The 114th Congress passed seven pieces of numismatic legislation in
2015–2016, approving three commemorative coin programs, three
congressional gold medals, and a bill granting authority to the U.S.
Mint to make certain compositional changes to U.S. silver coins and
requiring that 2016 American Eagle silver dollars bear lettered edges,
among other things.
Much of the action occurred in the last weeks of the second session
of the 114th Congress, in December 2016, with two medals and one
commemorative coin program authorized by law during the month.
Several pieces of legislation that became law during the past two
years continued recent congressional trends to recognize little known
and previously overlooked military units with gold medals, and to
create coin programs designed to recognize service organizations and
to raise funds for national causes that are widely recognized.
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One commemorative coin program will recognize one of mankind’s
greatest achievements on its 50th anniversary.
Boys Town Centennial
The first commemorative coins authorized by one of those bills will
go on sale in 2017 — H.R. 893, the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative
The act was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2015,
after being passed by both the House of Representatives and the
Senate. It was presented to President Obama on June 26, 2015.
The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry,
R-Neb., on Feb. 11, 2015, and passed the House on June 23. The House
bill then passed in the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent
on June 25.
A companion bill, S. 301, was also introduced in the Senate, and it
had passed in that chamber by unanimous consent on March 25.
As reported in Coin World previously, the law authorizes
three different 2017 commemorative coins — up to 50,000 gold $5 half
eagles, as many as 350,000 silver dollars and not more than 300,000
copper-nickel clad half dollars in Proof and Uncirculated finishes.
Approved designs for the three-coin Program were unveiled Aug. 23,
2016, by the U.S. Mint at ceremonies held at Boys Town Music Hall in
Boys Town, Neb.
The gold coin’s obverse features a portrait of Father Edward
Flanagan. The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic
Infusion Program Designer Donna Weaver and sculptured by Mint
Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II.
The gold coin reverse depicts an outstretched hand holding a young
oak tree growing from an acorn. As stated in the proverbial saying
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” this design represents the
potential of each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive,
The reverse was also designed by Weaver and sculptured by Mint
Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.
The silver dollar’s obverse depicts a young girl sitting alone and
gazing upward into the branches of an oak tree looking for help. The
empty space around the girl is deliberate and meant to show the
child’s sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness.
The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Emily Damstra and
sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph F. Menna.
The coin’s reverse depicts an oak tree offering shelter and a sense
of belonging to the family holding hands below it, which includes the
girl from the obverse.
The reverse was also designed by Damstra and sculptured by Menna.
The half dollar obverse depicts an older brother holding the hand of
his younger brother in 1917. They walk toward Father Flanagan’s Boys
Home and the 1940s pylon representing what would become Boys Town.
The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and
sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Renata Gordon.
The coin’s reverse depicts a present-day Boys Town neighborhood of
homes where children are schooled and nurtured by caring families. Out
of these homes come young adults who graduate from high school and the
Boys Town program. The reverse, also designed by Costello, was
sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.
Boys Town is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving children
and healing families, developed from Father Flanagan’s Boys Home,
which Flanagan founded on Dec. 12, 1917.
Surcharges of $35 per $5 coin, $10 per dollar and $5 per half dollar
are to be paid to Boys Town to carry out Boys Town’s cause of caring
for and assisting children and families in underserved communities
Breast Cancer coins
President Obama signed into law on April 29, 2016, the Breast Cancer
Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 114-148. The law
authorizes the first U.S. coin in pink gold, to be issued in 2018.
In June 2015, U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep.
Pete Sessions, R-Texas, introduced in the U.S. House H.R. 2722, the
Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, which authorizes the
production and release of the commemorative coins in 2018.
The U.S. Mint has already begun the process of securing a vendor or
vendors to supply the planchets for the up to a combined 50,000 Proof
and Uncirculated $5 half eagles in pink gold with a composition not
less than 75 percent pure gold.
The act also mandates the production and release in Proof and
Uncirculated versions of up to 400,000 silver dollars on planchets of
not less than 90 percent silver, as well as up to a maximum 750,000
copper-nickel clad half dollars.
