WASHINGTON, DC - If there's one person in America who knows how to market coin designs to ensure wide acceptance, it's Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE). He was the fellow who dreamed up the wildly popular series of commemorative quarters honoring the 50 states. Now Castle is back on the currency front, and this time he's targeting the $1 coin.
If Congress passes a bill that Castle introduced March 9, Sacagawea will be out (temporarily at least) and the Statue of Liberty will be in'with four different U.S. presidents' portraits on the obverse side, every year, in a rotating series that will begin with George Washington. Accordingly, with 43 presidents (so far), it would take at least 12 years to complete the full series.
"The dollar coin is clearly one that has not taken off the way it should," Castle said when announcing his bill. "We need to do something to really energize it and my sense is, this will."
Castle's "Presidential $1 Coin Act" is co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). It would temporarily remove the current designs from the front and rear sides of the current circulating golden dollar coin that was introduced in 2000. Starting in 2006 and continuing until all presidents , except the sitting one , have been honored, the program would issue four different designs a year featuring the presidents in the order in which they served. Living ex-presidents would also be included.
A nearly pure-gold investment-grade bullion commemorative coin honoring First Spouses would be issued in tandem with the presidential dollars. Some critics have claimed this would be problematic in cases of bachelor presidents, widowers whose wives expired before their husbands became presidents, etc., but Castle brushes such criticisms aside.
"Just as with the quarters, this is a way to revitalize the design of our coins while at the same time providing a valuable educational tool," Castle said. "Each coin would carry the president's likeness, dates of service and the number of his term, and the same would be true for the First Spouse coins. So for example, anyone paying attention would learn that five presidents to date have not had spouses while they were in office, two have had more than one owing to deaths during their term, and one president (Grover Cleveland) would have two coins bearing his likeness, as he was the only one to date to have served non-consecutive terms."
In instances where there is no First Spouse (four to date), the bill calls for the obverse to bear an image of "Lady Liberty" as carried on a circulating coin of the president for that term, and the reverse to carry scenes relating to the president's term.
Castle said he imagined that teachers would work to build lesson plans around the issuance of the coins, as they have with the quarter program, and that both numismatists and informal collectors would collect the coins in a variety of ways. "I can imagine a set of presidential dollars, a George-and-Martha Washington set, and a set of first spouse coins," said Castle, who noted that a spouse set would be vary valuable as the coins would be struck in gold that is .9999% pure, a purity never before used in U.S. coins.
The legislation seeks to revitalize coinage by moving the issue date, mint mark and other important mottoes on the coin to the edge of the presidential dollar and the spouse coins, as has been done on coins such as the 2-euro coin from the European Union and the 1-RMB coin from the People's Republic of China. "That will allow for the images on the obverse and reverse of the coin to be larger, more dramatic," said Castle. His legislation calls for the image of the Statue of Liberty to be "large enough to be dramatic, but not so large as to create a 'two-headed' coin."
At the end of the presidential dollar program, Castle said, the images on the obverse and reverse of the coin would return to the current design, featuring the Native American woman Sacagawea, a guide and translator for the explorers Lewis and Clark, on the obverse. "I fully expect that having the rotating images of presidents on the coin will vastly increase demand for the one-dollar coin and help it find its natural place in U.S. commerce," said Castle. "Once this program is over, Sacagawea can return to a coin that has been rehabilitated."
Noting that Castle's bill is in the Congressional hopper, leaders of the Amusement and Music Operators Association decided to revive their $1 coin subcommittee. The decision came during AMOA's midyear board meeting, held March 20-23 in Phoenix, AZ. "We were about ready to put our $1 coin subcommittee on the back shelf, but we reactivated it at this meeting with this news," said AMOA president Chris Warren. The subcommittee's mission is to help promote wider use and circulation of dollar coins, within and without the industry. Executives said AMOA would closely monitor the fate of Castle's proposal.
Press sources quoted U.S. Mint director Henrietta Holsman Fore as saying, "The U.S. Mint will proudly mint what Congress decides. When coins are redesigned, we do know that people look at them again."
One argument in favor of Castle's program is that Uncle Sam would likely profit on the deal. According to USA Today, millions of citizens collect commemorative state quarters, removing them from circulation and creating a $4 billion return (so far) for the U.S. Mint.More information is available from Castle's office in Washington at (202) 225-4165 or online at house.gov/castle/.