Why you won’t see a U.S. Star Trek coin series



World mints generally have much greater latitude than the United States Mint when it comes to selecting coin themes. That is both a good thing and a bad thing.


This is the 50th anniversary of the debut of the American television program Star Trek, and the Perth Mint’s Star Trek coins for Tuvalu ar available for collectors. You won’t be seeing, however, any U.S. coins celebrating the television program.


In the United States, the legislative branch, Congress, has sole authority over regulating coinage, though it has ceded some authority for gold and platinum coinage to the executive branch, specifically the Treasury Department. This legislative authority dates to the U.S. Constitution’s Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures. ...”


In the United States, commemorative coin programs originate in Congress, not with the Treasury Department or the U.S. Mint. In other countries, authority over coinage may originate at a nation’s central bank or its mint, with commemorative and coin themes selected at the discretion of those governing bodies. And since sales of commemorative, bullion and other coins can be very lucrative for issuers, many nations are very innovative with their coin programs, as they seek themes that may appeal to coin collectors and noncollectors alike. That is why we see so many coins with pop culture themes — comic book heroes, cartoon characters, popular movie franchises and more. Issuers of these coins hope that a Star Trek coin series might attract Trekkies even if they have no real interest in collecting more traditional coins.


There is something to be said about this approach. Some of these pop culture themes might attract younger collectors who love, for example, the characters from the movie Frozen. These young collectors may never graduate to, say, Lincoln cents or Indian Head 5-cent coins, but they may keep collecting character-themed coins.


Please note that I am not advocating the United States go the same route. I'm really not. But is it wise to reject a change in direction without giving it some consideration? What do you think? Would you collect an American Star Trek coin? Or would following the path taken by so many other national and private mints be a huge mistake?