The enabling legislation provides for conducting a public design
competition juried by three members each from the Commission of Fine
Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, with the Treasury
secretary as chairman.
The competition is being conducted in two phases.
The Phase I application process opened Aug. 1, 2016, and closed Oct.
17. Applicants in Phase I were to submit a portfolio of past work
examples for consideration.
Up to 20 artists evaluated from Phase I were selected to participate
in Phase 2, which will require submission of proposed designs or final
plaster models for the Breast Cancer Awareness coins.
Artists selected to participate in Phase 2 were to be notified Nov.
14 of their selection.
Final submissions must be received by Jan. 31, 2017; winners will be
announced in June 2017.
Invited artists in Phase 2 will be compensated $1,000 for their work
and be eligible for an additional $10,000 if their obverse or reverse
design is selected to appear on a coin.
The initials of each winning artist will appear on the coin bearing
The final designs approved will be sculptured by members of the U.S.
Mint’s engraving staff.
Apollo 11 50th Anniversary
President Obama on Dec. 16, 2016, signed into law H.R. 2726, the
Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 114-282.
The bill was passed by voice vote in the full House on Dec. 5. The
Senate approved the same measure by voice vote on the evening of Dec. 10.
The measure authorizes the most ambitious commemorative coin program
in years in that it approves four coins. No commemorative program has
featured more than three coins since the 1985–1986 program for the
Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. The 2019 program would be the first U.S.
commemorative coin program to offer two silver dollars of different specifications.
The law authorizes:
➤ A gold $5 half eagle of standard specifications, with a mintage
limited to 50,000 coins.
➤ A silver dollar of standard specifications, limited to a mintage
of 400,000 coins.
➤ A copper-nickel clad half dollar of standard specifications,
limited to a mintage of 750,000.
➤ A silver dollar of the same specifications as the current America
the Beautiful 3-inch 5-ounce .999 fine silver bullion coins, limited
to a maximum of 100,000 pieces.
The three standard coins can be issued in both Proof and
Uncirculated versions, while the 5-ounce silver dollar can be struck
only with a Proof finish.
The Apollo 11 commemorative coin program will emulate the 2014
Baseball Hall of Fame coin program in that all four coins are to be
concave/convex in shape.
Furthermore, “It is the sense of Congress that, to the extent
possible without significantly adding to the purchase price of the
coins, the coins minted under this Act should be produced with the
design of the reverse of the coins continuing over what would
otherwise be the edge of the coins, such that the reverse design
extends all the way to the obverse design.”
These special provisions will challenge the United States Mint’s
technical departments, especially for the 5-ounce silver dollar.
While the Mint now has experience in striking copper-nickel clad half
dollars, silver dollars, and gold half eagles with a concave/convex
shape, and years of experience striking 3-inch 5-ounce silver coins,
it has not produced a concave/convex 5-ounce coin. The suggestion that
the reverse design continue over the edge to the obverse side will
also require experimentation and testing by the Mint.
The House legislation stated, “The design on the common reverse of
the coins minted under this Act shall be a representation of a
close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July
20, 1969, that shows just the visor and part of the helmet of
astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in which the visor has a mirrored finish and
reflects the image of the United States flag and the lunar lander and
the remainder of the helmet has a frosted finish.”
The measure also dictates how the designs are to be selected: “The
Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine
the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act,
with such design being emblematic of the United States space program
leading up to the first manned Moon landing.
“Proposals for the obverse design of coins minted under this Act may
be submitted in accordance with the design selection and approval
process developed by the Secretary in the sole discretion of the
Secretary. ... As part of the competition described in this
subsection, the Secretary may accept proposals from artists, engravers
of the United States Mint, and members of the general public, and any
designs submitted for the design review process described herein shall
be anonymized until a final selection is made.”
The Senate passed the measure Dec. 10.
The prices for each of the three standard coins bear standard
surcharges: $5 for the half dollar, $10 for the dollar and $35 for the
half eagle; and the 5-ounce silver dollar bears a surcharge of $50.
