Mint Director Optimistic About New Presidential Dollars
By Leon Worden
Interview with Edmund C. Moy
Moy: There are a lot of really positive finds. I think our timing is really good on this. When you take a look at the city of New York upgrading all of its parking meters to accept dollar coins people are beginning to find out on their own that dollar coins are convenient for certain transactions. Whether it's parking meters, Metro or vending machines, they're beginning to use them more. That's backed up by some data coming out of the Federal Reserve. You see an uptick in circulation of not only dollar coins, but in orders of $2 bills.
COINage: The U.S. Postal Service is rolling out new machines that won't accept the dollar coin
Moy: Yes. One of the requirements of the law that Congress passed was to have us work closely with federal agencies to make sure that each one that interfaces with consumers is able to dispense dollar coins. We're working with all of these agencies, including the department of transportation, which gets us into all of the subways of the United States, as well as buses and things like that.
Moy: It's not only an agreement; the law requires both the Fed and the Mint to work closely together. Even if that law didn't exist, the Mint would want to work closely with the Fed, and we have never had a better relationship than we do right now.
COINage: If the Fed typically orders strictly on supply and demand, how will it help create demand?
Moy: There will be several ways. First of all, we're required to do a demand acceptance study. Based on that and some market research that we've done, we have found that there is tremendous interest in these coins certainly by collectors, who view this, rightfully, as based on the successful 50-state quarter program, but also by people who want to use this coin.
COINage: Will banks not be using the first-in, first-out method? What it's time for John Adams and there is still a big supply of George Washingtons?
Moy: For not only the two weeks prior to the launch, but up to four weeks after that, banks will be able to order our dollar coins in unmixed quantity. For every release, every three months, they'll have a six-week period where, if they want, they'll get pure John Adams or George Washington [etc.]. ... That's something that we administratively could do here at the Mint that we thought would really help boost the success of this program.
COINage: One-third of all new dollar coins must be Sacagaweas. You're required to produce them, but will you actually distribute them?
Moy: We haven't gotten that far in our thinking yet. We know that we have to produce and create the capacity [for] all these new dollar coins, which requires new technology for us. To be able to do the edge lettering, which hasn't been done since 1932 there's not a lot of technology out there that helps us do the volume of coins that we're doing.
COINage: So there is no mandate to distribute all of those Sacagaweas?
Moy: I'd refer you specifically to the law. [It states in part: "The Secretary annually shall mint and issue such "Sacagawea-design" $1 coins for circulation in quantities of no less than 1/3 of the total $1 coins minted and issued.]
COINage: How many 2000 and 2001-dated Sacagawea dollars are still on hand at the Mint?
Moy: The broader number when you consider what's on reserve at the Mint and what the Federal Reserve has it's probably in the [200 million] range. [As of Sept. 30, 2006, the Mint held $115 million worth of Sacagaweas in inventory and the Federal Reserve held $84 million.]
COINage: Ballpark, how many of each dollar design to you expect to produce?
Moy: We won't know that until the banks begin their ordering process. All we know is that if this meets our standards of success, the Mint will have to produce hundreds of millions of each one of these coins. So, what we're more concerned about is creating the manufacturing capacity to meet the demand. We'll see what those numbers are, the closer we get to the launch date.
COINage: Will you need to expand your manufacturing facilities?
Moy: One thing you have to look at is, the Mint has gotten extremely efficient over the last five years. We are producing three times more designs today than we were even five years ago, and we're doing them in shorter amounts of time. For example, the San Francisco commemoratives from the date the law was passed, and they took a while debating that, to the time of implementation gave us slightly more than two months to get that coin not only designed and produced but also distributed. We were able to do that. So the answer to your question is, we have gotten more efficient. We know how to redirect our capital resources to be flexible during this whole process.
COINage: Do you know where things stand with regard to the possibility of outsourcing the coin-blanking process?
Moy: I've been on the job a little bit more than two months [as of November], and my priorities have been to visit all the employees at all the Mints on all the shifts, as well as taking care of some hot-button issues such as making sure the presidential dollar coin is successful.
COINage: It seems you've walked into a hornet's nest. Brand new on the job, and you're handed this congressional mandate
Moy: But I'm so excited about this. Your first question was, from your mind, was this going to be successful? Well, this is based off our 50-state quarter program, which has been the most successful program that the mint has ever had.
COINage: Granted, people will save examples of each new design, but how effectively do you think they will be used in commerce as long as we're still producing a dollar bill?
Moy: The evidence is there right now. When you take a look at the Federal Reserve numbers on the number of dollar coins circulating, you see a dramatic increase in the last year on these.
COINage: Why is that?
Moy: It's like up in New York City, they're going to upgrade all their parking meters next year to accept dollar coins. I live in Washington, D.C. I came here 12 years ago. I could buy two hours of time for a quarter. Today I can buy seven minutes. If I'm going shopping downtown, I've got to carry a whole sack full of quarters around with me. It's going to be a lot easier to use a dollar coin.
COINage: The Sacagawea launch saw a big promotional campaign with TV commercials and distribution through Wal-Mart and cereal boxes. Are you planning something similar with the presidential dollars?
