What's one thing the 1925 Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial half dollar, the 1926 American Independence Sesquicentennial gold and silver coins and the 1936 Swedes in Delaware 300th Anniversary half dollar have in common?Answer:
Each was authorized via a Public Resolution vs. a Public Law (i.e., their legislative history began as a resolution
in Congress vs. a bill
). The Lexington-Concord and Delaware half dollars were each the result of a House Joint Resolution, while the gold and silver American Independence commemorative coins resulted from a Senate Joint Resolution.
What's the difference between a bill and a resolution?
: Joint resolutions are designated H.J. Res. or S.J. Res. and are followed by a number. Like a bill, a joint resolution requires the approval of both Chambers in identical form and the president's signature to become law. There is no real difference between a joint resolution and a bill. The joint resolution is generally used for continuing or emergency appropriations.
Based on that explanation, the resolution route makes sense for the Lexington-Concord half dollar and American Independence coins as each program was included in legislation primarily designed to engage the US Government in the celebration of an event and provide an appropriation for such engagement/participation; neither was introduced as a standalone proposal for commemorative coinage.
At first glance, however, the standalone Delaware coin proposal being introduced as a resolution appears very odd until the circumstances surrounding it are better understood. The coin proposal was developed alongside a resolution that authorized and requested the President to invite the Government of Sweden (and other individuals) to attend the US celebrations for the 300th anniversary of New Sweden. This same resolution also called for the establishment of the Delaware Valley Tercentenary Commission which was to cooperate with the representatives of Delaware and Pennsylvania and the Government of Sweden regarding the observance of the New Sweden Tercentenary, and for a small appropriation of $10,000 to cover necessary expenses (e.g., travel) of Commission members; members of the Commission were not otherwise compensated for their involvement.
The same Senators - Joseph Guffey (D-PA) and Daniel Hastings (R-DE) - who introduced the coin resolution in the Senate also simultaneously introduced the invitation/Commission/appropriation resolution referenced above. Going with a Joint Resolution for that objective made perfect sense; using the resolution model for the standalone Delaware coin proposal, however, was more than likely a case of "resolution on the brain" vs. any conscience decision to forego the more typical bill route. Congress moved forward with the Guffey-Hastings Delaware coin resolution but not with their invitation resolution.
Congress did, however, act upon the companion invitation resolution that was introduced in the House by John Stewart (R-DE); it was ultimately approved by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The approved Resolution was later amended to include the Government of Finland in the invite. The invitations were accepted, and delegations from Sweden and Finland traveled to the US to attend and participate in the ceremonies in Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia and Chester, PA, Swedesboro and Salem, NJ and Washington, DC. Expenses related to the Wilmington celebration were partially paid for by proceeds received from the sale of the Delaware half dollar.
And there you have it, three classic US commemorative coins that traveled a slightly different path through Congress to reach the hands of collectors!Read more posts about the coins discussed above, as well as about other US commemorative coins here: Commems Collection