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Mint nomination came as surprise


Last week’s news that President Barack Obama had nominated Bibiana Boerio to be director of the U.S. Mint arrived just a few minutes before Page 1 was sent to the printer. In fact, Page 1 had been awaiting final check to go, but I was able to call it back to get this important information out to readers as quickly as possible.

We posted the story online as quickly as it was written by Debbie Bradley.

To say I was surprised by the news is an understatement.

It is not usual for an office whose holder serves at the pleasure of the President to be filled just before an election – or should I write attempted to be filled. After sitting vacant for nearly two years, the argument cannot be made that the Mint’s operation depends on someone getting this particular title.

There is no guarantee that the Senate will confirm the nomination before it recesses for the election campaign.

Perhaps that’s the point. Is this a recess appointment in the making? If it turns out that way, it could limit Boerio’s length of service to just weeks or months.

That’s not a way that most of us would choose to begin a new job.

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I am reminded of when President Lyndon Johnson appointed Joseph W. Barr as Treasury secretary. This occurred Dec. 23, 1968. Barr was out Jan. 20, 1969, as a new administration took over.

Now Johnson and Barr knew that going in. That cannot be said of the Mint director nominee. The Senate could act – even private assurances of action could have been signaled to the White House before the nomination was sent up to Capitol Hill. There is no way for me to know.

But then there is the election. Polls are fluctuating. Will Obama be in or out come Nov. 6? Boerio cannot know the answer, so if nothing else, a willingness to be left hanging this way is a point in her favor as either gritty determination to stick it through, or a willingness to be a political punching bag.

Boerio’s resume at Ford, which includes a stint as managing director for Jaguar, certainly looks promising for a Mint organization that is manufacturer, political institution and purveyor of collector coins, which some would consider to be a luxury good like a Jaguar.

If Boerio’s nomination turns out to be as far as it goes, it is too bad there will not be a numismatic memento of this part of our history. Barr became famous less as someone who held the Treasury secretary’s office and more for the facsimile signature he left behind on Series 1963B $1 Federal Reserve Notes from six Federal Reserve District. Collectors were wild to get them and for many years their collector value suffered for it, but in recent years enough new collectors are chasing them that the value of Barr notes is beginning to live up to the hopes that so many collectors had of them back in the first half of 1969.

Should she become Mint director, I wish Boerio good luck and, most importantly, success – because the fate of all collectors in part is in the hands of the Mint director.

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