Monday Morning Brief for July 10, 2023: 50 years ago
- Published: Jul 10, 2023, 7 AM
Fifty years ago, page 1 of the July 25, 1973, issue of Coin World reported both some welcome news for dealers and collectors and a warning from the director of the Mint that the news may have unwelcome consequences for another popular collector initiative moving through Congress.
The welcome news was that the U.S. Senate had “overwhelmingly approved legislation which would authorize U.S. citizens to own gold.” The warning from Mint Director Mary Brooks stated that because the “controversial” measure was an amendment to legislation authorizing Bicentennial coinage, it threatened the future of the design changes to circulating coinage marking the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The legislation, including the amendment, passed the Senate on July 12, 1973. If the measure was approved, it would grant the Bureau of the Mint authority to both issue Bicentennial coinage and to begin using the West Point Silver Bullion Depository as an auxiliary Mint production facility, both measures that Mint officials supported.
However, support was by no means universal for eliminating the restrictions imposed on gold ownership during the first administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indeed, earlier Senate passage of a similar amendment to permit unfettered gold ownership added to other legislation became locked in Senate-House conference committee because of the controversy.
Gold prices were on the rise at the time. The government’s official price of gold had been raised to $42.22 on Feb. 12 but that sum was well below market price; as of Feb. 23, the price rose to $95 an ounce on the London market, broke through the $100 barrier for the first time on May 14, and hit $119 on June 1.
As hard as it may be to understand today, in 1973, many in government and the economic arena did not support gold ownership beyond what was already permitted. Ownership was permitted of gold coins issued before the imposition of restrictions in 1933 and of gold jewelry. Ownership of most gold coins issued after 1933 and of gold bullion such as ingots was prohibited.
The 1973 amendment failed. But victory for gold bugs was on the horizon, and less than a year and a half later, all restrictions were lifted.
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