Legislation Allows Proof Silver Eagles, Changes America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins
Legislation was recently introduced which finally seeks to address the legal hurdle for the production of Proof Silver Eagles and technical stumbling blocks for the 5 oz. America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins.
The bill known as H.R. 6162 Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 was introduced by Rep. Melvin Watt on September 22, 2010. The bill primarily addresses the issue of the composition of circulating U.S. coins by authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct research and development necessary to make recommendations to Congress related to coin composition. You can read more details on this aspect of the bill on Coin Update News.
The portion of the bill which would allow the production of collectible American Gold and Silver Eagles seeks to adjust the language of current law. Rather than the US Mint being required to produce the coins in "quantities sufficient to meet public demand", they would be required to produce the coins in "qualities and quantities that the Secretary determines are sufficient to meet public demand'.
Presumably this would mean that in times when public demand for bullion coins exceeds precious metals blank supplies, the Secretary of the Treasury could determine the proper quantities of bullion coins, collectible uncirculated coins, and proof coins that should be produced. Under the US Mint's interpretation of the current law, they allocate all precious metals blanks to the production of bullion coins at times when bullion demand exceeds precious metals blank supply.
The introduction of the bill seems a bit late. At the House subcommittee meeting in July when such legislative changes were discussed, Director Moy mentioned that a change in law would need to be enacted "soon" and provided a production time line for 2010 Proof Silver Eagles beginning in September. Subsequent to the hearing, the Silver Eagle bullion coin rationing program was ended, suggesting some slack in the blank supply that could possibly be used to strike proof coins. Meanwhile, the release of 2010 Proof Gold Eagles has already been confirmed with a release date of October 7, 2010. Nonetheless, if the bill is enacted, the changes in law would ensure continuity for collectors in future years.
The portion of the bill dealing with the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins would change the design requirement from "exact duplicates" to "likenesses" of the quarter dollar designs. The required diameter would be changed from "3.0 inches" to a diameter "determined by the Secretary that is no less than 2.5 inches and no greater than 3.0 inches". Finally, the requirement for incuse edge lettering indicating the weight and fineness of the coin would be removed.
The changes allowed by the bill may already be irrelevant. Although the US Mint did encounter numerous problems with the over sized bullion coins earlier this year, they must have managed to overcome the issues. According to a story from Numismatic News, production of the coins is already underway. If the coins are currently being produced they would have to comply with the existing law.
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