A multipurpose bill named the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 is set to become law following its House passage in September 22, 2010, and its approval in the Senate on November 30, 2010.
[Update: The president signed the act and it became Public Law 111-302 on December 14, 2010.]
Once President Obama signs the coin modernization act into law as he is expected to do this week, the United States Mint will be granted new powers to:
Produce collector proof and uncirculated Gold and Silver Eagles even if that cuts into the production of the bullion versions which the Mint is currently required to strike in quantities to meet demand
Research and test less expensive ways to produce coinage through the use of different alloys
Change America the Beautiful Silver Coins, including an adjustment of their diameter from 3 inches to between 2.5-3.0 inches, a removal of the requirement to place the coin’s fineness and weight on each edge, and modification to the portion of the law which states they must be "exact duplicates" of the America the Beautiful Quarters®
Numbered H.R. 6162, the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010, was introduced by Congressman Melvin Watt on September 22, 2010, following a July hearing in the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology which is chaired by Watt.
The Mint’s new authority to research coin compositions will not come without strings. The Act also requires the United States Mint to provide a biennial report to Congress regarding coin production costs. Additionally, the Mint does not gain the authority to actually change the makeup of a coin unless a new law is passed.
The aspect of the act dealing with America the Beautiful Silver Coins could have some interesting and impactful consequences beyond the physical appearance of the series. The United States Mint has already produced the 2010 coins, and began selling them through its network of Authorized Purchasers (see release details). Quantities for each of the five 2010 issues was limited to 33,000 for the bullion, plus another 27,000 for each collector uncirculated coin. While the uncirculated production was a pleasant surprise, the overall mintage was less than expected given that demand is expected to be exceptionally high for the debuting coins. Should the United States Mint decide to change the silver coin specifications in 2011, the 2010 issues will be very unique in the series and perhaps the most scarce.
America the Beautiful Silver Coins will continue at least until 2021. The 56 silver coins will celebrate a national park or national site in each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia. The Mint will release the coins at a rate of five per year. The 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Coins honor Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Yosemite National Park in California, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon.
The Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act was passed in the Senate on the same day that it approved American Palladium Eagles.