The surcharges raised through sales of the coins, once statutory
requirements are met, are to be distributed to the Smithsonian
Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon”
exhibit, to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and to the Astronaut
Selma Foot Soldiers
The first congressional gold medal approved during the 114th
Congress honored the Selma Foot Soldiers, whose protests in 1965
helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights
advocated were recognized Feb. 24, 2016, on Capitol Hill with the
presentation of the congressional gold medal.
The enabling legislation, Public Law 114-5, was signed into law by
President Obama on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bloody
Sunday, so named for the protesters’ blood spilled by Alabama State
Police. It was the first of three marches attempted from Selma, Ala.,
to the state capital to Montgomery, in search of equality in the
The marchers had assembled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to
begin their quest. The hundreds of protesters were led by John Lewis,
chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which
attempted to register African-Americans to vote throughout the state
of Alabama, and the Rev. Hosea Williams, of the Southern Christian
Lewis is currently a U.S. congressman who has represented Georgia’s
Fifth Congressional District since elected to Congress in November
1986. Lewis is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in
leadership in the House.
Williams, who continued his civil rights efforts and community
service for decades, died at age 74 in 2000.
The obverse design of the congressional gold medal was created by
U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Donna Weaver. Weaver is a
former sculptor-engraver for the U.S. Mint who retired from government
service in 2006 after six years on the Mint’s staff. The design was
sculptured by U.S. Mint Medallic Sculptor Phebe Hemphill.
The design captures the Selma Foot Soldiers with arms locked as they
march en masse across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The adopted obverse is slightly modified from that recommended June
16 and June 18, 2015, respectively, by the Citizens Coinage Advisory
Committee and Commission of Fine Arts.
The top and bottom border inscriptions are switched from the
reviewed design. The wide rim from the original sketch of the
recommended obverse design was removed, with that element moved to the reverse.
Weaver also designed the reverse, which was sculptured by U.S. Mint
Medallic Sculptor Michael Gaudioso. The design’s central device
depicts an individual’s left hand placing a completed ballot into a
ballot box, all superimposed over an American flag.
Three-inch and 1.5-inch bronze duplicates of the congressional gold
medal are offered for sale to the public by the U.S. Mint.
S. 1555, introduced in the Senate on June 11, 2015, by Sen. Mazie
Hirono, D-Hawaii, calls for a congressional gold medal to recognize
Filipino veterans who honorably served at any time during the period
beginning July 26, 1941, and ending Dec. 31, 1946.
The measure passed the Senate on July 13, 2016, and the House
approved the measure on Nov. 30. It became Public Law 114-265 when
President Obama signed the bill on Dec. 14, 2016.
As stated in the legislation, “Filipinos participated in the war out
of national pride, as well as out of a commitment to the Allied forces
struggle against fascism. 57,000 Filipinos in uniform died in the war
effort. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 700,000 to upwards of
1,000,000, or between 4.38 to 6.25 percent of the prewar population of 16,000,000.”
The legislation added, “The Filipino Veterans of World War II fought
alongside, and as an integral part of, the United States Armed Forces.
The Philippines remained a territory of the United States for the
duration of the war and, accordingly, the United States maintained
sovereignty over Philippine foreign relations, including Philippine
laws enacted by the Philippine Government.
“Filipinos who fought in the Philippines were not only defending or
fighting for the Philippines, but also defending, and ultimately
liberating, sovereign territory held by the United States Government.
... The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor,
and dedication that the Filipino Veterans of World War II displayed.
Their commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and
commendable sense of patriotism and honor.”
The legislation adds: “Following the award of the gold medal in
honor of the Filipino Veterans of World War II, the gold medal shall
be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be available
for display as appropriate and made available for research. ... It is
the sense of Congress that the Smithsonian Institution should make the
gold medal received ... available for display elsewhere, particularly
at other appropriate locations associated with the Filipino Veterans
of World War II.”
The medal is to bear “appropriate designs” and the Mint is permitted
to issue collector versions in bronze.
