While Harvey Stack passed away in January of this year, we are pleased to continue to offer readers the articles he had already written, so that they can be read and enjoyed as he would have wished.?
As I ended last time, I had been invited to speak at a hearing of the U.S. banking committee along with others in the hobby, to talk about the loss of interest in the U.S. Mint’s modern commemorative programs. Congressman Jimmy Hayes, a collector and friend to me, had come to the committee specifically to introduce me to his colleagues. I thanked Jimmy for the introduction and started to relate my experiences with the current Mint products. Since all the issues from 1982 to 1995 were offered initially by the Mint with high profits above any face value or precious metal value, once sold to the public a very weak secondary market developed. This went contrary to the Mint’s promotions that called them "An Investment in the Future." I then told the story (previously related here) of a lovely grandmother who came into our shop to sell these items she had bought as an investment for her grandchildren and her disappointment at how their value had dropped. I told many clients about this, and all said they experienced the same when offering their new issues for sale.
Congressman Castle stopped me and posed the following question: "What would you suggest, Mr. Stack, to remedy this situation?"
I carefully responded by telling of how when I was younger I could find a coin or two in change or on the street that was interesting to me as a collector – something different. Like many other youngsters, I assembled a small group, traded duplicates with my friends or family members and in that way built a small collection that cost me just face value. From rolls and handfuls of nickels and pennies I was able to fill out my holdings, and it was fun for very little cost. This was similar to how others started in the hobby.
Congressman Castle stopped me again: "What would you do to get people to again collect?"
I responded: "I think the Mint should issue a series of coins that would be found in daily change but would be different from each other. This would get people to look at their coins, recognize when there is an item that looks different or interesting, set it aside and start to build an initial collection, all at face value!"
I thought of an idea that might do the trick. I thought the Mint could start a new series of quarters that would be commemoratives in that they would feature an event in history. But, they would also be circulating coins that would be used in commerce. These quarters would honor the formation the confederation of states that became the United States and could start with the first state to join the Union. The other states could follow, in the order they joined.
Congressman Castle again spoke: "Mr. Stack, do you know that Delaware, the state I represent today, was the first state to sign up?"
I replied. "Sir, if I didn’t know before I surely know now!" I suggested that perhaps five different quarters could be issued each year, with one side featuring a historical event or site representing the state or an important landmark or product from that state. These could be issued in large amounts to be used as everyday change and be collectable at face value. I continued: "Sir, this series of 50 new designs could be known as the Statehood Commemorative Issue Quarters." This idea appealed to the committee and Congressman Castle said that they would look into it further. That was how the Statehood Quarter program got started.
After I spoke and received warm compliments from the other Congressmen present, Director of the Mint Philip Diehl spoke, agreeing with the ideas I set forth. However, as it was a government body, he exhibited his political training, saying that he would look into the program, and report back to the committee for further authorization. The meeting was then closed, and most left with warm smiles on their faces. It was an important day for me, and I felt like I had been able to do something to help the hobby.