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Why So Few Friends
September 15, 2010

Coinage matters are almost always nonpartisan issues, but without the pizazz of the party competition there usually is no incentive for a member of Congress to work on behalf of numismatic issues.

That is because there is no political upside. A win does not make great campaign fodder. A loss saps a reputation.

So it is a sad day to report that Rep. Michael Castle lost his bid in yesterday’s primary for the Republican nomination for the Senate in the state of Delaware. He is one of the few in Congress who actually championed coinage matters like the state quarters and the Sacagawea dollars. These wins, of course, have meaning only to hobbyists. The voters of Delaware have other priorities.

Back in the late 1980s, California’s Sen. Alan Cranston, a Democrat, repeatedly won the day for collectors in the Senate with the proposal to change the reverse designs on all current U.S. coinage, but the effort always foundered in the House.

He was near the end of his career and any problems that might have arisen from his association with collectors could be shrugged off, but even so, he was mocked by noncollectors for what looked like an eccentric effort.

Is it any wonder then that we have so few congressional ears when numismatics wants to lay an issue before Congress, such as the new 1099 reporting requirements that take effect in 2012?

Even as the issue resonated with other small businesses and their political allies, two Senate efforts yesterday, one to modify and one to repeal, went down to defeat.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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