Mint forum participants look to the future and call for circulating historic designs

?In the United States, the coin collecting hobby and the United States Mint are in­extricably intertwined, each deeply de­pendent on the other, and while each would survive without the other, both benefit from this symbiotic relationship. That closeness was on display Oct. 13 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia during the Mint’s Stakeholders Forum.

Approximately 60 hobby “stakeholders” — collectors, dealers, officers from clubs both big and small, and members of the numismatic media, including me — participated in the day-long event at the bank, located a block away from the Philadelphia Mint. The Mint had a full schedule for the day, starting with introductions from Mint officials; in the weeks ahead, I’ll be writing more on some of these topics in our print issues and in my blog.

This week though, I want to focus on one part of the program. During the afternoon, participants split into teams to discuss such topics as Mint packaging, the setting of mintage maximums and household limits for products, and historic design reproduction, the team of which I was a member.

Members of this team largely agreed that reusing historic designs can be a good thing for the hobby, but that legal restrictions imposed on the Mint by federal law severely hamper the effectiveness of programs like the 2016 Centennial coin series to draw in new collectors. The Mint struck the three coins, originally issued in silver 100 years ago, in gold because it has broad authority to issue gold coins without seeking congressional approval. However, issuing those coins in silver would have required an act of Congress, literally.

Many of the team members would like the Mint to issue historic designs in their original specifications for collector sale, and in current compositions for circulation. Furthermore, we liked the idea of issuing the circulating versions in fairly small numbers, randomly salting them among modern designs, and then encouraging young collectors to search for them aided by an app on their phone, as in the recent Pokemon craze. This, however, would require changes to federal law, to give the Mint more leeway than it now has to issue coins. Such changes are possible (for example, the hobby drove passage of the Hobby Protection Act of 1973 and the Bicentennial coin redesign of 1975 and 1976 through concerted lobbying efforts of Congress). However, such changes will require a collaborative effort by many in the hobby. Are we up for that?