The first U.S commemorative coin program was shut down in 1954 and the door to further issuance was nailed shut for 28 years because of abuses in the authorization and sales processes in the 1920s and 1930s.
Are we at such a point today when shutting the program down becomes the only logical remedy?
Reading the Page 1 story by David Ganz certainly makes me think so.
It is hard for me to write those words in one sense because back in 1982 when the modern commemorative program began, I was one of those commemorative coin starved collectors who had no memory of either those coins or the abuses that caused their termination.
Perhaps Sen. Jim DeMint’s legislation will pass Congress and all surcharge income will be directed to the government instead of indirectly to firms staffed by other senators girlfriends.
That is a laudable goal. But is it enough?
I am inclined to think it is not enough.
I have written before that there are too many different coins issued each year. This problem is not solely caused any longer by commemoratives as Congress has admirably followed a two-program annual limit for almost 20 years now.
However, the proliferation of other collector coins sales means that remedying strained collector budgets and the need for reforming commemorative coinage might just converge on the conclusion that it would be better to eliminate commemoratives completely.
That’s where I find myself today.
I can’t speak for future generations of potentially commemorative starved collectors who will hanker to see their return if we do in fact abolish them, but that’s just the point. Future collectors in the generation to follow us will be able to make their own judgments just as we did back in 1982.
The hobby market will be able to work its own healing on the current oversupply of many of the commemoratives that were struck since 1982. I imagine the melting pot will capture many of them if gold and silver continue current trends and that could improve the desirability of the survivors.
This would have one added benefit. Collectors tend to blame the Mint for every coin they do not like, whether the Mint had any choice in the matter of their creation or not. Getting rid of commemoratives will present the Mint with an opportunity to step forward and cease being seen as helpless or hapless in its area of responsibility.
But will this commemorative reform legislation pass, or a proposal to abolish commemoratives completely? That is the question.
It took the Congresses of the 1930s a lot of years to face the issue and even then coins trickled out now and again 1946-1954.
Whatever happens will likely be just as messy, but the facts seem clear today: get rid of commemoratives and get rid of their growing list of associated problems.