Today I am writing about the proposed series of National Park Quarters series proposed by Congressman Mike Castle, R-Del.
Before I begin, let me preface my remarks to say that I have grown to love coin collecting over the 16 years I have been doing it. Anytime I see one of my British and Commonwealth pieces, my Soviet rubles, a nickel or any other coin, I?m filled with awe for the coin itself, respect for the history it represents and a sense of pleasure in the pursuit of the find.
However, Castle?s bill for quarters to honor the National Parks does not fill me with awe, respect or pleasure. Instead it leaves me with objections, which I will now address.
My first objection concerns the need for this bill at all. Around the time the first statehood quarters were released, my collection had slowed down to just foreign coinage. The release of the statehood quarters brought me back to coin collecting. I?m pretty sure this same thing has happened to other folks, not to mention the newcomers to coin collecting over the last decade. With all this success, can?t we let the statehood quarters and the concept pass into history? Instead of reinventing the wheel, let?s return to the traditional eagle in use since 1932 (notwithstanding the short break for the Bicentennial in 1975-76) and rethink the quarter?s design for a new century.
My second objection concerns seigniorage. According to articles I have read, the current quarters have made $3.8 billion in seigniorage. In the June 10 press release put out by Castle and his cosponsors, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., they all referred to the increased seigniorage this bill would create. For a new collector starting out, there are a variety of choices such as cents, nickels, dimes, half dollars, dollar coins and the current quarters. If a new collector were to start collecting these from circulation, would this earn the government the same amount of seigniorage without this bill?
My third and last objection concerns the pace of the proposed program itself. A June 19 article by David L. Ganz for Numismatic News states that the proposed program will see 56 quarters for the states, Washington, D.C, and the territories. With the current quarters, there will end up being 50 coins if one collects one quarter per state, 100 if you collect for the Philadelphia and Denver mintmarks, and 150 to 200 coins if one decided to add the clad and silver proof coins (they have all made at the San Francisco mint). To add to the amount of coins, if one were to add the 2009 issues for Washington, D.C., and the territories, you would have 224 coins in total (counting all mintmarks and alloys) by the end of next year!
If this bill were passed, this number would be repeated. While some people might find this appealing, I for one do not. The article by Ganz also states that this bill would authorize the Treasury secretary to commence a second round featuring more National Parks. In my mind, this could double the number of coins in a collection.
My second point to this objection is that this bill will create another new program for collectors and lead to collector burnout. Since the start of the statehood quarters, there have been, by my count, five different circulating coinage programs. These have included the 2004-06 Westward Journey nickels, the current Presidential dollar coins, and the impending 2009 start for the Native American dollar coins, the Lincoln cent redesign and the Washington, D.C., and territories quarters. I fear this could lead to new collectors and longtime collectors quitting due to the abundance of coins.
For an example of this, let me share a story. A month or so ago, I was in a bookstore shopping around. I saw supplements on sale for stamp albums, due to constant stamp issues. I, for one, feel this could happen if new programs like the bill proposes were to start.
In closing, I believe this bill has good intentions. However, the objections I have laid out to the purpose, seigniorage rates and the over-abundance of coins and programs has led me to oppose the idea this bill puts forward.
This is sad for me in a way since I?ve been to our National Parks such as the Great Smokey Mountains, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the California redwoods, and the various attractions in Washington, D.C., and have found them all beautiful, informative and even fun. In spite of this, I don?t believe this program is the way to go.
Let?s have design stability in our coinage and let our National Parks speak for themselves.
Joshua Holman is a hobbyist from Havelock, N.C.
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