I have in the past thought about this and I had to think about this again for a while before I decided, but with certain reservations, that the U.S. Mint should not be privatized.
Being in the minting industry for over 20 years and witnessing the privatization of other national mints, I have seen many good things come from privatization, but this would not work with the U.S. Mint unless many changes were made.
From a manufacturing viewpoint any changes practically take an act of Congress to take effect and would kill any production and product line benefits. This would make it nearly impossible for a profit entity to efficiently operate. Some of the other national mints that have been privatized (even though some are entirely owned by the government or central bank) have control over coin specifications and product line design without needing a legislative body to authorize it.
Without this autonomy and many other restrictions that are placed on government entities (like material and equipment procurement procedures, which in my opinion are so bogged down in red tape like a lot of government entities), a “privately” operated mint would have serious flexibility issues.
Believe me, I stand in awe of the mass quantity that the U.S. Mint pushes through, while maintaining a relatively good consistent quality. But if they were to be cut loose from many of the regulations that are imposed on them because they are a government entity that a private company does not have they could probably operate at a more efficient level and be able to adapt to market changes faster.
They could have changed to less expensive coin materials without waiting for congressional debate and the lobbyists that can sway the decisions, they may of been able to avoid precious metal shortages, and the list goes on.
Some attempts at being more creative like the state quarter and artistic infusion programs are great. But I have spoken with some of the artists who complained about the restrictions placed on them due to regulations.
Operating my own minting company, we have to adapt quickly to market fluctuations or we get buried. If the Mint had to think like a private company and was profit driven I do not think it would be a bad thing.
Somebody who has a production background should be in charge and not a political appointee. The director should have to answer directly to the government and be fully accountable for profits and losses but also have the freedom to implement the changes to avoid losses and maximize profitability.
If the U.S. Mint were given this type of autonomy then I would consider a “yes” vote for privatization, depending on who had controlling interest, if they would have to answer to OSHA for safety violations like the rest of us, and other economic factors. I believe it would make them more creative, efficient, agile and in the end more profitable.
Sean Moffatt is president of Moffatt & Co. - Extreme Custom Minting, Eureka Springs, Ark. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.