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Who gets to decide on coin designs?

Coin collectors have groused that Congress has taken commemorative coin programs to ridiculous extremes. The worst of it was during the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996.

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Since then, programs have been limited to two a year, and there is a standard template of a gold $5, silver dollar and clad half dollar to follow.

Legislation to authorize coins to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing on Plymouth Rock might create a ridiculous extreme of another sort.

It spells out a list of entities that must be consulted by the Treasury Secretary for designs. It is the longest such list I have ever seen. You might just as well ask all the people of Massachusetts to vote on design proposals.

See what you think. The following is the list to be consulted as spelled out in the legislation:

(1) selected by the Secretary after consulting with—

(A) Plymouth 400, Inc.;
(B) the General Society of Mayflower Descendants;
(C) the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe;
(D) the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah);
(E) the Pilgrim Society;
(F) Plimoth Plantation, Inc.;
(G) the Pilgrim Monument and Pro­vince­town Museum;
(H) Provincetown 400;
(I) the Plymouth Antiquarian Society;
(J) the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and
(K) the Massachusetts Historical Society; and

(2) reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Got that?

That’s 11 by my count, with the whole shebang then reviewed by the CCAC.

I know they have conference tables at the Treasury. I have sat at a few. They need them.

For the gold $5, silver dollar and clad half dollar, that makes six sides to be designed.

There are multiple designs submitted for each.

Imagine how you would work out the many points of view. You could have two-, three-, four-sided disagreements or more.

I suppose consultation can be defined as a letter from the Treasury Secretary asking for input from all of the parties.

It still seems rather cumbersome. It gives a whole new meaning to the old numismatic hobby term “proliferation.” That used to apply to number of coins. Now it applies to number of interested parties to a piece of commemorative legislation. Progress?

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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