Issues with Commemorative Issues

Updated: May 3, 2021

U.S. Government Accountability Office produced a report in August of 1996 entitled “Commemorative Coins Could Be More Profitable.” The report details the costs associated with producing and marketing commemorative coins for the United States, highlighting the elevated cost associated with creating multiple designs and dies annually, the use of precious metals for said coins, and the limited market for which the coins are desirable. While the resource in itself does not explicitly mention race or gender concerning these coins, one must recall that many coins depicting these demographics are those commemorative coins. Detailing the difficulties in the production, distribution, and fiscal impact of these coins creates multiple relevant questions. If limited populations of people even see these coins, primarily collectors, how much of an impact is the creation of these coins making, particularly when one considers the socio-economic status of many minorities in the United States and their ability to spend their disposable income on these collectibles?

The government's focus on profit regarding these coins also indicates the motivation of the government in the creation of these coins is at best for financial gain and at worst exploitative of racial and gender-related history and progress. This article is also referenced in "The Monroe Doctrine: Critical Thinking through the Use of a Commemorative Coin" by Leisa A. Martin in a 2007 issue of The Social Studies, focusing on the impact commemorative coin and what its creation says about the motivations and values of its creator. While not the same source, Robey Callahan's "The Liberty Bell: From Commodity to Sacred Object" from 1999's Journal of Material Culture features in The Guidebook of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman, the preeminent reference book within the numismatic community, detailing the history and importance of every coin produced within the United States since its colonial origin. The inclusion of this similar article demonstrates the impact of the commemorative coin and its imagery on the broader population. This report provides a look into the motivations of the government's production of these coins and calls into question the choice of medium for the representation of women and minority races.




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