US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Apr. 22, 2024: Doing a tough job

Whether you agree or disagree, the CCAC has to make recommendations on designs to the Secretary of the Treasury and it can be a thankless job.

Images courtesy of the United States Mint.

As we were recently taking the latest issue of Coin World to its next phase in the printing process, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee was into its second day of meetings to chart the course for a series of designs that will hopefully find favor with collectors and others in the numismatic world.

It’s about as close to a tough job as you’d want to imagine. Criticism is swift, often cruelly so. It’s a situation where it — choosing just the right designs among all considerations — is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

We should be thankful there are those who are willing to do it. We should be especially thankful that it is citizens who are having a say, and not a faceless government entity mandating something.

The CCAC has been a part of the action for a little more than 20 years. Its creation was tucked into Public Law 108-15 to amend section 5135 of title 31, United States code. It was created with the purpose of advising the Secretary of the Treasury on the selection of themes and designs for coins.

Sometimes, the “advising” part gets lost in translation. The CCAC is qualified only to make recommendations, which the Secretary of the Treasury has the right to reject or accept. It’s like any other advice. The real action comes when the one advised decides what to do with the advice.

The composition of the committee, also established in the 2003 law, provides for a variety of representative viewpoints. Among the criteria spelled out for the qualifications, one section in particular makes me scratch my head:

“(v) three of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who can represent the interests of the general public in the coinage of the United States.”

With all due respect to the committee members past and present who were appointed to meet this qualification, how does one determine the “interests of the general public in the coinage of the United States”?

While “apathy” may not exactly describe the feeling of “the general public,” does that great faceless body really care that much about anything beyond circulating coinage? Particularly now, when alternative means of payment are foisting themselves into commerce, most in the public might not even care much about anything beyond the value of the circulating coinage, not its design.

When was the last time coin design came up in conversation during your bowling league or PTA meeting or any other activity where the general public gathers?

It’s the collector who pays attention to the work of the CCAC and the Commission of Fine Arts, which has been doing this for a lot longer with respect to coin design. It’s a pretty safe bet the “general public” doesn’t even know either of these esteemed committees even exist.

We called it a tough job earlier. In reality, it’s a thankless job, but doesn’t have to be. Whether we agree, disagree or agree to disagree, the job is getting done. Thank you, committee members, for your service to numismatics.

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