The latest addition to the Newman Numismatic Portal is a long run of U.S. Treasury press releases relating to numismatics. NNP Summer Intern Kellen Hoard provided the following report.
As my first year of college—and my first year of studying international relations—quickly
approaches, I have become acutely aware of how my work this summer with the Newman
Numismatic Portal intersects with my field of interest. Time and again, I find myself
encountering examples of international diplomacy in practice, directly and indirectly, through the
numismatic archival material I am encountering.
One project which yielded interesting
international lessons involved newly discovered 1833 Mint letters from the National Archives,
primarily to and from Mint Director Franklin Peale. Similarly, preparing dozens of Daniel
Sedwick Treasure auction catalogs for publication on the NNP allowed mind-bending insights
into historical international economic and political systems via the pieces listed within.
But one project, in particular, proved surprisingly relevant and instructional in my numismatic
education on international relations: scouring and processing U.S. Treasury press releases from
1970-present. Earlier this summer, I began the process of tracking down every Treasury press
release published in the last 52 years which related to numismatics. It was a task which required
great patience—a trait my mother has repeatedly declined to ascribe to me—but which I found
ultimately rewarding because of its lessons in my area of curiosity.
Treasury press releases are where that deeply influential government department shines a light
for both the nation and, crucially, the world on the biggest economic priorities of the U.S.
government. It became clear to me after searching through thousands of releases that, amid
announcements of massive sanctions, inaugural addresses, and trillion-dollar bond sales,
numismatic items remained an unshakeable presence in the Treasury's efforts to highlight
American priorities. It was also intriguing to see that many of the releases uncovered which
were clearly related to foreign affairs. A ban on Krugerrand imports. The release of Olympic
coins. The marketing of those Olympic coins abroad. A ban on certain Mexican gold coins.
Currency counterfeiting overseas, and how to stop it through redesigns of our paper money.
As numismatists, I think it is clear to many of us why numismatic-themed releases remained
such a constant presence, even amid much larger announcements. We know that coins and paper
money serve as perhaps the most clear—or, at least, the most tangible—expressions of national
values and priorities. Money is how governments communicate most effectively. By highlighting, constantly across decades, the ban on, sale of, or redesign of such
items—especially the numismatic items which most directly related to the United States' foreign
relations—the Treasury was effectively reaffirming those values and priorities to the world.
Whether this was intentional on their part is a subject for further debate. But the effect, I feel,
was the same. By elevating such announcements to the highest official channel, the world
became more cognizant of what we stood for. That can only be a good thing.
It's worth checking out some of these releases. You can do so here:
Wow - this is an amazing resource for collectors and researchers, now brought up to the present and going all the way back to Secretary McAdoo's 1917 statement encouraging the use of gold certificates instead of gold coins and 1918 Federal Reserve statements discouraging the use of gold coins as Christmas presents "for we are not yet through with war financing and the problems which grow out of the war and reconstruction..." Thanks, Kellen!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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