1981 taxing time

Legislation catalyst for ICTA
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Published : 08/16/13
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The American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention is the show of the year for many coin collectors and dealers alike. Some call it the granddaddy of all coin shows because most of the specialized collector clubs and organizations hold their annual meetings in conjunction with the weeklong ANA extravaganza of special exhibits, educational forums and blockbuster numismatic auctions.

The atmosphere is electrifying as you step onto the gigantic bourse floor amid the loud “buzz” of people talking and transacting business.

So it was during the summer of 1981. The ANA show opened on a seasonably hot July 28 in grand style at New Orleans’s Rivergate Convention Center. Precious metals had backed off of their meteoric highs of early 1980, but enough investors remained in the coin market to spread optimism and smiles down every aisle of the bourse. A “hot” market seemed solidly intact.

It was my first summer ANA convention. Editor Margo Russell had assigned Coin World’s editorial team to cover what in her seasoned judgment would be the top news events of the week.

Friday, July 31: Margo and I were to meet at noon to take in the spouses’ luncheon — work, but also an opportunity to sample New Orleans cuisine. Approaching Margo at our appointed time, I sensed something “big” was happening. As we made our way to the luncheon, she related she had just been briefed that Congress was about to enact legislation that could prove to be devastating to the coin market. She had decided that the two of us would go on to the luncheon, but she would “eat and run.” I was to stay to take pictures of a special presentation. She would cover the developing story.

Back at the convention center, ANA leaders and a who’s who of leading coins dealers were huddled, devising a plan of action.

Just after 11 that morning, Donald Kagin and Ken Bressett had received a phone call from a friend in a brokerage firm asking what they knew about two sentences that had been inserted in the 600-page-plus tax cut bill moving on the floor of the House of Representatives. The language would have the effect of eliminating the use of tangible assets (collectible coins, stamps, works of art, rugs, antiques, precious metals) as tax-sheltered considerations in self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts and Keogh accounts for the self-employed. Favorable tax treatment had been a prime factor in the growing coin market in recent years.

Throughout the afternoon and into Saturday, telephones wires were sizzling with calls from New Orleans to Washington as hobby leaders talked with members of Congress and their staffs. But, despite their herculean efforts, the infamous “Section 314B” would remain in the Economic Recovery Act of 1981, which President Reagan signed into law Aug. 13.

Coin dealers and hobby leaders vowed they would never again be caught unaware. Within two years, they formed a national trade association based in our nation’s capital, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets. Prevention of laws and regulations harmful or burdensome to the coin and precious metals markets is ICTA’s focus.

Thirty-two years later, the language of “Section 314B” remains in the federal tax code.

beth deisher was editor of Coin World for 27 of the 31 years she was on the publication’s staff. She may be contacted at bdeisher@bex.net.

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