Mark O. Hatfield, the former senator from Oregon who once held membership in the American Numismatic Association, and was a devoted collector of medals, died Aug. 8 at age 89. He served as a U.S. senator from 1969 to 1989.
Joining the ANA as member 59160 in 1967 while governor of Oregon, Hatfield was in Washington during the 1973 battle over including silver and gold in America’s Bicentennial coinage in 1976.
Hatfield proposed a gold commemorative coin as an addition to the Administration’s Bicentennial package of an essentially non-circulating legal tender half dollar and dollar coin.
At the time, private gold ownership was still illegal. In direct response to this proposal, the Nixon White House, the Treasury Department, and Sen. John Tower, R-Texas, all said that Nixon would veto the legislation rather than allow a gold coin to be struck.
The fear that was expressed was that international markets would interpret this as demonetizing gold and the world as we knew it would end.
Every argument that Treasury used to first ban gold ownership in 1933-1934 was used and some new ones that seemed equally potent at the time. Certainly, it was sufficient to halt further action on gold Bicentennial coinage, even if it did pass the Senate on a 4 to 3 voice vote, initially. (Yes, the vote was four to three).
Ironic that Hatfield died as gold topped $1,700 an ounce for the first time. When he fought the battle, the metal was officially priced at $42.22 an ounce when the official price still meant something.