office, there’s a long history of political satire, campaign buttons, and material produced privately for and against a candidate. You could do a large written segment on political buttons, for example, going back to the 1860 election campaign of Abraham Lincoln, and for many Presidents before him, with material of all types created by persons who supported or who opposed one respective candidate or another.
The question here, as with multiple intellectual property issues, would seem to involve the concept of what constitutes “fair use”. For example, are these coins a form of protected free speech associated with a person running for high public office during the time of a campaign, or does someone intend to produce great quantities of these coins, for objectives not really related to the campaign, and perhaps after the campaign has ended? Is the primary objective to make a political commentary, or to sell a lot of coins with little or only peripheral connection to a campaign for election to high office? If the use of someone’s image is intended to represent and warrant the quality or source of origin of a specific product, so as to function as a trademark, then the objective would seem to reach beyond protected speech associated with a political campaign.