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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A century ago, Mint officials were close to missing a deadline

One hundred years this month, Bureau of the Mint officials in Washington and Philadelphia were busy trying to fulfill what they believed to be a statutory requirement to replace the existing designs of the dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar.

Charles Barber’s designs for those three silver coins were introduced in 1892 and thus celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1916. That anniversary was important, at least in the views of Mint officials, thanks to an 1890 law. That law was intended to prevent the frequent redesign of U.S. coinage; under the law, Mint officials were prohibited from redesigning a coin unless it had been in use for 25 years, though the Mint could seek congressional approval for a waver to the rule.

By 1915, however, Mint officials had inter­preted the act as requiring design changes every 25 years, not permitting the changes. This interpretation was a misreading of the law and Mint officials were under no requirement to change the Barber designs.

In 1916, though, Mint officials were nine years into a massive redesign of the coinage that had begun in 1907, all for coins whose designs were well past the 25-year “mandatory requirement” — the $10 eagle and $20 double eagle in 1907, the $2.50 quarter eagle and $5 half eagle in 1908, the cent in 1909, and the 5-cent coin in 1913. Redesigning the three lowest denominations of four silver coins would have made sense in 1916 even without the misinterpretation of the 1890 act.

As Coin World has reported throughout this centennial year in our news coverage of the gold centennial versions of the three 1916 silver coins, the resultant designs are the most attractive of the three denominations — the Winged Liberty Head dime, the Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and the Walking Liberty half dollar. And yet, as December 1916 began, officials were close to missing their self-imposed goal.

Numismatist Roger Burdette has done a masterful job of reporting on the 1916 redesign  effort in the final volume of his Renaissance of American Coinage trilogy, a series that belongs on every numismatist’s bookshelf, so we will not attempt to retell the entire story here. We’ll just note that the dime had not been released until Oct. 30, and as December 1916 began, officials had yet to finalize the designs for the quarter dollar and half dollar. However, by the end of the month the Mint had succeeded in striking small numbers of the two larger coins, though neither would be released until early 1917. The wait, however, was well worth it — the three 1916 silver coins are beautiful, and the 1916 quarter dollar and 1916-D dime are the key dates for their respective series.

So, do you think the 2016 gold versions will be as popular in the future as the originals?

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