Office of Strategic Services
As part of the flurry of legislative activity near the end of the
114th Congress, S. 2234, the Office of Strategic Services
Congressional Gold Medal Act, became law.
S. 2234 was introduced Nov. 4, 2015, by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to
recognize with a congressional gold medal the services of
representatives of all branches of the U.S. armed forces attached to
the OSS during World War II. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 22,
2016, and the House gave its approval on Nov. 30. President Obama
signed the act on Dec. 14, creating Public Law 114-269.
The OSS, according to the legislative text, was “America’s first
effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World
War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence
and special operations communities. The U.S. Special Operations
Command and the National Clandestine Service chose the OSS spearhead
as their insignias.”
Following the public presentation of the approved congressional gold
medals, each is to be delivered to the Smithsonian Institution for
future display and research.
The Treasury secretary has the discretion to authorize the U.S. Mint
to strike 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicates of each congressional
gold medal for sale to the public.
Silver composition changes
Treasury Department and U.S. Mint officials now have authority to
change the 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper alloy used for
commemorative silver dollars and the coins in the annual Silver Proof sets.
They were granted the authority when President Obama on Dec. 4,
2015, signed into law H.R. 1698, the Bullion and Collectible Coin
Production and Efficiency and Cost Savings Act.
The technical correction legislation was included in a large
transportation bill signed into law by Obama.
The Roosevelt dime, America the Beautiful quarter dollars, and
Kennedy half dollar currently produced in Proof at the San Francisco
Mint for several annual Proof sets, all modern commemorative silver
dollars, and various other special silver collector coins, are
composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. That composition
was first authorized to be used for U.S. silver coinage in the 1830s.
While abandoned for circulation coinage under the Coinage Act of 1965,
the alloy was resurrected with the resumption of commemorative coin
production in 1982 and Silver Proof sets in 1992.
Under The Bullion and Collectible Coin Production and Efficiency and
Cost Savings Act, the language “90 percent silver 10 percent copper”
that has been a part of the United States Code is now replaced with
“not less than 90 percent silver.” However, the technical amendment
does not specify what the balance of the coinage alloy would be; it
grants the U.S. Mint leeway in adjusting the silver content with the
Treasury secretary’s approval as long as the composition is not less
than 90 percent silver.
H.R. 1698 was originally introduced in March of 2015 by Rep. William
P. Huizenga, R-Mich., chairman of the House Financial Services
Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade, and passed by the House in
June and forwarded to the Senate. The measure was one of several
freestanding bills to be incorporated into the Fixing America’s
Surface Transportation Act, also known as “FAST Act.”
The pertinent sections for the U.S. silver composition modifications
are under Title LXXIII of FAST Act, beginning on Page 1264 of 1301.
The measure was also responsible for ordering changes to the edge of
collector versions of the American Eagle silver dollars issued in 2016.
The Title LXXIII language mandated that the edges of Proof and
Uncirculated silver American Eagles with the W Mint mark of the West
Point Mint issued in 2016 for the series 30th anniversary be smooth
and be inscribed incuse with an anniversary designation. Since the
measure became law in December of 2015, Mint officials were forced to
delay release of the collector versions of the 2016 American Eagle
silver dollars until experimentation on creating an inscribed edge was completed.
Additional language from H.R. 1698 confirms the Treasury secretary’s
discretion to allow the Mint to produce Proof and Uncirculated
palladium numismatic coins bearing the West Point Mint’s W Mint mark.
The approved language does not indicate moving forward with a bullion
investment version. Production of a palladium U.S. coin is already
authorized under provisions of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion
Coin Act of 2010, Public Law 111-303.
Also adopted are changes in packaging to authorized purchasers for
the American Buffalo 1-ounce .9999 fine gold bullion coin. The
American Buffalo gold coins, made of pure gold and thus “softer,” are
potentially more susceptible to casual damage than the American Eagle
gold coins, which are alloyed with other metals.
The approved legislation also establishes the American Buffalo as
the permanent .9999 fine gold bullion coin from the U.S. Mint.
This article includes text excerpted from earlier reporting by Paul
Gilkes and Steve Roach.