In a rare display of bipartisanship that simultaneously rebuked the Bush administration, the U.S. Mint, and the Democratic House leadership, the House of Representatives voted June 29 to strip funding from the Mint if it could be used to edge-letter the new dollar coins.
Convoluted, arcane language was used to add a new Section, Section 907, to H.R. 2829, the appropriations bill that keeps the government going. The text, introduced by Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., picked up the chant from a bill introduced recently by Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., that would restore the ?In God We Trust? national motto to any of a coin?s sides except the edge, where it is presently located.
Specifically, the language says ?SEC. 907. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to implement Section 5112(n)(2)(C) of Title 31, United States Code.? That in turn is the keystone to edge dating and placing the national motto on the coin together with the Latin phrase ?E Pluribus Unum,? which means out of many [colonies], one [nation].
The particular section governs dollar coinage design and production, and says, ?(C) Edge-incused inscriptions.--(i) In general.--The inscription of the year of minting or issuance of the coin and the inscriptions ?E Pluribus Unum? and ?In God We Trust? shall be edge-incused into the coin. (ii) Preservation of distinctive edge.--The edge-incusing of the inscriptions under clause (i) on coins issued under this subsection shall be done in a manner that preserves the distinctive edge of the coin so that the denomination of the coin is readily discernible, including by individuals who are blind or visually impaired?
Since the new dollar coins with presidential portraits were first issued in February of this year, the Mint has been plagued by a series of embarrassing errors. First the edge was blank entirely, leaving no record of the date (2007), mintmark (P or D), Latin motto, or national motto. The same thing then happened to the John Adams coin as well as doubling errors and ?wrong way? incused manufacture.
Plain-edge Adams are a $500 item while the Washington plain edge is selling for around $130. Both prices are based on supply and demand in the free market. The doubled the lettering is selling for around $140.
Congress is accepting of Mint errors, not the removal of ?In God We Trust? from the coinage. Since 1955, the motto has been a requisite part of all coins and currency. The law was passed because of court challenges to use of the word ?God? in the first place not only on coinage but in something as simple as the ?Pledge of Allegiance.?
Action on the measure now shifts to the Senate. Under the Constitution, all appropriations legislation must initiate in the House, but the Senate can make changes. Here if they agree with the sentiment, they will have to clarify what they want done, otherwise come Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year, the Mint won?t be able to spend public funds to produce edge-lettering, and the coin program will have to shut down.