Military themes dominating commemorative coin program

Published : 05/11/11
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It’s beginning to feel as if the U.S. military and its retirees have devised a strategic plan to capture the U.S. commemorative coin program in order to tap surcharge money to help pay for their memorials and museums.

The latest assault comes in the form of newly proposed legislation seeking commemorative gold coins to be produced in 2015 to honor the centennial of Marine Corps Aviation with designs emblematic of the Marine Corps.

The actual Marine aviation unit centennial is 2012, but since there are already two commemorative coin programs approved for 2012, backers are going for 2015, the next available slot, revealing the true objective of the mission — more surcharge money to help pay for the construction of the Marine Corps Heritage Center in Quantico, Va. If this new proposal passes, it would authorize the second commemorative coin in recent memory to honor the Marine Corps. A 2005 commemorative silver dollar celebrated the 230th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps.

While it is fitting to honor the various branches of our armed forces, we question what seems to be a growing attitude that the U.S. commemorative coin program should become an “easy money” target and be viewed as an entitlement program for the military.

Already we know that during the next three years most of the coins to be issued will have military designs.

Both commemorative programs for 2011 are military issues. Proof and Uncirculated versions of gold $5 half eagles and silver dollars will be produced for the Medal of Honor program and Proof and Uncirculated gold $5 coins, silver dollars and copper-nickel half dollars will be struck to honor the U.S. Army. All 10 commemorative coins dated 2011 are military issues.

In 2012 Proof and Uncirculated silver dollars will be produced to raise funds to help build a National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

A Five Star Generals program is scheduled in a massive six-coin commemorative issue in 2013.

Statistically, U.S. military-themed coins account for 18 of 26 or 69.2 percent of the coins that have been authorized by Congress from 2011 through 2014.

The resumption of U.S. commemoratives began in 1982 with a silver half dollar honoring the 250 birth anniversary of George Washington. Through 2010 we have witnessed the issuance of 174 modern commemorative coins, with 56.3 percent (98 coins) honoring historical persons, places and events. The second largest category, sports (which in the 1990s seemed as if would denominate coin themes) is in the book with 54 coins or 31 percent. Military-themed modern commemorative coins through 2010 account for 12.6 percent or 22 coins.

As the Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee considers themes for future programs to recommend to Congress and as Congress considers authorizing programs, there needs to be a more balanced approach.

Currently, the name of the game is obtaining the magic 290 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 67 co-sponsors in the Senate. Once a majority in both chambers signs on as sponsors, the authorizing legislation sails through Congress without public hearings and without debate.

Obviously, military lobbyists have identified a game plan that is working, which is tipping the scales toward military-themed commemorative coins.

The numismatic community should not have to rise to the threat of boycott as it did during the commemorative coins proliferation onslaught of 1990s. Armed with the facts, we should be able to bring reason and balance to this situation.

Voice your concerns to members of the CCAC and also with members of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology. It’s time to call attention to the problem. ■

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