Only the United States Congress has the constitutional authority to
order the U.S. Mint to create and strike a new U.S. coin, whether it
is circulating or commemorative.
Thus advocates for new commemorative coins as well as for new
designs on the nation’s circulating coinage plunged into the political
arena during the 1980s with the belief they could prevail through the
power of persuasion.
At that time, the most potent platform of persuasion was a public
hearing before the committees of jurisdiction. For matters pertaining
to coinage, they were the Senate Banking Committee and House Banking subcommittee.
Connect with Coin World:
Early in my career as a newspaper reporter my “beat” was education
legislation before the Virginia General Assembly. Occasionally there
would be controversial federal legislation pertaining to education and
I would go to Washington, D.C., to report on leaders within our
publication’s circulation area as they testified before Congress.
When I joined Coin World in 1981 I felt at home writing about
legislative proposals dealing with coinage issues. After becoming Coin
World editor in 1985, however, I found myself in a different role — as
advocate for the collector community and being called as an expert
witness to testify at five congressional hearings.
My first invitation to testify was for the Senate Banking
Committee’s April 22, 1988, hearing on S. 1776, which sought new
designs on all of the circulating coins. A senior staffer in Sen. Alan
Cranston’s office called to issue the invitation. (Sen. Cranston was
co-sponsor of the bill.) It was literally one week before the hearing!
He noted that I should have 100 copies of my testimony delivered to
Sen. Cranston’s office at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing.
After scrambling to rearrange my schedule and to make travel plans,
I prepared 20 pages of typewritten testimony and sent the copies off
Tuesday morning via Greyhound bus — at that time the best way to get
overnight delivery from Sidney, Ohio, to the nation’s capital.
In preparation for the hearing, I practiced reading my testimony and
I felt confident as I waited to testify. So many questions were asked
of the first panel of four to testify that when the second panel was
seated we were asked to summarize our comments and allowed only five
minutes to speak. (We were assured that the senators had read our full
testimony.) Luckily, I had with me a yellow highlighter and was able
to quickly mark key points to articulate.
For the next four congressional hearings, I went prepared. I always
had a five-minute summary, just in case!