US Coins

Goal of bill to change silver alloy in United States coins

The composition of the nation’s regular 90 percent silver coins and 90 percent commemorative silver dollars could change under provisions of legislation currently working its way through Congress.

The provision in H.R. 1698 — the Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act — is a proposed technical correction reportedly aimed at saving the U.S. Mint money by conforming to the current world standard of .910 fine silver for coin silver. The Mint reportedly has to order custom-made blanks for the .900 fine silver issues.

The measure also includes multiple other provisions involving gold, silver and palladium bullion coins.

H.R. 1698 on June 23 was passed by the House of Representatives by voice vote after suspension of House rules and forwarded to the Senate for its consideration.

The legislation was introduced in the House March 26 by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade.

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, as well as all modern commemorative silver dollars, are composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. The composition is mandated by law.

Under H.R. 1698, the language “90 percent silver 10 percent copper” would be replaced with “not less than 90 percent silver.” However, Huizenga’s proposed technical amendment does not specify what the balance of the coinage alloy would be; it would grant the Mint leeway in adjusting the silver content as long as the composition is not less than 90 percent silver.

Palladium coin

The legislation opens the door wider for the prospect of the U.S. Mint producing a collector version of a 1-ounce .9995 fine palladium investment coin.

Huizenga’s legislation, if it becomes law, would render moot a congressionally mandated study under the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010, Public Law 111-103. The study, executed by CPM Group, determined that demand for a palladium bullion coin would be low and the program likely unprofitable, finding:

??It is unlikely that there will be sufficient demand for a U.S. Mint palladium bullion coin and such a program would most likely not be possible to undertake profitably.

??It is unlikely that there will be sufficient demand for a U.S. Mint palladium numismatic (proof or uncirculated) coin, but such a program could be undertaken profitably.

Should the Treasury secretary authorize American Eagle coins struck in palladium, the Mint could issue, beginning in 2016, collector coins in bullion, Proof, and Uncirculated versions.

The finishes on the collector versions could change annually under provisions of the legislation.

The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010, whose provisions remain intact, provides that the obverse should bear Weinman’s Winged Liberty Head dime obverse design. The mandated reverse would be Weinman’s eagle design that appeared on the reverse of the American Institute of Architects gold medal beginning in 1907.

30th anniversary silver

Huizenga’s legislation, if passed, would also authorize special edge lettering on numismatic versions of the 2016 silver American Eagle, to commemorate the issue’s 30th anniversary.

H.R. 1698 calls for the Mint-marked Proof and Uncirculated 2016 American Eagle 1-ounce silver coins to be struck with a smooth edge, on which appears incuse a designation that the coin is a 30th anniversary release.

The special edge design would appear only on the 2016 Proof and Uncirculated versions bearing the W Mint mark of the West Point Mint where they are struck.

The 30th anniversary design would not appear on the edge of the 2016 bullion version, which would retain a reeded edge. 

The Proof and bullion versions of the .999 fine silver American Eagle dollars coins were first offered by the U.S. Mint in November 1986.

The Uncirculated version of the silver Eagle struck with the W Mint mark of the West Point Mint was introduced in 2006.

Proof and bullion versions of the silver American Eagle have been struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point Mints in various years since the silver Eagle’s introduction. Special finish and facility anniversary issues of the silver American Eagle have also been produced at all three coin production facilities.

Buffalo $50 packaging

The American Buffalo gold $50 coin, according to provisions of the enabling act that authorized it — Title II of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, Public Law 109-145 — currently requires that the bullion coins be packaged in packaging differentiated from that used for Proof coins. Proof coins are packaged in individual hard plastic coin capsules as are intermittent versions with special finishes.

The bullion versions are secured in heat-sealed plastic sheets of 20 coins each to protect them from damage.

The sheets are stacked on top of one another and shipped to authorized purchasers in quantities of 500 coins per box.

A provision in Huizenga’s legislation would remove that packaging mandate, but does not specify an alternative.

It is expected the Mint would likely opt for coin tubes of the same type and composition as that in which American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins are shipped. 

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