Congress should let these two commemorative coin bills die

?One of the many truisms of the modern U.S. commemorative coin program is that most of the sales in a program occur during the first few weeks or couple of months after sales open.

So why have two members of Congress from Massachusetts introduced a two-year three-coin program for 2020 to 2021?

The twin bills call for half dollars, dollars, and half eagles to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the landing and settlement of Plymouth Colony, the signing of the Mayflower Compact, and the role of the indigenous Wampanoag tribes in the realization of the settlement.

Since the reintroduction of commemorative U.S. coins in 1982, just two programs were authorized to last more than one year. Both marked Summer Olympic Games held in the United States and both featured multiple designs in an effort to encourage buyers to purchase coins over a prolonged period of time.

The bills now before the House and the Senate, H.R. 5598 and S. 3105, do not follow that model. Both measures seek to authorize three coins of single designs to be issued over a two-year period starting Jan. 1, 2020. However, there is little evidence that the coin collector community will provide a steady source of buyers for the duration of the program. In 2007, when similar Jamestown 400th anniversary coins were sold, the vast majority were purchased in the first few months of sales, with sales then dwindling for the rest of the year

The two bills have other troubling provisions, these involving the designs and design process. The scope of the program is very broad — capturing all of the history encompassed by the legislation on a single coin would be difficult for designers to attempt. Furthermore, the bills name 10 entities that the Mint will have to consult with in designing the coins, and that’s before sending the designs to the two federal panels that regularly review coinage designs. Having that many critics involved will be a nightmare for the Mint’s design team.

Monitors of the legislative process give the bills scant chances of passing, which is a good thing. Neither measure deserves to become law in its current form.