On December 4, 2012, President Obama signed the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act into law. The Act directs the Treasury Secretary, and thereby the United States Mint, to produced up to 100,000 $5 gold commemorative coins and up to 350,000 $1 silver commemorative coins for distribution and sale during calendar year 2016.
Struck in collector proof and uncirculated qualities, designs on the coins will be emblematic of the life and legacy of Mark Twain. Twain, the noted 19th century author and humorist, was the pen name of Samuel Clemens. Clemens was responsible for such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The proof and uncirculated $5 gold and silver dollars will get produced to the same standard specifications of other modern U.S. commemorative coins. The gold coins must be struck to a weight of 8.359 grams, a diameter of 0.850 inches and composition of 90% gold and 10% alloy. The silver dollars must be struck to a weight of 26.73 grams, a diameter of 1.50 inches and composition of 90% silver and 10% copper. The Act states that only one facility of the U.S. Mint may produce any particular quality.
Designs for the commemorative coins will be created by U.S. Mint selected artists and reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The Treasury Secretary is responsible for making the final selections after consulting with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Board of the Mark Twain House and Museum.
The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, numbered H.R. 2453, was introduced in the House on July 7, 2011 by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri. A nearly identical bill, numbered S. 1929, was brought forward in the Senate on November 30, 2011 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
"I want to thank the president for signing this legislation into law and I appreciate the efforts of all the folks back home that have worked so hard for so long to make this day possible," Luetkemeyer said December 5, 2012 in a statement.
"Twain’s Boyhood home attracts people from all over the world and brings much-needed jobs and economic development to the state and this law will certainly boost those efforts."
H.R. 2453 passed in the House on April 18, 2012 and made its way to the Senate where two amendments were added and passed on September 22, 2012. The amendments pertained to the use of the surcharges and ensuring that no net cost to the government would result in minting and issuing the commemorative coins. The House agreed with the amended version on November 15, 2012 and it was presented to the President in late November.
"Mark Twain is an American icon with deep roots and a proud history in Connecticut," Senator Blumenthal said in a statement after Congress passed the legislation.
"People of all ages from every corner of the globe seek to learn from Twain’s literary works, wisdom, and wit each day. This bill commemorates his cultural and historic legacy and empowers those organizations most committed to preserving it."
Surcharges are added to each coin sold — $35 for every $5 gold coin and $10 for every silver dollar. Collected surcharges are evenly divided between:
- Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut
- University of California, Berkeley, California, for the benefit of the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library
- Elmira College, New York, home of the Center for Mark Twain Studies
- Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri
Sales of the commemorative coins will begin no earlier than January 1, 2016 and their issuance must stop by the end of December 2016.