Letter on the Issuance of Commemorative Coins.
My dear Mr. Chairman:
Bills are being introduced in Congress with increasing frequency authorizing the minting of coins commemorating events, many of which are of no more than local significance. During the ten-year period from 1920 to 1930 fifteen issues of fifty-cent pieces of special design were authorized to be coined to commemorate historical events, an average of one issue every eight months. The aggregate amount of the coins authorized to be struck was over $13,000,000.
On April 20, 1930, the President, at the instance of the Treasury Department, which has long been opposed to the issuance of commemorative coins, vetoed H.R. 2029, "An Act to authorize the coinage of silver fifty-cent pieces in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Gadsden Purchase." The veto of this measure had the effect of discouraging for a time the enactment of legislation of this nature, and no new commemorative coins were authorized until 1933. Since that date nine issues of such coins have been authorized, an average of one issue every three and a fraction months, notwithstanding the fact that in each case the Treasury Department reported adversely on the bill. The aggregate amount of the coins authorized to be struck was almost 3,000,000. At the present time there are many bills and proposals of a similar nature pending in Congress.
The rate at which new issues of commemorative coins have been authorized since 1932 has increased twofold over the ten year period between 1920 and 1930. These coins do not have a wide circulation as a medium of exchange, and, because of the multiplicity of designs arising from the issuance of such coins, they jeopardize the integrity of our coins and cause confusion. Accordingly, I think the practice of striking special coins in commemoration of historical events, and of permitting the sponsoring organizations to sell them at a profit is a misuse of our coinage system, which is assuming increasingly dangerous proportions.
The Congress recognized the wisdom of' maintaining uniformity in the designs of the various coins of the United States by providing in Section 3510 of the Revised Statutes that:
"... no change in the design or die of any coin shall be made oftener than once in twenty-five years from and including the year of the first adoption of the design, model, die or hub for the same coin."
It seems to me that historical events could be very suitably and properly commemorated through the striking by the Government of medals in lieu of coins. These medals could be struck and furnished at not less than the estimated cost of their manufacture by the Bureau of the Mint, since this function is now carried on to a limited extent by such Bureau and clearly falls within its province.
By the substitution of appropriate commemorative medals for special fifty-cent pieces much is to be gained. The size of the medals can be made larger than fifty-cent pieces, thus providing for more suitable inscriptions and more artistic commemorative designs. It is my thought that sculptors and artists will be encouraged thereby to raise the standards of medal making in the United States.
Under the present system of seeking to obtain special legislation for commemorative coins, many anniversaries commemorating local historical events are under a serious handicap. This new proposal for the striking of[ of suitable medals will, I believe, encourage the adequate observance of these anniversaries.
There is transmitted herewith a proposed bill drafted by the Treasury Department which is designed to carry out this proposal.
Very sincerely yours,
Hon. Duncan U. Fletcher,
Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking and Currency,
Hon. Andrew L. Somers,
Chairman, House Committee on Coinage,
Weights and Measures,
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Issuance of Commemorative Coins. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208844