CoinWeek had another great article this week (March 6, 2013) - this one by Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker on Herb Hicks and the re-legalization of Gold Certificates. Who's Herb Hicks? I didn't know until I read this article, but thank goodness for this efforts.
In 1963, Coin World columnist and former ANA librarian Ted Hammer wrote about a coin dealer in Texas arrested for trying to sell a gold certificate. The dealer had run afoul of federal authorities who acted to enforce a thirty-year-old Executive Order outlawing private ownership of gold coins, bullion, and Gold Certificates. At the time of publication, few in the numismatic community were aware that no crime had actually been committed. One reader did know, however, and he began a letter writing campaign that made the Treasury Department change its stance on collectors owning and trading Gold Certificates. That reader’s name was Herbert P. “Herb” Hicks.
In light of the Texas dealer’s dire straits, Herb Hicks considered Gold Certificates legal status after the passage of the Old Series Currency Adjustment Act. Hicks believed that, since Congress had removed the gold backing of all Gold Certificates issued before 1934, the matter of the certificates’ connection to deposited gold was moot. The government recused itself from honoring the certificates in any way besides redeeming them at face value in currently-circulating Silver Certificates or Federal Reserve Notes. Because of this, the Treasury could allow legal ownership without any consequences to the Nation’s gold supply.
He tried to reach out to the dealer but never heard back. He also wrote letters to Charles M. Johnson, Head of the American Numismatic Association, and to U.S. Representative Philip Philbin (D), who represented Hicks’ home district in Massachusetts.
As far as Hicks knew, the whole thing was going nowhere. His letter writing campaign resulted in some confusing but altogether typical responses from the Federal Government, which gave him little hope that they’d change their minds. Imagine his surprise when he learned that someone within the halls of government had finally seen the light.
A Treasury Department memo dated April 24, 1964 took a position suspiciously similar to the letters he thought were dismissed out of hand. In this memo, the Department removed all restrictions on the holding and acquisition of Gold Certificates issued by the United States Government prior to January 30, 1934. As of this point forward, collectors were allowed to legally hold Gold Certificates. The Texas dealer was now off the hook, and other dealers and collectors clandestinely holding these notes could openly buy and sell them. The Treasury agreed with Hicks’ argument, that the law was no longer necessary because the notes were no longer redeemable in gold but could, if so desired, be exchanged at face value for any other currency of the United States.
America’s only illegal currency was legal again.
Representative Philbin told him the good news. Mr. Philbin felt that the action was “prompted in some measure by [Hicks’] persistent efforts and persuasive arguments to get the regulations changed for the benefit of collectors”. Although Mr. Hicks didn’t get any public credit for his efforts, the power of his ideas still carried the day. He doesn’t recall what happened to the dealer in Texas, or if the normalization of Gold Certificates had any effect on the gentleman’s legal situation. What he does know is that the Treasury Department’s easement of restrictions on Gold Certificates meant that a generation of currency collectors could now lawfully pursue the study and collection of an important historical issue. If you’ve seen one of these notes in person, it’s because of Herb Hicks.
Be sure to read the complete article online.
To read the complete article, see:
From the Herb Hicks Files: The Illegal Ban on Gold Certificates
Wayne Homren, Editor
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