William T. Gibbs

Bill’s Corner

William T. Gibbs

William was appointed the managing editor effective May 1, 2015. He joined the Coin World editorial staff in 1976 as an assistant editor for "Collectors' Clearinghouse" and later became a senior staff writer before being appointed news editor. As managing editor, he manages the day-to-day editorial operations for Coin World, both print and online, and leads the editorial staff. He also serves as chief copy editor for all Coin World publications, including for all books published by Coin World since 1985. He has been project editor of mulitple editions of the Coin World Almanac. Bill began collecting coins at the age of 10 and soon discovered Coin World. As a teen interested in numismatics and journalism, he identified a writing position on the staff of Coin World as a dream job, which was realized shortly after he graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in journalism. He collects store cards and medals depicting Adm. George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame.

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Why you won’t see a U.S. Star Trek coin series

World mints generally have much greater latitude than the United States Mint when it comes to selecting coin themes. That is both a good thing and a bad thing

Our World Coins section this week includes Louis Golino’s Topical Topics article on world coins commemorating the 50th anniversary of the debut of the American television program Star Trek, and Jeff Starck’s New Issues coverage about the Perth Mint’s Star Trek coins for Tuvalu. You won’t be seeing, however, any U.S. coins celebrating the television program.

In the United States, the legislative branch, Congress, has sole authority over regulating coinage, though it has ceded some authority for gold and platinum coinage to the executive branch, specifically the Treasury Department. This legislative authority dates to the U.S. Constitution’s Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures. ...”

In the United States, commemorative coin programs originate in Congress, not with the Treasury Department or the U.S. Mint. In other countries, authority over coinage may originate at a nation’s central bank or its mint, with commemorative and coin themes selected at the discretion of those governing bodies. And since sales of commemorative, bullion and other coins can be very lucrative for issuers, many nations are very innovative with their coin programs, as they seek themes that may appeal to coin collectors and noncollectors alike. That is why we see so many coins with pop culture themes — comic book heroes, cartoon characters, popular movie franchises and more. Issuers of these coins hope that a Star Trek coin series might attract Trekkies even if they have no real interest in collecting more traditional coins.

There is something to be said about this approach. Some of these pop culture themes might attract younger collectors who love, for example, the characters from the movie Frozen. These young collectors may never graduate to, say, Lincoln cents or Indian Head 5-cent coins, but they may keep collecting character-themed coins.

Please note that I am not advocating the United States go the same route. I'm really not. But is it wise to reject a change in direction without giving it some consideration? What do you think? Would you collect an American Star Trek coin? Or would following the path taken by so many other national and private mints be a huge mistake?
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Older Comments (3)
To me, it's a no-brainer that in order for coin collecting to have a chance at survival in the U.S. in any meaningful way, that popular cultural themes ought to be depicted on some coins.

I've seen many articles written about the decline of coin collecting in the U.S. and I find it puzzling that some coin collectors themselves can not understand the very simple main reason why.....lack of interest in coins by generations of people. It is equally puzzling that these same collectors are clueless on what is the most sensible solution to this situation.....which is to cater to the interests of these generations who are not being catered to with the largely non-relevant (to most people in our culture) coins being produced by the US Mint.

A Star Trek 50th Anniversary themed US Mint coin would surely have sparked plenty of interest in such a coin by non-collectors....in much the same way that a Star Trek 50th Anniversary themed USPS stamp has recently done. I was at the Sept 2 Star Trek Convention in NYC and the hottest vendor the entire day was the USPS booth which had a long line for stamp purchases and FDOI cancellations at every point during the day. Now, the USPS definitely proved during that day yet again how inept they are at virtually everything they do but that's another discussion altogether.

There's tremendous opportunities lost when the US Mint doesn't cater to popular cultural themes once in a while.