Commemorative Coins Reform Act Returns

by Mike Unser on July 24, 2015 · 13 comments

Photo of the US Marshals Service Three-Coin Proof Set

One of the commemorative coin programs this year celebrates the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service

Legislation was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that calls for an end in increasing prices on commemorative coins so their sales can benefit private organizations.

H.R. 3097, the Commemorative Coins Reform Act of 2015, was introduced on July 16, 2015 by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and it currently has 15 cosponsors.

Common practice in legislation seeking commemorative coins is to include surcharges for each sale in amounts of $35 for every $5 gold coin, $10 for each silver dollar and $5 for every clad half-dollar. Surcharge funds are typically earmarked for non-profit organizations to support their mission, which is also often symbolized in the commemorative coin’s design. There is usually a political component here as the non-profit(s) tend to reside in the same state as the legislator who proposes the coins.

More than $506.3 million in surcharges have been raised through commemorative coin programs since 1982, according to the United States Mint. As examples of recent implementations, the two commemorative coin programs for 2015 have surcharges targeted for the March of Dimes Foundation; the U.S. Marshals Museum; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation; and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

H.R. 3097 includes the following three major paragraphs:

(1) IN GENERAL. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no surcharges collected with respect to the sale of any numismatic item may be paid to any organization outside of the Federal Government, other than with respect to the costs of producing and selling such item.

(2) PAYMENT OF COSTS. – Surcharges collected in connection with the sale of any numismatic item shall be used to recover all numismatic operation and program costs allocable to the program under which such numismatic item is produced and sold.

(3) EXCESS DEPOSITED INTO TREASURY – Amounts of surcharges collected in excess of the amounts described in paragraph (2) shall be transferred by the Fund to the general fund of the Treasury for the purpose of deficit reduction.

H.R. 3097’s passage and enactment would end the typical use of surcharges going forward. It would not apply to commemorative coin programs already authorized.

Past versions of the Commemorative Coins Reform Act had been introduced in 2012 in both the Senate (S. 3612) and House (H.R. 6495), and again in 2013 in the House (H.R. 1218). For H.R. 3097 to become law, it must pass in the House, the Senate and get signed by the President. The legislation now resides in House Committee on Financial Services.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Will2020 July 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm

This is crazy. The whole point of the commemorative program as I know it is to help these non-profits. The following is taken from the US Mint website:

“As well as commemorating important aspects of American history and culture, these coins help raise money for important causes. Part of the price of these coins is a surcharge that goes to organizations and projects that benefit the community. For example, surcharges on the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center commemorative coins helped build a new visitor center under the U.S. Capitol’s East Plaza.”

“Since the modern commemorative coin program began in 1982, the United States Mint has raised more than $506,301,189 in surcharges to help build new museums, maintain national monuments like the Vietnam War Memorial, preserve historical sites like George Washington’s home, support various Olympic programs, and much more.”

Not only does the program get folks who support certain causes involved in numismatics and coin collecting, it helps important causes by having the public, who shares the same interest, to fund it voluntarily through the purchase of the coin. A program such as this saves the tax payer who does not support the cause, from having their hard earned tax money going to fund it.

I will certainly contact my representatives and ask them NOT to cosponsor this bill. If the commemorative coin program is simply a way to fund the deficit, it will be the end of the program all together.

RonnieBGood July 24, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Most collectors prefer the option to donate to a cause as opposed to being required to do so. Sales have been lost when buyers (friends of mine) have not agreed with the required donation to an associated cause. Commemorative coins are struck to commemorate US history, raise money for the Mint and then again there is this thing called Coin collecting.

I disagree that this is voluntary fund raising. There are worthy causes but make the donation an option when purchasing a coin. As it stands this is nothing more than a forced Surtax.

Will2020 July 25, 2015 at 7:58 am

I see what you are saying RonnieBGood, but the way I read this bill is it will be forcing coin collectors to fund reducing the deficit, and not funding the worthy causes the coins commemorate. Let’s face it, the coin would not be minted if the majority of Congress didn’t think it was supporting a worthy cause.

