US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Jan. 4, 2021: Congress gets busy

As the 116th Congress comes to a close, legislators have been busy passing numismatic legislation. Among the coin bills that recently became law is one authorizing a commemorative coin program honoring the Negro Baseball League.

Original image in the public domain.

With the 116th Congress nearing its end, legislators are beginning to move unessential legislation through the legislative process, including bills with numismatic connections.

As we report this week, bills authorizing two commemorative coin programs for 2022 are now law, one to honor the centennial of the founding of the Negro National League for professional baseball and the other recognizing the Purple Heart Hall of Honor, which honors those awarded the Purple Heart, U.S. service personnel injured in the line of duty.

The two themes, sports and military, along with service organization anniversaries, dominate current commemorative coin legislation. While specific subjects of the various programs may be noteworthy, they do not always translate into collector interest and strong sales. Programs celebrating such organizations as the American Legion and Lions Club International did not attract as much collector interest as those with themes like the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission from 2019 or the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth in 2006.

As this is being written, Dec. 29 (earlier than normal to meet advanced press deadlines), one of the year’s most massive pieces of numismatic legislation awaits a second vote in the House of Representatives. The measure calls for a circulating quarter dollar series celebrating accomplishments of women, starting in 2022, circulating commemorative coins in 2026 celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and more — much more.

The 2026 coin program has merit; we should change the designs of our coins like we did in 1976 for the Bicentennial for the quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar.

The women’s quarter dollar program has merit as well, but a lot of collectors are tired of ever-changing designs on the denomination. Support is being voiced for the new “permanent” design for the quarter dollar, to be released later in 2021 after the final America the Beautiful quarter is issued.

Congress needs to revisit the days when it sought collector and dealer testimony on numismatic legislation. Legislators used to reach out to hobby leaders routinely. The new Congress should start doing that.

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