America the Beautiful Silver Coin Specifications Could Change

One of the difficult challenges in producing America the Beautiful 5 oz Silver Coins is creating the edge letterings, according to United States Mint Director Ed Moy. The coins, which are authorized by Public Law 110-456, are duplicates of the America the Beautiful Quarters™ and have incused into the edge the fineness and weight of the bullion coin. Now, a multifaceted bill that was recently passed in the United States House of Representatives is aimed at making their production easier through design and specifications changes.

2010 America the Beautiful 5 oz Silver Bullion Coins
The five 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin designs -- both obverse and reverse -- will be duplicates of the five 2010 America the Beautiful Quarters

Earlier in the year Director Moy explained how placing letters and numbers on the edge, something the Mint has been doing on certain coins for a number of years, posed a problem with the new bullion .9999 fine silver coins. He described their thickness as “paper thin” during a public coin forum in February.

“We’ve got a 5 ounce piece of silver, and we stretch it out to a 3 inch diameter, it’s paper thin. And then Congress mandated that we had to edge letter it. So when you edge letter a paper thin coin, you get crumples.”

Introduced by Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) on September 22, the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010, H.R. 6162, would permit changes to the America the Beautiful Silver Coins.

H.R. 6162 would give the Mint flexibility to make several refinements. A clause in the “Technical Corrections” section would amend Section 5112(u)(1) of title 31, United States Code. First it would replace ‘exact duplicates’ with ‘likenesses’. Second, it would strike subparagraph (C): ‘have incused into the edge the fineness and weight of the bullion coin.’ Also, in subparagraph (A), it would replace ‘of 3.0 inches’ with ‘determined by the Secretary that is no less than 2.5 inches and no greater than 3.0 inches’.

Since the Mint is under the authority of the Secretary of Treasury, these specification would make the coins thicker by shrinking their diameter. They could also move the fineness and weight to either side of the coin, which is more common.

Of course, these possible changes are coming late in the year and in the coin minting process, and they do not address the deadline in the law that forces the Mint to produce the silver versions in the same year as their quarter-counterparts. H.R. 6162 passed the House on September 29, 2010. It was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. So it still has to pass in the Senate and get signed by the President. Even if the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010 becomes law, it may be too late in the game for anything to happen to this year.

The timeline for the 2010 silver coins had already changed at least once. In April the Mint forecasted their staggered releases beginning late this summer, but that didn’t happen. Besides the edge lettering, the Mint had to overcome other production obstacles which took time. First, they had to develop, test and custom order 5 ounce silver coin blanks — the discs used in making coins. According to reports, the final specifications were given to their supplier, Sunshine Minting, Inc. in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Second, the Mint purchased a press from German firm Gräbener Pressensysteme GmbH & Co. KG that was designed to strike larger coins. It was installed on March 1, 2010 at the facility in Philadelphia.

The latest news from the Mint was that the development was complete and that the production of the 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Coins was expected to begin this fall. 500,000 will be minted this year — 100,000 for each of this year’s four 2010 National Park coin and the 2010 National Forest coin.

The silver coins will be distributed through the Mint’s network of authorized purchasers. Prices or premiums have not yet been published by Mint officials.

The America the Beautiful Quarter and coin series started as H.R. 6184 before becoming Public Law 110-456. The program will honor 56 national parks and sites with five designs each year. It is estimated to last until at least 2021.

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