Meeting in Philadelphia to discuss the hobby’s future

Coin World managing editor William T. Gibbs was a participant in the Oct. 13 stakeholders’ forum sponsored by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The event brought together leaders from across the coin collecting hobby to discuss the state of the hobby today and its future, and to hear reports from teams studying various aspects of Mint programs. Here is a brief insight into the forum.

Full video transcript:

Good morning. This is William T. Gibbs with Coin World's Monday Morning Brief. 

A couple of weeks ago, on October 13, I was in Philadelphia for the United States Mint's stakeholders' forum held in the Federal Reserve bank in that city. The Mint invited some 60 individuals from the collector community — dealers, collectors, members of the press, officials of the major organizations — to meet for a day to talk about the current status of the coin-collecting community, marketplace, and what things we can all do together to maybe improve things going forward. 

The Mint began by outlining some of its historical archives, talking about its history of building a collection — you have the famous Mint cabinet — and then the Smithsonian Institution also had a discussion of and introduced people to the National Numismatic Collection and what is involved in that. 

After those two historical explanations, we did have a panel of five leaders from the numismatic community discussing the state of the hobby right now and their observations on how things are going. 

After a break then, we split up into a number of subgroups with each team assigned a specific category to look at. For example, Mint packaging. Another team looked at household limits and mintage limits and what the Mint should be doing there. 

I participated in a team that addressed the use of historical designs for modern U.S. coins. Now, most of the team members that I worked with agreed that a lot of collectors like using historical designs. For example, the 2016 Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty quarter dollar, the Walking Liberty half dollar. There's been a lot of excitement in the hobby with those coins, but we all identified that there's one big problem with that approach: those coins are all made in gold, and it's very pricey and out of the means of many smaller collectors

Now that's not the Mint's fault. U.S. law limits the kind of authority the Mint has on the coins it can issue. It has a great deal of leeway issuing gold coins. That's why you had a Kennedy half dollar a couple of years ago in gold and the three Centennial coins this year, originally issued in silver, struck in gold. In order for the Mint to strike those in their original metals, some changes would have to be made to the law. 

Historic U.S. coin designsMint forum participants look to the future and call for circulating historic designs: The coin collecting  hobby and the United States Mint are in­extricably intertwined, each deeply de­pendent on the other, and while each would survive without the other, both benefit from this symbiotic relationship

In discussing this concept of historical designs we all agreed that we would like to see the Mint not only do that, but to issue these in small numbers into circulation in a random way to encourage young collectors to go out and start looking for, say, a 2018 "Buffalo nickel." The Mint could even issue an app that you could use on your phone that says, "Hey have you seen this coin? Have you found this?" Kind of like the Pokemon craze of recent months.

Not everyone in the group I participated in is in favor of re-using historical designs. Some would like to see modern artists, even street artists like Banksy, be invited to design U.S. coins. There's a lot of support for that idea, as well, including, from what we understand, at the Mint. Again, we all feel that in order for these kinds of coins to make an impression, to make a difference, to bring new collectors in, they have to be issued in circulation.

For this to happen, the hobby's going to have to get together — collectors, the media, dealers, organizations — and lobby Congress for changes in the areas of law that currently prevent the Mint from doing things of this nature. 

Will this happen? We don't know. But I think there's a lot to be said for the idea of not only re-issuing historic designs, but designs by modern-day equivalents of Saint-Gaudens and Victor D. Brenner. I think that could be really exciting for the hobby and bring a lot of attention to the hobby, particularly from young collectors. 

What do you think? Would you like to see this happen? Let me know. For Coin World, this is William T. Gibbs. Thank you.

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