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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Mint's Commemorative Coin Program, focusing on the profitability and proliferation of the coin program.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress may want to further consider its intent regarding the commemorative coin program--specifically, in terms of whether it wants the program to serve as a means of providing funds to the coins' sponsors, or reducing the national debt, or both.
Closed - Implemented
In September 1996, Congress passed legislation (P.L. 104-208) barring the payment of surcharges to sponsors until all of the Mint's costs associated with that commemorative coin program are recovered. This action was aimed at preventing the government from losing money on unsuccessful programs, but did not directly address whether surcharges should be used for the sponsors or for reducing the national debt.
For those situations where Congress wants the commemorative coin program to be used as a means of supporting a sponsoring group, it should consider reforming the program by making changes aimed at reducing proliferation and preventing losses, such as limiting the number of programs to one per year, restricting maximum authorized mintage levels, requiring that the selection of themes be based on market research, implementing a profit-sharing arrangement between the Mint and the sponsors, requiring that all of the Mint's costs be recovered before the sponsors receive financial benefits, and requiring that the prices of commemorative coins be set at levels where the market research indicates the greatest potential for sales.
Closed - Implemented
In September 1996, Congress passed a legislation (P.L. 104-208) that bars the payment of surcharges to sponsors until all of the Mint's costs associated with that commemorative coin program are recovered; limits the number of commemorative coin programs to 2 per year; and limits the mintage of coins unless justified on the basis of market research.
If Congress would like to increase government profitability on all commemorative coins or for those situations where it would like to apply the proceeds of a commemorative coin program to debt reduction, it should authorize a circulating commemorative coin program. Because the quarter is the highest denomination and the largest in size of the widely circulating coins, it would likely generate the most seigniorage and best accommodate a commemorative design on its reverse side.
Closed - Implemented
In December 1997, Public Law 105-124 was enacted, authorizing a circulating commemorative quarter program to commemorate each of the 50 states.

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