Veto of a Coinage Bill Commemorating the Gadsden Purchase.
To the House of Representatives:
Herewith is returned, without approval, 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".
This bill provides that in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the acquisition by the United States of the territory known as the Gadsden Purchase, there shall be coined in the mints of the United States fifty cent pieces to the number of ten thousand, to be of a design fixed by the Director of the Mint and approved by the Secretary of the Treasury. The coins are to be legal tender and are to be issued only upon the request of the Gadsden Purchase Coin Committee, in such numbers and at such times as they shall request.
The matter is not perhaps one of large importance in itself, were it not for the fact of the great number of other similar proposals by the aggregate of which the principles of sound coinage are being jeopardized. Moreover, the multiplicity of these demands have largely destroyed their interest and value for the purposes intended.
During the past ten years fifteen such special coins have been issued, an average of one each eight months an aggregate of over 13,000,000 such coins having been authorized. There are now pending before Congress five other bills for such coinage, and before the Treasury Department several other requests for support to proposals of the same character.
The monetary system of the country is created and exists for certain well-defined and essential purposes. Sound practice demands that it should not be diverted to other uses, if we are best to serve the needs of trade and commerce, satisfy the convenience of the people and protect the integrity of our coins. Experience has demonstrated that the necessities and convenience of the people can best be served and the integrity of our coins can only be protected from counterfeiting by limiting the number of designs with which in the course of time the public can become thoroughly familiar. Indeed, the Congress itself has recognized the soundness of this principle by providing 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 from the same coin".
The growing practice of issuing commemorative coins, incidentally to be sold at a profit and provide funds for projects or celebrations, appears to me to run counter to this principle and by their multiplicity to have become a misuse of our coinage system. These coins do not serve for circulating medium which is the real function of coins. They introduce an element of confusion and lack of uniformity. The danger of counterfeit coins being successfully passed is unquestionably increased by a multiplicity of designs, with which the public cannot become thoroughly familiar. Furthermore, the very premiums at which these coins are sold stimulate counterfeiting of them.
There are a great many historical events which it is not only highly proper but desirable to commemorate in a suitable way, but the longer use of our coins for this purpose is unsuitable and unwise. This would seem to be clear from the very number of events to be commemorated, and past experience indicates how difficult it is to draw the line and how such a practice, once it is recognized, tends constantly to grow. If this bill is to become law, it is not apparent on what grounds similar measures, no matter how numerous, may be rejected. Yet their enactment in such numbers must bring further confusion to our monetary system. The Government would be glad to assist such celebrations in the creation of appropriate medals which do not have coinage functions.
The White House,
April 21, 1930.
Note: The House of Representatives sustained the President's veto on April 22, 1930.
Herbert Hoover, Veto of a Coinage Bill Commemorating the Gadsden Purchase. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209682