The U.S. Mint’s Principal Deputy Director, Rhett Jeppson, invited me and over 50 public members to attend a Numismatic Forum on Oct. 13, 2016, at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. We later toured privately the U.S. Mint, the most visited tourist attraction in Philadelphia. The purpose of the meeting was, in their words, “to gather leaders and stakeholders of the numismatic community to explore ways to stimulate and revitalize the hobby.” With the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint approaching next April, Mr. Jeppson saw a unique opportunity to examine and discuss the Mint’s past, present and future.
At the forum, we heard from Associate Director Jon J. Cameron on bullion and coin studies, Robert I. Goler, PhD, on his role in being the U.S. Mint curator, and Ellen Feingold, curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, discussing new and exciting exhibits and programs at the Smithsonian. If you are ever in Washington, D.C., I strongly encourage you to visit this illuminating exhibit, where I am honored as a major sponsor and proponent.
Along with four other numismatic associates, I was fortunate to have lunch with the director, including some valuable one-on-one time with him. Jeppson’s background in the U.S. Marine Corps is impressive, having served as a Platoon Commander, Executive Officer and Battalion Staff Officer in conflicts ranging from Operation Desert Storm in Iraq to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He later served as an Operations Officer responsible for exercises and operations in Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa. After the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, Jeppson was recalled to service in the U.S. Marine Corps and was later assigned as Chief of Current Operations, directly responsible for the employment of all Marine Corps forces in Europe and Western Africa. Prior to joining the U.S. Mint in January 2015, Mr. Jeppson also served as the Acting Chief Operating Officer of the Small Business Administration.
Needless to say, the U.S. Mint has a congenial, highly respected and highly experienced leader. His willingness to listen and interact with industry leaders and the public was very impressive. I was most impressed with the fact that he and his eloquent staff all showed great interest in exploring new ideas for bettering the U.S. Mint and in creating a positive impact in many areas of the numismatic community.
Invited guests included individuals from the numismatic media, coin dealers, coin collectors, museum curators, key Mint staff, numismatic art and design and grading service representatives. I would estimate I was one of only eight (at most) coin dealers in attendance. The last time this occurred, to my knowledge, was 1996, when I was one of only three coin dealers invited. No other dealer was invited to both forums.
In last Thursday’s Numismatic forum, after the introductory talks were over, we broke into seven groups to brainstorm ideas in seven specific areas. The seven groups had the following topics to consider:
Group 1 – Packaging
Group 2 – Mintage/Household Order Limits
Group 3 – Medals
Group 4 – Who is our Customer of the Future/Customer Engagement
Group 5 – Working with Youth
Group 6 – Historic Design Reproduction
Group 7 – America the Beautiful (ATB) Follow-on
There were seven to nine people in each group. I was happy to be recognized as the leader for Group 4 – Customer Engagement. Lots of great suggestions were made in all seven areas. As group leader, I took down, presented and discussed suggestions from all the members of my group. We worked on strategies to attract different demographic sectors. The U.S. Mint would like to appeal to a diverse group of customers, including all ages, races, sexes and religions. Most importantly, the U.S. Mint wants to help stimulate the numismatic industry.
Some of the best suggestions in our forum included children’s books on coins, more functional packaging, new technological ideas, better spacing between product offers, a new state quarter innovators program, special products for key anniversaries – like the coming centennial of the last year of the popular Morgan Dollar (1921), which is also the first year of the Peace Dollar.
We also covered better customer survey suggestions, working with youth groups, like the Boy Scouts in their merit badge program, and lesson plans for teachers. As we let our minds roam freely in these areas, we were reminded that the U.S. Mint has limitations many other world mints do not. New designs and new coins often need Congressional approval before the Mint can act, although there is some “wiggle room” in some of their product areas.
All in all, we had a great cross-section of the numismatic industry totally engaged with the U.S. Mint in working to further invigorate the U.S. coin market and numismatics. I and the other experts present viewed this forum as proof of the U.S. Mint’s committed desire to stimulate the hobby, which is exciting for the future of numismatics as we approach the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint next April.
I strongly believe this is great news for current and future customers. By increasing the number of coin-buying customers, this often lifts the demand and price for the U.S. coins that I believe are so special.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Michael Fuljenz, president of Universal Coin & Bullion in Beaumont, Texas.