US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for June 26, 2023: Too soon?

The 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marines Corps was celebrated with a commemorative silver dollar in 2005. The Senate has approved a bigger 2025 program. Is it too soon to repeat a program?

Original images courtesy of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

How often should Congress revisit topics in commemorative coin programs? Is every 100 years acceptable, as with the 1892 and 1992 programs celebrating the 400th and 500th anniversaries of Columbus’s “discovery of America”? Or is 20 years acceptable, as the Senate has just deemed?

Congress celebrated the 230th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marines Corps in 2005 with a single commemorative silver dollar struck and issued by the United States Mint. Now, with the 250th anniversary arriving in 2025, the Senate has passed legislation seeking a three-coin program.

Congress has a habit of revisiting themes in approving commemorative coin programs. Coins have been authorized for multiple Olympic Games, for events held both in the United States and elsewhere. The National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum were honored with 1997 and 2021. Multiple programs have honored World War II veterans.

Now, the U.S. Marines Corps could be the next recipient of a second commemorative coin program, less than a quarter century after the first one.

The 2005 program was somewhat controversial in its day. The authorizing legislation approved the production and sales of a maximum of 500,000 silver dollars, though it gave the Treasury secretary some leeway. The coins went on sale on July 20, 2005, and by Sept. 21, 2005, all coins had been purchased — a fast sellout by the standards of the era.

Remember the Treasury secretary’s discretion? He authorized production and sale of another 100,000 coins, and they, too, sold out. Final sales totaled 598,481 coins.

While some in the hobby were happy with a second chance to buy and sell more coins, others were worried about the setting of a precedent. Would Congress, seeking the success of this program, offer future Treasury secretaries similar authority? Would a “maximum mintage” truly be a maximum if programs were open ended?

Now Congress seems poised to authorize a second program honoring the Marines Corps, but should it? Is 20 years too soon? If new coins are authorized, will collectors embrace them yet again, or will they say, “Not this time”?
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