Lost American Innovation Dollar Opportunities

The first U.S. Mint Numismatic Forum happened in Philadelphia in October 2016. At this session, I gave Mint officials “Ways to Stimulate and Revitalize the Hobby: Observations and Suggestions from a 52-year Collector, 35-year Dealer, and Numismatic Media Participant.” Soon later, my weekly column featured this document.

I mentioned 14 numismatic hobby strengths, 14 flaws, 13 opportunities, and five threats in this essay. I suggested the U.S. Mint release "a collection of coins issued over a three to five-year time frame" in the first opportunity. I then suggested ten issue themes. These concepts began with “Historic inventions by state.”

Just over a month later, Congress filed legislation requiring the U.S. Mint to strike American Innovation dollars to commemorate each state and territory's innovators. President Trump signed it on July 18, 2018. The 2018 coin was the first. The series should finish in 2032 with four issues every year.

Mint officials never told me my recommendation influenced this coin series. Several people may have had the same concept, and the bill's introduction in Congress may have coincided with my submission.

I suggested a coin series to boost numismatics interest. These coins would need to be circulated like the Statehood, America the Beautiful, and American Women quarters to optimize that result. Circulating the coins would allow more people to view them and possibly collect them at face value. Statehood quarters were hugely profitable for the U.S. Mint. Cost to make these coins was 1/4 to 1/3 of face value. Collectors and accumulators removed hundreds of millions of coins.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Mint did not issue these coins or finish the series in five years as I suggested. Instead, only U.S. Mint customers who paid above face value can buy circulation-strike coins. At least three problems arose from this distribution approach. First, few non-numismatists know about these coins.

Second, the mintages are far lower than for circulation U.S. Presidential dollars from George Washington to James Garfield. At least 70 million Philadelphia and Denver Mint coins were minted for each Presidential dollar. The only American Innovation dollar with over one million circulation strikes is the first. Third, extending this series over 14 years deters numismatists of all ages. This lengthy dissemination of issues reduces demand in an instant-gratification world.

The U.S. Mint may still encourage numismatics and boost profitability. I suggested to Mint officials at the 2019 U.S. Mint Numismatic Forum that releasing four million Kennedy half-dollars and American Innovation dollars may achieve both aims. Higher distribution of these coins would boost Mint income and provide a new class of “modern rarities” for change finders.

The release schedule for new issues may not be increased, but producing more coins in the series should be easy.

stay turned for development