Statement for the U.S. House Banking Committee, Subcommittee on Domestic & International Monetary Policy
State Commemorative Coins Hearing & Markup
Washington, D.C., July 31, 1996
(source: Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony)
My name is Harvey Stack. I am the senior member of Stack's, a New York rare coin dealer and an auction company.
I have been actively engaged in dealing in rare coins for over 50 years. I am a past president of the Professional Numismatist Guild, (P.N.G.) the largest dealer organization in the world. I also served on the P.N.G. Board for over a decade. I have been a member of the American Numismatic Association, the largest collector organization for almost a half a century. In 1976 I represented the industry before Congress for the Hobby Protection Act. I come today to speak on behalf of the entire coin collecting fraternity as well as the public who have participated in the U.S. Coin Commemorative Program since 1982.
I spoke before this Committee on July 12, 1995 when it was examining the then current U.S. Coin Commemorative Program. In my statement I strongly recommend that the current Coin Commemorative Program be revisited. The then Commemorative Program began in 1982 and continues till this day, resulted in too many coins being produced by the Mint and sold by the Mint for much too much premium. The cost to the public embraced the cost of the making of the coin, a big profit to the Mint and a hefty surcharge to a beneficial foundation.
The public was never apprised of just how much money went where. They never knew how much of the cost of each coin would benefit the foundation and they never knew that the contribution or surcharge was not a charitable donation.
By 1993, the profit made from the sale of these commemorative coins exceeded 500 Million Dollars with a net profit to the Mint of 30 Million Dollars. In addition, I stated then that the secondary market was saturated with the huge quantities struck and in most cases the buying public had little chance, if they decided to sell these coins, of ever breaking even. Most of these issues, after they are initially sold by the Mint, sell far below what was paid, if you can find a buyer. Yet the promotional material issued by the Mint suggested rarity and potential future values.
I might add that since July of 1995 the Mint has undertaken sincere studies to remedy this problem. But it still exists.
After the prepared testimony was heard, the Chairman, the Honorable Michael Castle, asked for recommendations as to how to improve the Commemorative program.
I suggested that the United States adopt a circulating commemorative program. I suggested we issue a coin honoring each of the 50 States in the Union. The coin could be a U.S. Quarter, a twenty five cent piece.
There is precedence for such an issue. Most recently, in 1976, the United States issued several coins honoring our Bi-centennial. The most popular issue was the Bicentennial Quarter Dollar. Over 1,600,000,000 (1.6 Billion) were issued and put into circulation at face value. 25 cents. Most seemed to have been saved by the public when in change, and now they are rarely seen in circulation. The were saved but not spent. They were momentos of our Bi-centennial.
My idea for a circulating commemorative series was modelled after the Canadian program of a few years ago which honored their 12 Provinces of the Dominion. Each coin had a design recognizing the importance of each Province.
My idea was to first issue 13 coins each honoring the original 13 States. Then issue 5 or 10 more each year thereafter for the other 37 states. The order of issuance would correspond to the date each State entered the Union.
To expand my proposal I now suggest that on each coin in addition to the name of each State, the design should include the date the State entered the Union, the name of the State Capitol, and some design which significantly represents that State. For example, New York has been referred to as the Empire State; Illinois, the Land of Lincoln; Delaware, the first State to join the Union; Iowa or Kansas, best known for their farming, and so on.
The design of each coin could be established by contests within each State. I agree fully with Chairman Castle, that this program will not only encourage greater appreciation of each State in our Union, but will give Americans a productive hobby.
But also this program could start people saving. An idea which needs nurturing in our present society. Even one each would result in the savings of $12.50 total. But it is a start. That program might be reminiscent of the 25 cent Saving Stamp program of World War II. It not only got people to save but help finance our country's efforts against the tyranny of that time.
I recently learned that this bill, if enacted in its' present form, could result in a possible 3.4 Billion Dollar surplus for our treasury. The coins will cost but 5 cents to strike and will be a twenty five cent piece. Using the above figure, I can imagine this program could encourage an overall savings by the public of some 15 Billion Dollars. A great start for our country to learn to save.
It would be advantageous as well for the Congress to direct the Mint to provide free or at cost some sort of album, coin board or accessory to house, one of each of these coins. It would be a great tool to encourage this program.
In summary, I encourage this bill to become law. It's benefits are many. It will help reacquaint the public with an important part of our history and geography, while encouraging people to save for the future.
What better form of service can our Congress offer at no premium cost to the public.