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Park themes get nod for new coin series

Just as the 50-state coin program ends, and the year-long six-coin territorial quarter program begins, Congress has approved a series of National Park quarters to begin in 2010.

Introduced June 4, and first passed by the House on July 9, the enabling clause says the purpose is “to provide for a program for circulating quarter dollar coins that are emblematic of a national park or other national site in each State, the District of Columbia, and each territory of the United States, and for other purposes,” The “other purposes” are doozies.

That includes a three-inch diameter, five-ounce silver bullion duplicate coin for each quarter. A 90 percent silver version of the regular quarters would also be produced for collectors.

Struck at the rate of five per year, the designs chosen shall be from “The selection of a national park or other national site in each State to be honored.”  Choice of the actual design shall rest with “the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and the governor or other chief executive of each State with respect to which a coin is to be issued.”
The mayor of Washington, D.C., the chief executive of the five insular trust territories, and the governors of the 50 states would be consultants. A total of 56 coins at a minimum would be part of the program, and a little over 11 years (at a statutory rate of five per year would be produced).

These coins will be issued in the order the national park or historical site was designated. Sites are not limited to national parks; they may also feature a wildlife refuge or historical place. National parks alone are not employed because there are no such facilities in Delaware or in Puerto Rico.

General guidance is offered as to what the bill refers to: “the term ‘national site’ means any site under the supervision, management, or conservancy of the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or any similar department or agency of the Federal Government.”

It also includes “any national park, national monument, national battlefield, national military park, national historical park, national historic site, national lakeshore, seashore, recreation area, parkway, scenic river, or trail and any site in the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

Under the plan, after the first set of 56 coins is produced, the Treasury Secretary can authorize round two for a second dip at the America’s open space.

An amazing second title will allow the Mint to challenge makers of silver bullion medallions that, in the past, have mimicked U.S. coin designs. These would be struck as an addition to the section of title 31, the U.S. Code section governing money that specifies denominations, specifications and design of coins.

Here are the technical specs called for: in the “Silver Bullion Investment Product:”

• The design shall be an exact duplicates of the quarter dollars;
• diameter of 3.0 inches;
• weight 5.0 ounces;
• contain .999 fine silver;
• incused into the edge the fineness and weight of the bullion coin;
• bear an inscription of the denomination [“which shall be ‘quarter dollar’”]; and,
• not be minted or issued by the United States Mint as so-called fractional bullion coins.

By giving it a definition in section 5112 of title 31 of the U.S. Code, and defining it as a coin that the Treasury chief may issue, that makes it a United States coin under section 5103 – the legal tender provision of the law.

The practical effect would also be to tamper with products of other coins which are “supersized” and presently do not violate counterfeiting laws, but just might under a system with silver national park five ouncers in the mix. Here’s how and why.

In recent times, a number of private manufacturers have produced large (over-size) medallion-like pieces which are replicas of contemporary coin design. They are not intended as counterfeits, or even eye-fooling replicas, because of their size (generally over three inches in diameter – a size at which the Secret Service has traditionally said is not viewable as a counterfeit).

That’s because they are twice the size of a silver dollar (an inch and a half in diameter – and until these proposed coins would move twice the size to a huge six inches.

On Dec. 10, the bill was discharged from committee, put on the unanimous consent calendar, passed and cleared for the White House.

The legislation, which now goes to President Bush for signature, requires the Treasury Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, the chief executive of each state or territory, and other appropriate federal officials, to choose the complete list within 270 days of enactment.

At the end of the program – after either the first 56 or a second 56 coins – the then-quarter reverse design would become a depiction of General Washington crossing the Delaware River prior to the Battle of Trenton.

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