Commems Proposed for 2013
By David L. Ganz
coins honoring former President Ronald W. Reagan
are being proposed in Congress.
A half eagle $5 gold piece and silver dollar
would be introduced in 2013. The proposal calls
for 50,000 gold $5 coins and 300,000 silver
A bill authorizing the coins has been introduced
by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, who is joined by
The proposal calls for 50,000 gold $5 coins and
300,000 silver dollars.
Reagan, who died June 4, 2004, at age 93,
remains the center of controversy as politicians
for and against his commemoration on coins and
paper money take partisan sides on a variety of
proposals that have surfaced since his death,
and on some that had been previously proposed.
Just two weeks after he died, former Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-MS, declared in a
New York Times Sunday Magazine interview, "I am
an advocate of having a gold dollar with
Reagan's picture on it and calling it the
Ronnie. The Canadians have the Loonie, and we
can have the Ronnie," he said.
Meanwhile, Roll Call newspaper, a daily presence
on Capitol Hill, reported on Republican party
members efforts to put Reagan's effigy on the
dime, the half dollar, the $10 bill, $20 bill,
"Mount Rushmore - and are we forgetting anything
In 2001, Grover Norquist, chairman of the Reagan
Legacy Project, who also claimed to be "spoiling
for a fight" in an effort to carve Reagan's face
onto Mount Rushmore, had a more serious plan:
keeping alive the late U.S. Senator Paul
Coverdell's bid to put the Gipper on the $10
The Wall Street Journal quoted Norquist as
saying that "It would be a way to honor both the
president and the currency." It went on to
editorialize that it "Might be nice for
taxpayers to have on their money a man who
appreciated how hard they worked for it."
Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th American
president, headed an administration that
probably did more to shape contemporary
numismatics than any before or since. Nearly 50
key numismatic measures were inked into law with
his signature; presidential executive orders
were signed, and policies of generations gone by
discarded to be replaced by those with dramatic
Precious metals as they are today owe their
existence to the Gold Commission established
under the aegis of Reagan. It was more than a
ploy to appease hard-money troglites or money
managers; it was a philosophical difference that
separated the Democratic Party from
Commemorative coinage's modern golden age
blossomed under Reagan when, for two
generations, Treasury opposed their issuance.
They were swept away in the Reagan years and the
proceeds rebuilt the Statue of Liberty and
funded the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
without extensive government bail-outs.
The cent lost its coppery core (and was replaced
with a veneer) in the Reagan years. National
Coin Week was given a presidential proclamation,
affording recognition to an event sponsored by
the American Numismatic Association since 1924
virtually without government involvement. Gold
coins from the Soviet Union were banned from
import, as were South African krugerrands.
The Reagan years also saw a plethora of national
gold medals to augment the budding commemorative
coin market. Great Americans such as entertainer
Danny Thomas, former president Harry S. Truman,
former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, and foreign
dignitaries such as Queen Beatrix of the
Netherlands found their way onto America's
The South African krugerrand was the world's
best selling gold bullion coin until
anti-apartheid movements in the mid-1980s took
some of the glitter off the coin. Some 40
million pieces had been produced and nearly half
of them were imported into the United States.
Difficulties with the racial apartheid policies
of South Africa caused political consternation,
and the Krugerrand became an important symbol
that opponents of apartheid sought to ban, in
order to use an economic weapon against the
South African government.
As Congress moved toward a legislative ban on
the krugerrand, Reagan took the matter out of
the hands of Congress by issuing an executive
order that effectively banned future importation
of the coin. He also authorized a ban on imports
of Soviet gold coins.
Replacing the banned gold coins was simple. On
Dec. 17, 1985, Reagan signed the Gold Bullion
Coin Act of 1985, which created gold eagle
coins, and the silver bullion coin that has
since sold millions of ounces of precious metal
to the American people.
There were down sides to the Reagan market
philosophy. The Tax Reform Act of 1981 banned
coins from individual retirement accounts - and
it has taken nearly an entire generation to get
the discussion on the point back on the table.
If there is a major Reagan legacy in the
numismatic field it is in the field of
commemorative coinage, where his U.S. Treasurer,
Angela M. ("Bay") Buchanan and mint director,
Donna Pope, crusaded to change 50 years or more
of Treasury opposition to the concept.
Reagan's legacy continues to be visible today in
the coin designs that are now on the verge of
change; his lesser government may have become a
greater government, but the numismatic end
products will endure the tests of time.