Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee – who are they and what do they do?
Since the government is responsible for minting coins, you could suspect it’s more than one or two people who are responsible for designing them.
But wait, we’re talking about the government… Obviously, we need to be thinking about committees when it comes to decision making!
There are, in fact, many layers in getting a new coin design out the door. And although there’s some jest when it comes to talking about the government, the design of coinage – whether it’s good or bad – is no simple thing.
An interesting party in one phase of a coin’s design is the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, or CCAC for short.
Unless you read Public Law or have been in the numismatic world and have followed the development path of a new coin, the CCAC is likely foreign to you.
For sure, the committee’s existence is not exactly common knowledge even to some experienced coin collectors.
The CCAC is specifically named within the text of new coin legislation all the time. Usually it’s just a very small sentence in the design requirements section, stating: "review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee".
The CCAC was established in 2003 by Congress under Public Law 108-15. As such, if you like how recent coins look, the CCAC should receive part credit.
Likewise, if you feel new coins – both circulated and those made just for coin collectors – are lacking in design, the CCAC is partly to blame.
The stages a new coin must pass through
To get a better understanding of the trip a new coin makes before it gets manufactured and the role CCAC plays in that, let’s cover some general and very basic beginning or development steps of a coin:
- Someone has the "idea" for a coin
- That idea is shaped into legislation and introduced in the House or Senate
- The bill goes under scrutiny, through committees and gets reshaped, as necessary. That shaping consists of items like: why the coin should be made, its main specifications, the (very) basic design requirements, issue requirements, sales and any surcharges.
- The bill has to pass through both the House and Senate
- The President must sign to make it law
From there, the coin goes through creation aspects to get designed, and depending on the coin, certain people and entities are involved in that design. Always included are the following government entities:
- U.S. Mint officials
- The Commission of Fine Arts
- And, finally, the CCAC
The Commission of Fine Arts was established in 1910 and advises all government entities on "matters of design and aesthetics, as they affect the Federal interest and preserve the dignity of the nation’s capital."
Their "design" advice covers a broad range of areas, including coinage, buildings, statues, monuments and much more.
Publicly, the U.S. Mint is best known for manufacturing, distributing and promoting coins. They have the largest power in the punch for producing coins, as you’d expect.
The U.S. Mint and the CCAC work under the Department of Treasury and obviously work very closely with each other. However, separation between them was structured to prevent the "rubber stamping" of designs.
Officially, the CCAC was established to mainly advise the Secretary of the Treasure on:
…theme or design proposals relating to circulating coinage, bullion coinage, congressional gold medals and national and other medals produced…
Before a coin even starts down the path of being manufactured, the CCAC will review its design. They’ll give a thumbs up or down for a coin as well as provide suggestions to the Mint.
The members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee
All members of the CCAC are appointed by the Secretary of the Treasure. However, as a committee, there are obviously some politics in play for at least some of the appointments. Here’s part of the text from within the law that sets the requirements for CCAC appointments:
(i) one of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who are specially qualified to serve on the Advisory Committee by virtue of their education, training, or experience as a nationally or internationally recognized curator in the United States of a numismatic collection;
(ii) one of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who are specially qualified to serve on the Advisory Committee by virtue of their experience in the metallic arts or sculpture;
(iii) one of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who are specially qualified to serve on the Advisory Committee by virtue of their education, training, or experience in American history;
(iv) one of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who are specially qualified to serve on the Advisory Committee by virtue of their education, training, or experience in numismatics; and
(v) three of whom shall be appointed from among individuals who can represent the interests of the general public in the coinage of the United States.
(vi) Four persons appointed by the Secretary on the basis of the recommendations of the following officials who shall make the selection for such recommendation from among citizens who are specially qualified to serve on the Advisory Committee by virtue of their education, training, or experience:
(i) One person recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(ii) One person recommended by the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
(iii) One person recommended by the majority leader of the Senate.
(iv) One person recommended by the minority leader of the Senate.
What’s the CCAC doing today?
Every few months the CCAC holds public meetings. You can visit the CCAC web site to find information about these meetings as well as read the minute notes from past meetings.
On September 25th, 2007, the CCAC will have their next public meeting from 9:00 am to 11:30 am at the Unites States Mint in Washington DC.
Their scheduled agenda is to review candidate designs for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent Coin Redesign.
That should be interesting…