This bill definitely has an uphill climb ahead of it.
The Representatives listed on the bill are not first timers in the House, they have been exposed to commemorative coin legislation before and should know better than to propose a coin that directly conflicts with the rules Congress put in place in 1999 to curb the number of commemorative coin programs each year. While getting Congress to “change its mind” is not impossible, there is support for commemorative coin program limitation among members of Congress and also within the Treasury Department. This could prove very difficult to overcome.
If any of the representatives named on the bill happen to be reading this post, please refer to Title 31, Subtitle IV, Chapter 51, Subchapter II, Section 5112 of the US Code for a discussion of the two coin limits. It’s rather clear!
I doubt very much that Congress would go against itself and approve this coin for release in 2018. As noted by CelticKnot, the next open slot for a commemorative coin is 2019 – two years beyond the centennial year. At present, only the coin program for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 has been approved, but other 2019 proposals have either already been introduced or are planned. I think the First Division bill will lose steam the further out it would have to get pushed which decreases its likelihood of approval.
The Mint seems to be entering a “New Age of Commemorative Medals,” with 2018 set to see a fairly large number of issues with the planned WWI series. Maybe the coin’s sponsor (the Society of the 1st Infantry Division) could be convinced to accept a silver commemorative medal instead. I think that is the path of least resistance at this point.
The bill specifies that the surcharges collected through the sale of the coins are to be given to the Society of the 1st Infantry Division for its use in renovating the 1st Infantry Division Memorial in Washington, DC. The Memorial was originally constructed in 1924 to honor the soldiers of the First Division who lost their lives in World War I. The Memorial has been expanded over the years to recognize First Division soldiers who were lost in World War II, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm; the First Division did not participate in Korea, its soldier were in Germany as part of the post-WWII occupation force. The Memorial is located south of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building which, in turn, is located to the west of the White House.
A great summary of the Society’s efforts to create the original memorial and expand it over time can be found here: First Division Memorial
The term “renovation” might be used a little loosely in the bill. The Memorial is managed by the National Park Service (NPS), not the Society; the NPA handles the Memorial’s maintenance needs. From what I have been able to find, the Society is looking to raise funds to add memorial plaques to recognize First Division soldiers who gave their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and to make room for potential future memorial plaques. Funds raised would be used to develop a design plan for the additions, address the costs of getting the needed approvals for the updates (e.g., Commission of Fine Arts, American Battle Monuments Commission, the NPS’ National Capital Region, etc.) and for the actual site work and creation of the memorial tablets.
The bill calls for a gold half eagle ($5.00), a silver dollar and a clad half dollar. If it was to ultimately pass Congress and get approved by the President, the mintages specified have the potential to stir things up among commemorative collectors. Only 20,000 gold coins, 100,000 silver dollars and 200,000 half dollars are requested.
Each of these mintage requests is far below the norm for modern commemoratives. The argument can be raised that recent modern commemorative coins don’t reach these sales numbers so what’s the big deal. Well, it’s possible that the lower maximum mintages could give the perception of scarcity and thus draw in collectors who are “looking to score!” Also, there’s the possibility that the lower figures could entice the grading services and several large dealers to work together to hype the coins and create a market frenzy; see the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame
coins for a recent example of such a strategy. The subject of the proposed coins isn't as "sexy" as baseball for many folks, however, so I'm not sure if an attempt at market manipulation would be successful.
As I mentioned at the top, I think this bill has a long uphill climb ahead of it – the proposed year of issue is just the first of several obstacles to overcome; as noted, a switch to 2019 would bring other competing bills into play. If the funds were being sought for the creation of a new monument vs. a relatively minor update to an existing one, I think the bill would have a better chance.
Don't we already have an infanty dollar?
Yes, but it was for a different purpose. The 2012 Infantry silver dollar was issued to help raise funds to support the maintenance of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus Georgia; the museum opened in 2009 and tells the story of all infantrymen, not just a specific division.