Congress Didn't Do Much Before Leaving for Recess, But They Totally Took Care of Commemorative Coins

Matt Berman
National Journal

The 112th Congress was one of the least productive Congresses ever. The current, 113th Congress is now off for a five-week summer break, and it's not doing much better. Twenty-two bills have been passed and sent to the White House since this Congress convened in January—less than the 28 bills the 112th Congress passed by this time last session. Since January, the Senate has passed about 63 bills, and the House has passed about 210. The bills that have made it into law have largely been small: There's been no big new jobs program, no actual repeal of Obamacare, no immigration reform through both chambers. 

But there's at least one thing that Congress has been able to come together and take action on: the regulation of commemorative coins.

On April 24, the House took up H.R. 1071, with the remarkably unwieldy title of "To specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins."

Why take this on? Well, here's the House Republican Conference with the background:

On Oct. 26, 2011, the House passed H.R. 2527, theNational Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, by a recorded vote of 416–3 (Roll Call #812); it was signed into law by the president on Aug. 3, 2012. The law directs the secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins in honor of the 75th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The law also calls for the design to be domed, with a convex and concave side, a first for the U.S. Mint.


The mint found that when the center of the coin is pushed out, the edges of the coin draw in, which results in a final coin that has a diameter a few thousandths of an inch smaller than that which is specified in the law. To meet the sizing requirements in the law, the mint would have to order custom coin blanks rather than use the standard coin blank. Seeing as this would bring a large added cost, the Mint has requested that the law be changed so they can continue to use the standard coin blank.

So, if Congress didn't get this new bill passed, there would have been a veritable coin disaster. But, luckily for us all, Congress stepped up.

The House passed the bill by voice vote in April. Then, the Senate passed the bill without amendment by unanimous consent. But would the president sign? Sure, why not! This bill to fix an error on the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins became public law on May, 17, 2013.

But even on coins, there is more work to be done. On May 7, H.R. 1849 was introduced in the House. The bill is the Collectible Coin Protection Act, originally sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. But the bill didn't really get moving until it morphed into H.R. 2754, sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., with the same name. Bipartisanship in action!

But what exactly does the Collectible Coin Protection Act do? The bill is a change to 1973's Hobby Protection Act, which made it illegal to create or import any commemorative coins that weren't marked with the word "COPY." The new law would also make it illegal to sell non-COPY coins, or support or assist anyone who violates the Hobby Protection Act. 

This bill passed the House just before recess began, on July 30. It now falls on the Senate to protect our commemorative coins from knock-offs.

Take that, congressional pessimists. You think Congress can't get anything done? Well, just look at this National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin GIF, courtesy of Congress and the United States Mint:

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