Moy: What we found in that original campaign was, while a big, splashy ad campaign gets a lot of attention on Day One floats in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and whatnot you get a lot of awareness, but that fades off quickly unless you continue that. To continue such an expensive campaign is probably not a good use of the taxpayers' dollars.
COINage: With the Sacagawea dollars, people were interested because it was something new, but then the interest died.
COINage: Do you think that simply by changing the designs every three months, you'll overcome that?
Moy: I think several things this is a series, and people love a series, as proven by the 50-state quarter program. That's going to help. Second, the design. Already we've gotten accolades when we unveiled the designs [Nov. 20] at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a limited space, but the applause was deafening when we unveiled the designs. By putting the lettering, the mottos, on the edge of the coins E Pluribus Unum and In God We Trust, as well as the mintmark and the year minted Americans have not seen this on their coinage since 1932.
COINage: And already there has been discussion on the Internet about the decision to move "In God We Trust" to the edge. Some people have already complained that you're "taking God off the coin." How do you respond to that?
Moy: We're not taking god off the coin. "In God We Trust" is still on the coin; it's on the edge of the coin.
COINage: But you DO anticipate a big outcry, come Feb. 15, from people who are just realizing that they don't see God on the fact of their coins, don't you?
Moy: No, not at all. In all the interviews that I've done, and in all the coin forums that I've had out there, this has not been an issue.
COINage: We didn't see many new circulating coin designs in the 1980s and most of the 1990s, so the discussion centered on the need for new designs. Since the state quarters were introduced in 1999, we've heard complaints about designs. Much of that is probably is related to relief; each coin press is stamping hundreds of coins every minute
Moy: Yes. Just with each state quarter, we probably do 500 million of those.
COINage: The presidential dollar portraits look nice in pen and ink, but when you try to translate the shading, for instance, to a coin that has to fly through a high-speed press, much of the detail is lost. The presidential dollars could end up looking like the tokens from Shell Oil Co.'s Mr. President Coin Game in the 1960s and ‘70s (the tokens were manufactured by The Franklin Mint). Since you probably won't be producing as many dollars as, say, quarters, are you interested in finding ways to increase the relief?
Moy: More broadly, coins are not only something that we use in commerce and help facilitate purchases, but coins are also a piece of public art that everyone carries in their pocket. And it's also a piece of history. That's what makes what we do here so unique, and that's what makes our people so proud to work on each one of these to know that Americans are going to be seeing this every single day. For instance, by putting the mottos on the edge of the coin, that frees up both the face and the back to do some pretty stunning designs.
COINage: Will we see deeper relief in the First Spouse coins?
Moy: Yes, because they're made out of gold, and gold is a little softer so you don't have to hit it as hard. That's going to allow us a little more creative flexibility.
COINage: Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens certainly had their arguments with Frank Leach and Charles Barber; even back then, the Saint-Gaudens camp complained about carving grooves into the molded hair, for instance. If you look at the Lincoln cent through the 20th Century, his hair has gone from being contoured to being a series of grooves. Same with the Washington quarter. Are you looking at that sort of thing?
Moy: I would take a look at, for example, our San Francisco commemorative. When you take a look at the detail on the back of the Granite Lady take out your magnifying glass and you're going to be able to see bricks. That's because we've gotten a lot better at using a lot of different traditional methods continue to drive us, but we're also looking for new ideas.
COINage: Will you be using Artistic Infusion Programs artists (outside artists) to design presidential dollars?
Moy: Yes. That Artistic Infusion Program has been so helpful, and when you really take a look at the number of artists in the world who specialize in medallic art, it's a shrinking group of people. Our people are among the best.
COINage: Will both the original artists and the engravers get their initials on the coins?
Moy: [Yes.] One thing that has been different than in the past: When we unveiled the dollar coin designs at the National Portrait Gallery, it was less about the Mint and more about the artists. I introduced not only each individual sculptor, but I also introduced the other assisting artists, and they got the loudest applause.
COINage: What recommendations are you making with regard to the continued production of the cent and nickel?
Moy: This is something that the Constitution gives sole authority to the Congress to determine what coins we mint and what denominations and [in] what metal content. We're doing our job to make sure that when Congress is ready to deal with this, we have all the options available to them that are well researched and give them the information that they need in order to make their decision.
COINage: Have you been providing them with information or recommendations?
Moy: At this early stage, any discussions like that are between the executive branch and the legislative branch.
COINage: What's your favorite state quarter?
Moy: [Laughing.] That's like choosing my favorite kid. They're all special in their individual way.
COINage: How many kids do you have?
Moy: I have one. We just adopted a girl from China in August. Her name is Nora, 14 months old this month [November]. We just love her to death. [My wife's] name is Karen. She worked in the former White House and had her own business. We've decided we've waited so long to have kids that she wanted to stay home with [Nora]. She is enjoying motherhood full-time.
©2007, MILLER MAGAZINES INC./LEON WORDEN. RIGHTS RESERVED.
|comments powered by Disqus|