Home InfoVault Articles 2017 Commemorative Coin Legislation: An Overview

2017 Commemorative Coin Legislation: An Overview

2017 Commemorative Coin Legislation: An Overview
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Posted: 10-24-2017 12:06:00 PM

This article highlights the legislative process to authorize coins into production and discusses various commemorative coins that were proposed in the 2017 year. 

During 115th Congress, which began in January and runs through the end of 2018, many different bills proposing various commemorative coins that could be issued in the coming years have been introduced. 

The bills must make it through the legislative process and become law to actually authorize the U.S. Mint to issue the coins. Only a small number ever become law because the U.S. Mint, by law, can only issue two such programs per year. 

The programs that become law are mostly a product of the political process within Congress and involving stakeholders of the bills.

Coin programs for 2018, which include those for breast cancer awareness and World War I veterans, have been authorized into law, while those for 2019 and beyond are still being considered in Congress. 

Muhammad Ali

On January 13 Rep. John Yarmouth (D-KY) introduced H.R. 579; A companion Senate bill (S. 166) was introduced on January 17 by Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) that called for the issuance in 2020 of up to 100,000 $5 gold coins and 350,000 silver dollars (both composed of 90% pure gold and silver respectively) to honor the late Muhammad Ali. Ali was a well-known heavyweight boxing champion as well as a noted philanthropist and humanitarian.

A separate bill (H.R. 791) calls for the issuance of a congressional gold medal to honor Ali.

If the coins are issued and all costs associated with them are first recouped, any surcharges (which are $35 for the gold coin and $10 for the silver dollar) would be distributed as follows: 80% to the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY to help fund a museum and educational programs; 10% to the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of Louisville to help fund programs dealing with social justice and violence prevention; and 10% to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Movement Disorder Clinic to serve as a resource for Parkinson’s disease patients and their families.

These bills have been referred to the respective House and Senate Financial and Banking Committees.

1st Infantry Division

On March 16 Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) introduced the Duty First Act (H.R. 1582), which calls for a three-coin program honoring the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in 2017. The coins would be issued next year and would consist of up to 20,000 $5 gold coins, 100,000 silver dollars, and 200,000 clad half dollars. 

The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest one in the U.S. Army and was organized in 1917 when the U.S. entered World War I. It has participated in every major American armed conflict since that time.

The design of the coins, according to the bill, would be “emblematic of the 100-year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division.” Surcharges from the sales of the coins, provided all costs are first recouped, would go to fund renovation of the 1st Infantry Division Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In April, the bill was referred to the House Banking Committee.  

Purple Heart

On March 22 Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) introduced H.R. 1683, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act, which authorizes the usual three-coin program, this time specifying a maximum mintage of 50,000 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 clad halves. If approved, the coins will be issued in 2020.

Actual sales of commemorative coins have not reached those levels for many years apart from the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins.

Surcharges from the sale of the Purple Heart coins would go to the Purple Heart Hall of Fame to help that entity continue its work memorializing the sacrifices of the 1.7 million soldiers who were killed or wounded in service to their country.

Designs would be emblematic of the Purple Heart Hall of Fame, but the bill does not provide any specific guidance on what that means.

This bill was referred the same day it was introduced to the House Financial Services Committee.

Christa McAuliffe

On April 28 Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced H.R. 2256, the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act, which calls for the minting of up to 350,000 silver dollars.  The obverse would depict McAuliffe, while the reverse would focus on her work as a teacher.

Christa McAuliffe was a New Hampshire social studies teacher who was selected by NASA in 1985 to become the first American civilian in space.  She was one of the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger, who were killed when the shuttle exploded just seconds after its January 28, 1986 launch.   

Following her death, numerous scholarships and programs were named in her honor, including in particular the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) program, which aims to inspire young people to be leaders in this field.

Surcharges from the sale of the coins would go to the FIRST robotics program to help mentor young people in that field.

In 2016 Upton proposed a similar bill, but never gained the necessary support in committee to move forward.

U.S. Coast Guard

On May 3 Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced H.R. 2317, the United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act of 2017, which has a Senate companion bill, S. 1021, introduced by Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT). 

Previous versions of this bill were introduced in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

The bill calls once again for a three-coin program of up to 100,000 $5 gold coins, 500,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 clad halves.  Designs would be emblematic of the “traditions, history, and heritage” of the Coast Guard, whose roots date to 1790 and the only branch of the armed forces of the U.S. that has not been honored with a coin program. 

The Coast Guard is also the only branch that does not have a museum, and any surcharges from sale of these coins would help finance the construction and operation of such a museum, which was authorized in 2004 but never built.

Basketball

In addition to these bills, H.R. 1235, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, which was first proposed last congress, was introduced.  It calls for the minting of the usual three-coin set of $5 gold coins, silver dollars, and clad halves that would all be dome-shaped to resemble half of a basketball. 

There would be a design competition, and as always, the final selection would be made by the Secretary of the Treasury after review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Committee on Fine Arts.

This bill has only been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

If approved, these coins will be sold in 2019, the same year that the Apollo 11 50th anniversary coin program will be released (with four different coins), which would mean a total of seven dome-shaped coins in one year, which a number of collectors have said will be too many.

The U.S. Mint announced a design competition for the Apollo 11 coins.

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About The Author

Louis Golino Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.

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