While presidential candidates garner most of the headlines every four
years, the elections that most affect the numismatic community are in
the House of Representatives and the Senate, most specifically the
party that controls each chamber and the committees of jurisdiction.
Republican presidents occupied the White House throughout the decade
of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, but Democrats controlled the
House and held sway over committees and subcommittees.
When I joined Coin World in 1981, Rep. Frank D. Annunzio,
D-Ill., was chairman of the House Banking Subcommittee on Coinage and
Consumer Affairs, which had oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. Mint
and all matters pertaining to coinage.
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Annunzio and his staff kept a close watch on the U.S. Mint and did
not hesitate to call Treasury officials before the subcommittee to get
answers. Early in the battle over control of marketing of the modern
commemorative coin program, Annunzio emerged as the champion of
collectors and consumer rights. He wielded so much power he was known
as the “Coin Czar.”
Coin World’s staff kept in close contact with Annunzio’s office
as we tracked and reported the various bills having to do with coinage
matters. Thus, when I became editor in early 1985, one of the first
trips I scheduled was to Washington, D.C., to meet personally with
Chairman Annunzio and to do an interview.
At the time, I gave little thought to the fact that interviewing the
House Banking subcommittee chairman would become a tradition.
When Annunzio left the subcommittee to take the chairmanship of a
major committee in 1989 at the beginning of the 101st Congress, Rep.
Richard H. Lehman, D-Calif., became chairman of the coinage
subcommittee. Shortly after the new Congress began work, I was off to
the nation’s capital to interview Lehman.
In contrast to Annunzio, who had been fully engaged with coinage
matters, Lehman seemed uncomfortable and disinterested with the
coinage part of the job. At first opportunity — the next Congress (two
years later) — he moved on to another committee assignment.
The Democrats still held a majority in the House when the 102nd
Congress convened in January 1991 and another Californian, Rep.
Esteban E. Torres, ascended to the subcommittee chairmanship.
Torres and his staff were gracious with their time during my first
interview with him in May of 1991. In fact, they had almost as many
questions for me as I did for him during our three-hour meeting. It
was obvious Chairman Torres was interested in the subcommittee’s work,
particularly coinage. But more impressive, he was keen to learn about
the collector community’s perspective.