Dr. Sol Taylor

Bicentennial reuinion
In an event orchestrated by PCGS, President Gerald Ford and the designers of the U.S. bicentennial coins gathered Oct. 18, 2001, to promote a special PCGS-encapsulated coin set bearing their signatures, for which all four were paid. From left: Jack L. Ahr, designer of the quarter dollar; Ford; Dennis R. Williams, designer of the dollar; and Seth G. Huntington, designer of the half dollar. (Photo: Coin World)
President Gerald Ford's Numismatic Legacy

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, November 29, 2008

hen Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, he also became the first United States president never to have been elected to either the vice presidency or the presidency.
    During his tenure, Ford oversaw several of the bicentennial numismatic observances. Perhaps the most publicized event was the opening of the Fort Knox Gold Bullion vaults for an audit and public inspection on September 23, 1974.
    A Coin World story published that week showed a photo of Mint Director May Brooks in one of the smaller vaults with a wall of gold bricks behind her. The tour included a contingent of congressional members and about 100 members of the media. The tour and inspection was reported in Coin World's October 1974 issue.
    The Fort Knox depository is a branch of the U.S. Mint. Today much of the gold used in the production of commemorative gold coins comes from Fort Knox. At a cost of about $235 per $5 gold commemorative, it is priced at more than double its bullion value.
    The 1974 inspection was the result of rumors that some or most of the gold had been removed. It was the first such inspection since Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the site in 1943.
    The bicentennial coinage was authorized in 1973 under Public Law 93-127 and the first coins were minted in 1975 bearing the dual dates 1776-1976. No quarters, halves or dollars were issued with the 1975 date, although many were actually minted in 1975.
    The copper clad versions were issued for general circulation in lieu of the regular designs for the years 1975 and 1976. The proof sets issued for 1975 as well as 1976 bore the three commemorative coins dated 1776-1976.
    On the 25th anniversary of the issuance of these three commemorative coins, on October 18, 2001, the three artists who designed the reverse of each coin met with former President Ford in Rancho Mirage. Special sets of the three coins were put together and encapsulated by PCGS with a signed insert by Gerald Ford. The three artists also signed inserts for the special sets.
    There is no data on the number of such special sets, nor any public sale of any such set.
    In 1975 and 1976, special three-piece sets were issued in copper clad proof as well as the 40-percent silver format. Today, circulation issues can be found in change. The proof and mint sets can be bought from most coin dealers at a premium over the issue price.
    The other numismatic first was the revised $2 bill with a bicentennial motif showing the signers of the Declaration of Independence on the back. These were released in April 1976 and many were postmarked by collectors on the first day of issue, often along with then-current bicentennial stamps. Some 400 million of the 1976 $2 notes were issued.
    It was hoped they would reduce the demand for $1 notes, but over time, the public stood by its more popular $1 notes and the $2 bills faded from circulation. The current version of the $2 bill also bears the bicentennial reverse but also has a small calling in the public. About 1 percent of the monthly production of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is for the $2 bill.
    Early in his administration, Ford signed Public Law 93-373, which restored the right of U.S. citizens to own gold, erasing the Gold Act of 1933. The law became effective December 31, 1974, and soon thereafter, millions of gold coins that had been salted away in foreign vaults came back to the United States.
    The private Franklin Mint almost immediately made its first gold medal honoring the upcoming 1975 American Numismatic Association convention scheduled for August 1975. I had the honor of designing the reverse of that medal, which was also struck in silver and bronze. Gordon Z. Greene designed the obverse and Barbara Hyde executed the final version.
    Starting in 1980, the U.S. Mint began issuing gold bullion medallions, the precursor to the current gold eagle program which started in 1986.
    The bicentennial period also included numerous medals, postage stamps, celebrations, monuments and publications. President Ford was at the helm for this momentous period of our history. This is a part of his legacy.