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Let's look to the future

Seeing what’s new with the mints of the world made me start thinking on the plane back to the United States yesterday.

What would I change at the U.S. Mint if a genie granted me the power to do anything I wanted there?

Would I make this venerable American institution more like those now active in the rest of the world?

I am of two minds.

On the one hand, I have the sense that the U.S. Mint is out of step with what is going on in the rest of the world, but on the other hand that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Do American collectors really want to see 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 new U.S. silver coins issued each year with colorized designs?

I remember one Mint meeting with 90 new issues and most seemed to be made of precious metals.

Colorized coins have become incredibly popular around the world. Of course, they do not have to be silver, but that seems to be the most popular composition.

Even color has become something basic, augmented on other issues with embedded gemstones and colored glass and other things.

The U.S. Mint’s product line is heavily tilted toward base metal issues, though because of their low cost, the sales dollars are racked up in a bigger way with the old-fashioned silver collector coins and the bullion coin issues.

I do like the European approach to the circulating commemorative bimetallic base metal 2-euro denomination. These coins actually circulate widely.

The closest thing we have are the America the Beautiful quarters. If the Presidential dollars actually were used by the public, these, too, would be similar to the 2-euro coins.

So rather than grab complete control of the Mint and make it in my image, I think the Mint should create a new vision for itself.

It could be called U.S. Mint 2020 and it could be a multi-year process that sets goals for the future.

The American hobby has changed a great deal in the 50 years that I have been a personal witness to, and it will change even more in the next 50.

A new Mint vision statement would inform collectors of what might be coming and input should be sought from them.

I can still write that in the year I bought my first proof set, late 1968 for the 1969 issue, that it seemed that nearly every active American collector bought one.

That sense of nearly everyone doing something has diminished over the years and I expect it will continue to weaken as we all take up residence in our tailor-made market niches.

A Mint vision process that both informs collectors and learns from collectors would reduce the chance of unfortunate surprises and serve as a ready answer as to why numismatics of the year 2020 will not be like it was in 1968 no matter how strong the pull nostalgia might have on my mind.

Another thing I would like to see is the Mint should sell ownership shares in itself. That’s probably a crazy idea. But I do have reasons.

It can be done in a way where the government does not lose control. Voting rights could be entirely vested in the government’s shares.

But having a group of shareholders to serve would help the Mint function as a real self-governing institution. This would aid management and it would provide management with important feedback. Shareholders would be the first to speak out in favor of successful innovations and the first to criticize failures.

Those are my jet-lagged thoughts.

What are yours?

One last note: I understand my Monday and Tuesday blogs did not appear as they should have. I wrote them. My apologizes. I will attempt to recover them and put them up.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."