Dr. Sol Taylor

Eva Adams, U.S. Mint Director, 1961-1969

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eva Adams
Eva Adams (left) with the author (standing next to her) at the 1975 NASC convention, which drew 2,200 guests and visitors over four days.
va Adams had an established political track record well before being picked by President Kennedy in 1961 as director of the United States Mint.
    Adams (1910-1991) ran Nevada Sen. Patrick McCarran's office for several years. Regarded an efficiency expert, she was called upon to train the staffs of other senators. Her experience as a librarian at Las Vegas High School enabled her to transfer that skill into practical use.
    After McCarran died in 1954, Adams stayed on to serve his next two successors, Ernest Brown and Alan Bible. Bible sought to have her advance and suggested to president Kennedy that she be named to the post of director of the U.S. Mint for her experience in coinage (her family background was in mining).
    Adams quickly adapted to her role and was immediately involved in the American Numismatic Association and other hobby organizations. She was mistress of ceremonies at the Numismatic Association of Southern California in February 1975, where she presented me with the incoming president's gavel and handed out various other awards. She was a regular speaker, award recipient, guest and entertainer at the Numismatic Literary Guild's annual Bash. She even visited many coin clubs as a speaker and honored guest.
    During her tenure, Adams oversaw a dramatic change in our coinage. Silver had become too expensive for coinage, and the Mint created a new metallic substitute for the dimes, quarters and half dollars. Known simply as "clad" coinage, it was a copper core with a copper-nickel alloy coating. It was also called "sandwich" coinage.
    The changeover occurred in 1965 after a couple years of experiments and congressional hearings. She pressed to have silver included in the new clads but was overruled.
    In order to be sure that these new clad coins were machine-friendly, she took a few blanks to Nevada and tested them in the slot machines. They worked.
    Half dollars of 1965-1970 retained some silver. They had a silver layer which gave them a 40 percent silver content overall. In 1971, the half dollars also became "clad" like the dimes and quarters.
    A year earlier, in 1964, Adams approved and put into production the new Kennedy half dollars. This bypassed the usual 25-year rule for replacing older coinage; the Franklin half dollar design was in use only from 1948-1963, well short of the normal 25 years.
    Also in 1964, Adams and the Treasury Department agreed to sell off the government's surplus hoard of more than three million silver dollars that had been stacked in the Treasury vaults well back to the last century. Although not a Mint function, this coinage release created considerable interest in American coinage and coin collecting, as many scarce and even rare silver dollars came to light after decades in the dark.
    To counteract a shortage of cents in the mid 1960s, the Mint stopped adding mintmarks to them; all cents minted in 1965, 1966 and 1967 were without mintmarks, as were the other coins. The theory was that mintmarked coins encouraged hoarding by speculators, collectors and plain hoarders. Also, no proof sets were issued in 1965, 1966 or 1967 — another monetary loss for the Mint as a good revenue source.
    By 1968, proof set production resumed, and mintmarks once again were added to coins manufactured in Denver and San Francisco.