David Ganz published an interesting Numismatic News article on the influence of Senator Brooke on the course of U.S. commemorative coin legislation. Here are some excerpts. -EditorEdward W. Brooke III, who served two terms as junior senator from Massachusetts from 1967 to 1979, has been voted a congressional gold medal by the Senate where he served and the House of Representatives.
He will join the ranks of about 185 other men and women with this coveted award.
Now 89 years old and living in Miami, with reported land holdings in Saint Marten, Brooke has had a life of firsts that Rep. Niki Tsongas recently recited: “the first African American elected to the United States Senate by popular vote. I am proud that he accomplished this feat in my home state of Massachusetts, which he represented from January 1967 until January 1979.”
There’s a major numismatic component to Brooke’s Senate tenure, one that has affected commemorative coins ever since. It’s worth retelling, even as the nation readies to honor him with an award first given to George Washington in 1776. It has to do with Bicentennial coinage and the silver-clad component.
First, some background.
The importance: from the Bicentennial coin program has flowed all modern American commemorative coinage. In the absence of the 1973 approval, it is highly unlikely that, by 1981, the Treasury would have endorsed the George Washington commemorative half dollar. It is even less likely that the state quarter program would ever have become reality.
That in turn cascades to the Lewis and Clark nickels, the Presidential dollar coin program of 2007, the Lincoln cent design changes of 2009 and programs not yet authorized but somewhere past the drawing board.
Lessons learned from Bicentennial coin sales have become part of the legislative process and, ultimately, enshrined in the current silver proof coin program that augments the regular proof set program that the Mint has promoted since 1950.
When Treasury Secretary Shultz signed off on the transmittal letter in March 1973, no one could have predicted the eventual result.
Brooke introduced an amendment that succeeded in authorizing the striking of 45 million silver-clad Bicentennial coins, intended for collectors. Another 15 million could be produced if there was sufficient demand. (Brooke did this for a business constituent of Massachusetts, who made the cladding).
From the Bicentennial coin program, the Mint learned some truisms about the marketing of modern commemorative coins, which differ substantially from selling mint sets and proof sets, previously their dominant sales product.
Ed Brooke’s legacy casts a giant shadow, and his other accomplishments merit the gold medal.
To read the complete article, see: Gold medal deserved for numismatic role (http://www.numismaticnews.net/Default.aspx
Wayne Homren, Editor
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