US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 14, 2022: Changing Congress

Congress will change after the midterm elections, but will it change enough? Congressional leaders should rethink how numismatic legislation is handled, including for congressional gold medals like that honoring the Merchant Mariners of World War II (bronze collector version shown).

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint.

As I write this, control of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate after the Nov. 8 midterm election was still undecided (although results may be clearer by the time this column appears online, or maybe not).

No matter what party (Democrats or Republicans) assumes control, it is likely that internal procedures and practices regarding how numismatic legislation is handled will go unchanged. If that prediction is accurate, that is a shame.

Congress has not handled numismatic legislation well in years. It often passes legislation with no debate and no input from the collector community. It approves commemorative coin programs with themes that are not national in scope and that attract few buyers when the coins become available. It authorizes huge numbers of congressional gold medals, and while it is gratifying to see widespread demographic representation among the recipients, there seems to be little guidance as to who is deemed suitable for such recognition.

Here is what I would like to see happen:

One, hold public hearings for every piece of legislation before it is brought to a vote. Veteran numismatists remember a time when members of Congress actually held hearings on commemorative coin legislation, for example. The public was invited to testify on the merits of the legislation, with collectors, dealers, officials from hobby organizations and hobby journalists among those invited to testify. The many experts were given time to discuss the merits of the legislation, advise on the likely collector community’s reaction to the proposed coins, and make recommendations toward the final bill.

Two, revisit the process for approving congressional gold medals. Congress should look at their internal guidelines to determine whether changes are necessary. It may want to place limits on the number of different bills.

Third, exert tighter oversight over the United States Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Both bureaus could use greater scrutiny from legislative leaders.
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