Recent coverage of House bill H.R. 1698 has focused on the absurd suggestion that the bill would increase the fineness of the silver in certain U.S. dimes, quarters, halves and commemorative dollars from 90 percent to 91 percent, quoting publicity from the bill’s backers that falsely states that the 91 percent alloy is the “more common coinage silver” in world coinage.
Theoretically this is a problem because the U.S. Mint must acquire its silver planchets from outside manufacturers, and, allegedly, nobody else uses the 90 percent alloy.
Nobody else uses 91 percent either. The bill actually allows for an increase in the silver content, without specifying a new fineness.
However, a close reading of the deceptively-written bill reveals that its real purpose is to mandate the U.S. Mint to manufacture and sell a 1-ounce palladium coin.
This purpose is well hidden. You have to take the existing law and plug in the deletions and additions written into the bill to see the actual changes.
As stated in the bill’s summary at www.congress.gov, the bill merely makes “technical revisions to the requirements for palladium bullion investment coins.”
The so-called revisions actually require that the palladium coins be struck, despite the fact that a congressionally mandated study reported in 2012 that “It is unlikely that there will be sufficient demand for a U.S. Mint palladium bullion coin and such a program would most likely not be possible to undertake profitably.”
The study may be read at http://www.usmint.gov/about_the_mint/PDFs/PO87001_PalladiumStudy.pdf
Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5112, currently says this about a palladium bullion coin:
(v) Palladium Bullion Investment Coins. -