This new bill would be a forced Surtax on the collector, solely to reduce the debt. Just another way to “tax the rich” they keep talking about because I imagine there are far more collectors who are the “haves” than the “have not’s.”

jim July 25, 2015 at 8:58 am

From this article alone (I haven’t read the whole bill myself) surcharges are not being eliminated, only re-purposed; and that to cover costs already included in the cost of the coin in the first place. In other words the bill is using the surcharge to pay for costs already paid for in price of the coin. The language of the bill assumes that surcharges will continue to be added to the cost of commemorative coins. Well, that’s not necessary.

I prefer to support charities of my own choosing and in $ amounts of my own choosing.

Mike July 25, 2015 at 9:00 am

Boy can the political pundant’s have fun with this one. Good points both, Will and Ronnie. Republicans just can’t help shooting themselves in the foot. The rhetoric insinuates that Commemoratives are often suggested then the realized benefits go the states of the suggester, a sort of self pandering accolade. So the offered substitution is to make it less subjective by placing it in the General Fund to be used in Deficit reduction. Oh yea that’s going to work. If you have a Deficit that means you’re already in the hole (The Red), there is no money to pay down a deficit created by spending what you had including the money you’re going to put in there from C.C.P. That’s called Fuzzy Political Math. Ooo Maaaan, My Bad, I forgot, its right next to the Social Security Money.

Joe July 26, 2015 at 1:35 am

Think it would be a different story if the majority was Democrat?

RonnieBGood July 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep the politics to a minimum with regards to our hobby?

If you reread the three major paragraphs above from bill HR3097 the surcharges are to be Eliminated, “…no surcharges collected with respect to the sale of any numismatic item may be paid to any organization outside of the Federal Government, other than with respect to the costs of producing and selling such item.”

Production costs of all Collectable coins have always been rolled into the cost of the purchase price of our coins. And the addition of weekly evaluation of Gold prices gives the mint opportunity to make price adjustments. The last provision of the bill is a boiler plate statement that is used for all potential excess gov funds, “… excess … shall be transferred by the Fund to the general fund of the Treasury for the purpose of deficit reduction.

Surcharges from coin sales would not generate sufficient income to be seriously considered as a way to reduce the deficit and any bill written with this as the intent would be dead on arrival (DOA).

There are many worthy causes that commemorative coin mintings have supported but there have also been major league sporting associations (that generate multi-millions of dollars every year) that have also been included in recent commemorative coin mintings. The issue was raised as to why these organizations that are already flush with funds need to go outside for funding?

This bill needs further clarification.

Joe July 27, 2015 at 3:45 am

Hopefully it will pass in the House and get signed by the President.

jim July 27, 2015 at 8:41 am

RBG –
The bill doesn’t eliminate surcharges, it only states that surcharges (i.e. they will still exist) collected won’t be paid to an outside organization. As I said before they are just being re-purposed. If the bill was meant to eliminate surcharges it would say something like “no (more) surcharges” not what will be done with surcharges instead of what is happening today. This is a bad bill and should not be approved by Congress.

Lewis July 27, 2015 at 1:22 pm

The problem as I see it is that there are now too many poorly designed — ugly — coins being produced for poorly selected reasons. Remember the original commemorative program was killed off because of Congressional abuse. Commemorative coins should be coins of beauty for important events, persons or places.

Whistler July 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Yes indeed, reduce the Nat’l deficit, think about it $500m in 35yearsm, nat’l dept. like 20 trillion, so in like 3,500 years we would give 3 trillion against the deficit, which by then will be like a quadrillion zillion…..

Whistler July 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Perhaps the Admin will float a coin for the undocumented kids, they get the $$ we get the shaft

mca August 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I have bought commems that I don’t even like the design on because I wanted to support where the money was being used. I then buy the commems that I like just because I like them. I will continue to buy the ones I like, but if the money is going to reduce the deficit, they can keep those ones, I wouldn’t support a lost cause like that. Don’t these politicians have anything better to do??

Cheers

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