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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When the Mint had to abandon the coin collecting community

A century ago, in 1917, the Bureau of the Mint largely abandoned the coin collecting community, though not out of malice. 
Since 1858, the Mint had offered the public Proof coins, from the cent to the $20 double eagle. The boom in coin collecting in 1858 and the Mint’s positive reaction to public interest in coins established a symbiotic relationship that lasted for decades, through a Civil War and a brief war with Spain.

That all came to an end in 1917 with another war. The United States had resisted being drawn into the war that had raged throughout much of the world since 1914, but by April 1917, we were at war with Germany.

Concurrent with this was a huge increase in the demand for coinage, starting in Fiscal Year 1918 (which began on July 1, 1917). As Mint Director Raymond T. Baker wrote in his annual report for 1918, “The coinage executed approached the half-billion mark in number of pieces, against approximately 155 million pieces in the previous year. This was the largest year’s coinage in the history of mint service.”

With the Mint’s facilities churning out record numbers of coins, something had to give, and it was the Mint’s numismatic program that paid the price. The Mint abruptly stopped issuing Proof coins for public consumption in 1917, though officials already had scaled back the program in 1916 when they offered no Proof gold coinage. (While commemorative coinage production continued sporadically, the Mint was not involved in the sale of the coins.)

No Proof coins would be struck for public sale until 1936, a move that cheered collectors though they were a bit grumpy over the increased costs of the coins. Just six years later, another war ensued, as did another hiatus in Proof coin production from 1943 to 1949. 

Since 1950, Proof production has for the most part remained steady. However, could a halt happen again? We saw Proof American Eagle production stop in 2009 in response to bullion coin demand, but it seems unlikely that Mint will ever repeat its actions of 1917 as long as collectors continue to make its numismatic program a highly profitable one. 
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