Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Veto of H.R. 2734.

June 30, 1938

I find it necessary to withhold my approval of enrolled bill, H.R. 2734, "An Act to authorize the coinage of 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the journey and explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado."

This enrolled bill would provide for the coinage at a mint of the United States to be designated by the Director of the Mint of not to exceed 100,000 silver 50-cent pieces in commemoration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the journey and explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, such coins to be of standard size, weight, and composition, and of a special appropriate single design to be fixed by the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury.

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 50-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 50-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 twenty-eight issues of such coins have been authorized, an average of one issue every two and a fraction months, notwithstanding the fact that the Treasury has consistently during this period expressed its disapproval of this type of legislation· The aggregate amount of the coins authorized to be struck was approximately 3,800,000 pieces. At the end of the last session of the Congress there were pending, I am advised, at least sixty six bills to provide for the coinage of as many different issues of commemorative coins.

The rate at which new issues of commemorative coins have been authorized since 1932 has increased three-fold 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.

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, as amended, 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. . . .

Recognizing that the practice of striking special coins in commemoration of historical events and of permitting the sponsoring organization to sell them at a profit was a misuse of our coinage system, which was assuming increasingly dangerous proportions, I sent to the Chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures of the House of Representatives, and to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, in June, 1935, a proposed bill which was designed to terminate the practice of striking commemorative coins and to authorize, in substitution, the striking of appropriate commemorative medals. In January, 1937, I again wrote to the chairmen of such committees with respect to this matter. Bill S. 3086 of the 74th Congress, and Bill S. 1895 of the 75th Congress embodied those suggestions.

For the foregoing reasons I find it necessary to withhold my approval of this enrolled bill.

I have informed those interested in the celebration of this anniversary that the Mint of the United States will be glad to strike off a commemorative medal in place of the 50-cent coin.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Veto of H.R. 2734. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208994

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