NASA Coin Bill
By Mike Unser
The House of Representatives passed commemorative
coin legislation Tuesday that would issue silver and
gold coins honoring NASA’s 50th anniversary this
year. The legislation, H.R. 6455, was introduced and
passed swiftly in five days.
Praiseworthy speed? Perhaps not… Consider first that
H.R. 6455 is nearly identical to H.R. 2750, which
the House had already passed in 2007. And for all
practical purposes, it’s identical to the Senate’s
June passage of S. 2159.
Before getting into why there are three bills, its
more important to know what the passage of any one
of them means to coin collectors. Each bill would
authorize the United States Mint to issue:
300,000 one-ounce silver dollars for each of 9
designs depicting the 8 planets, plus 1 coin for
dwarf planets (Pluto)
50,000 one-ounce $50 gold coins depicting the sun
and emblematic of US astronaut sacrifices
The $50 gold coin would only be issued as part of a
complete set with the 9 silver commemoratives. All
coins would be 2008 dated to honor the 50th
anniversary of NASA’s first day of operations on
October 1, 1958.
Now for a brief look into how the three bills came
Lateness and inaction cause problems
NASA’s 50th anniversary is this year, and
legislation has yet to be signed into law. Even if a
coin bill became law today, the United States Mint
would be hard pressed to complete 10 coin designs,
have them approved and then issue coins by year’s
In that respect, coin collectors can thank the
Senate. Had they taken up last year’s House bill
(H.R. 2750) sooner — after all, the House did pass
it on July 30, 2007 — the Mint would be well on its
But the Senate didn’t. However, Sen. Bill Nelson
[D-FL] eventually acted. He crafted a new version of
the House bill with modified coin issuance dates.
That bill, S. 2159, passed the full Senate on June
Differences between newer Senate bill and 2007 House
To compensate for lateness, three major provisions
were added in S. 2159 that H.R. 2750 didn’t have:
An option to mint and issue coins through to the end
A surcharges for the sale of each coin that was
issued in 2009
A clause to preclude the NASA coins from counting
toward the 2 commemorative coin per year limit
S. 2159 also added a surcharge of $1 for each bronze
medal duplicate sold.
An important point, the Senate bill still requires
orders for NASA commemorative coins to end on
December 31, 2008.
With the Senate passage of the bill in June, one
would expect the next action for NASA coins to
involve either H.R. 2750 or S. 2159, and in short
order. Not so.
Present day action
Flash forward almost a month from the Senate’s
passage. There was still no action on H.R. 2750 or
Then on July 10, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D-TX] —
who introduced the 2007 House bill — introduces H.R.
Outside of about three sentences, each of these
bills are clones of each other. Does something seem
amiss in the back and forth process?
If there’s too much further delay, new legislation
may need to be proposed celebrating NASA’s 51st