Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin might be wishing she had a coin collector on her staff right about now.
She put her foot in her mouth on a matter relating to coin designs that any reader of Numismatic News could have helped her avoid.
In a Nov. 6 speech delivered in Wisconsin she alleged there was some sort of conspiracy that resulted in moving “In God We Trust” to the edge of coins.
Mainstream news being what it is, it is hard for me to tell whether she thought this conspiracy applied to all coins or only to the Presidential dollars where for two years “In God We Trust” was indeed moved to the edge of the issues of 2007 and 2008.
This is the umpteenth permutation of an Internet legend that began just after the George Washington Presidential dollars were released in early 2007.
I received many e-mails proclaiming that “In God We Trust” had been removed from the coin and that they should be boycotted as a consequence.
The e-mails conveniently showed obverse and reverse images, but not, as some collectors would say, “the third side of the coin” otherwise known as the edge.
When collectors pointed out the error, that made no difference. It then was alleged God was being demoted.
The ensuing hullabaloo resulted in congressional action undoing a portion of the law that authorized the Presidential dollars in the first place. Congress mandated that “In God We Trust” be put on the obverse. The Mint complied as soon as it could and all Presidential dollars minted in 2009 have “In God We Trust” on the obverse.
Now a compelling urban legend and its Internet descendants are too good to be overcome with mere facts, so they continues to live on.
The idea expressed by Palin that the Presidential dollar edge issue was the outcome of a conspiracy makes such a good story line.
The actual conspiracy was hatched by collectors (and you know how we all like to work together) making rather routine suggestions at Mint listening sessions that were convened at major coin conventions by Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore.
At those meetings collectors in their innocence (or diabolical cleverness) spoke fondly of coins that had edge lettering in the past and wouldn’t it be nice to bring this tradition back.
The idea took wing. It found its way into the legislation calling for the Presidential dollar and it happened.
Who could have known that a Mint director who took an interest in what coin collectors had to say and provided us with a forum to propagate ideas would be acting to unravel America’s social fabric and thereby undermining the republic?
There is only one lesson that can be clearly drawn from the evidence. Any public official who receives any kind of communication from a coin collector should immediately hit delete, hang up or burn the offending missive. With the republic under threat, strong action is called for.