Commemorative coins honoring former President Ronald W. Reagan are being proposed in Congress.
A half eagle $5 gold piece and silver dollar would be introduced in 2013. The proposal calls for 50,000 gold $5 coins and 300,000 silver dollars.
A bill authorizing the coins has been introduced by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, who is joined by 30 co-sponsors.
The proposal calls for 50,000 gold $5 coins and 300,000 silver dollars.
Reagan, who died June 4, 2004, at age 93, remains the center of controversy as politicians for and against his commemoration on coins and paper money take partisan sides on a variety of proposals that have surfaced since his death, and on some that had been previously proposed.
Just two weeks after he died, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-MS, declared in a New York Times Sunday Magazine interview, “I am an advocate of having a gold dollar with Reagan’s picture on it and calling it the Ronnie. The Canadians have the Loonie, and we can have the Ronnie,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roll Call newspaper, a daily presence on Capitol Hill, reported on Republican party members efforts to put Reagan’s effigy on the dime, the half dollar, the $10 bill, $20 bill, “Mount Rushmore — and are we forgetting anything else?”
In 2001, Grover Norquist, chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project, who also claimed to be “spoiling for a fight” in an effort to carve Reagan’s face onto Mount Rushmore, had a more serious plan: keeping alive the late U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell’s bid to put the Gipper on the $10 bill.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Norquist as saying that “It would be a way to honor both the president and the currency.” It went on to editorialize that it “Might be nice for taxpayers to have on their money a man who appreciated how hard they worked for it.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th American president, headed an administration that probably did more to shape contemporary numismatics than any before or since. Nearly 50 key numismatic measures were inked into law with his signature; presidential executive orders were signed, and policies of generations gone by discarded to be replaced by those with dramatic difference.
Precious metals as they are today owe their existence to the Gold Commission established under the aegis of Reagan. It was more than a ploy to appease hard-money troglites or money managers; it was a philosophical difference that separated the Democratic Party from neo-conservatives.
Commemorative coinage’s modern golden age blossomed under Reagan when, for two generations, Treasury opposed their issuance. They were swept away in the Reagan years and the proceeds rebuilt the Statue of Liberty and funded the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles without extensive government bail-outs.
The cent lost its coppery core (and was replaced with a veneer) in the Reagan years. National Coin Week was given a presidential proclamation, affording recognition to an event sponsored by the American Numismatic Association since 1924 virtually without government involvement. Gold coins from the Soviet Union were banned from import, as were South African krugerrands.
The Reagan years also saw a plethora of national gold medals to augment the budding commemorative coin market. Great Americans such as entertainer Danny Thomas, former president Harry S. Truman, former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, and foreign dignitaries such as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands found their way onto America’s national medals.
The South African krugerrand was the world’s best selling gold bullion coin until anti-apartheid movements in the mid-1980s took some of the glitter off the coin. Some 40 million pieces had been produced and nearly half of them were imported into the United States.
Difficulties with the racial apartheid policies of South Africa caused political consternation, and the Krugerrand became an important symbol that opponents of apartheid sought to ban, in order to use an economic weapon against the South African government.
As Congress moved toward a legislative ban on the krugerrand, Reagan took the matter out of the hands of Congress by issuing an executive order that effectively banned future importation of the coin. He also authorized a ban on imports of Soviet gold coins.
Replacing the banned gold coins was simple. On Dec. 17, 1985, Reagan signed the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, which created gold eagle coins, and the silver bullion coin that has since sold millions of ounces of precious metal to the American people.
There were down sides to the Reagan market philosophy. The Tax Reform Act of 1981 banned coins from individual retirement accounts – and it has taken nearly an entire generation to get the discussion on the point back on the table.
If there is a major Reagan legacy in the numismatic field it is in the field of commemorative coinage, where his U.S. Treasurer, Angela M. (“Bay”) Buchanan and mint director, Donna Pope, crusaded to change 50 years or more of Treasury opposition to the concept.
Reagan’s legacy continues to be visible today in the coin designs that are now on the verge of change; his lesser government may have become a greater government, but the numismatic end products will endure the tests of time.