Social media outreach prompts Treasury to buck the system

?Of all the news stories covered in Coin World in 2015, one probably caught us a bit off guard.

It also showed the strength of social media and it received massive coverage in the mainstream press.

I am referring to the decision of the U.S. Treasury Department to place a portrait of a woman on the next generation of $10 Federal Reserve note, to be unveiled in 2020 and released into circulation sometime afterward.

As I write in my article recapping this important story, members of the public had advocated for a woman’s place on our paper currency in the past, but none of those initiatives ever gained any traction, thanks to a reluctance by Treasury officials to change the persons and themes depicted on our paper money. In 2015, a new powerful force flexed its collective muscle — the strength of social media to drive news coverage and to persuade federal officials that the old party line had to go. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, at almost every press conference he gave, found himself asked about depicting a woman on a note, and others wrote to President Obama about the topic. Once the president said the idea was a pretty good one, Lew had his marching orders.

Of course, the original movement, to get rid of Andrew Jackson, now seen by many as all that was wrong with some of our forebears, was sidelined by reality. Since the next note to be redesigned is the $10 note, the change will be made on that denomination and not the $20. The public gained some insight into the slow pace of paper money design, something regular readers of Coin World are more knowledgeable about. Still, I suspect that Old Hickory’s years appearing on the $20 note are numbered.

Still, the haste with which the Treasury Department said that it would start depicting women on U.S. paper money caught even me a little bit off guard. I was skeptical and expecting the old party line. Kudos to Jack Lew for doing the right thing.

The power of the public to makes its voice heard is growing. Coin World’s own social media and online platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and its website — also afforded our readers more opportunities to offer opinions on the various news stories covered during the year. Before, when the Mint website and phone lines crashed with the opening of sales of a hot new product (like the 2015 Coin and Chronicles sets) we would get a lot of phone calls from angry collectors. This past year many instead chose to voice their frustrations at our Facebook page. Granted, some readers still called me when the first two Coin and Chronicles sets sold out in minutes (and many of them voiced their suspicions that the Mint colluded with dealers to sell marketers the bulk of the sets), but the numbers were smaller than they would have been in the past. They just went to our Facebook page to vent their anger and make their allegations. 

The times are changing.

Readership metrics results

In leading up to our selection of the year’s top stories, I asked Coin World editorial staff members for their choices. Joe O’Donnell, Amos Media’s Chicago-based content producer, is a leader in our online initiatives — at our websites, on our Facebook pages, and behind the scenes in getting our word out to the world at large. Not surprisingly, he took a somewhat different approach to selecting his choices for our top stories, saying:

“Like last year, I’m going to bring a metrics-based approach to my Top 10, just to show what went viral for us. ... (I had to include No. 11 just because I definitely think it’s a top 10 story.)”

Here’s his list of individual stories that brought the biggest online readership:
(1)?Gold Prospector Unearths 87-Ounce Nugget In Australia.
(2)?Federal Government To Return Millions In Liberty Dollars.
(3)?Goal Of Bill To Change Silver Alloy In United States Coins.
(4)?Mint Releases Mock-Up Designs For Gold 2016 Centennial Issues.
(5)?Court Rules In Favor Of Langbord Family In 1933 Double Eagle Case.
(6)?Israel’s Largest-Ever Gold Hoard Discovery Reported.
(7)?Limited Edition 2015 March Of Dimes Special Silver Set May 4.
(8)?2015 High Relief Gold Coin Becomes 100 Dollars Face Value.
(9)?California Dealer Discovers Fake Krugerrand In Fake Holder.
(10)?Federal Judge Rules Against Government In 1974-D Cent Case.
(11)?Enhanced Uncirculated Native American Dollars In Demand. 

The strong reader interest in these stories does not surprise me. Coin World’s editors have long recognized that treasure stories are big draws; who has not dreamed of finding something rare and valuable, like the lucky Australian who found an 87-ounce gold nugget or the finders of the gold coins in Israel. While these stories may not have the same lasting impact on the hobby as some of the other stories, these kinds of treasure stories are popular with readers.

Similarly, the stories about the government’s efforts to confiscate coins from American citizens elicit strong feelings from readers. Our readership is by no means 100 percent united behind the Langbord family and its claims on 10 1933 double eagles, and similar claims by several dealers on an apparently experimental 1974-D Lincoln cent struck on an aluminum planchet. However, a strong anti-government bias exists in such cases, with many readers feeling that the government has no business confiscating the coins. 

Similarly, the decision to return Liberty Dollar medals to Americans caught a lot attention from those who have followed the government’s long legal case against Bernard von NotHaus, creator of the Liberty Dollar who in 2011 was convicted of counterfeiting U.S. coins, a decision that some hobbyists thought was prompted by von NotHaus’ longtime crusade against the Federal Reserve. The Liberty Dollar medals had been confiscated by the government in 2007 at the beginning of legal action against their issuer.

Of course, a number of our stories involve the U.S. Mint, which is the biggest coin dealer in the world. No surprises there.

I am looking forward to 2016.