Virginia could mint commemorative coin

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You could one day buy a coin that you can't spend, but could be worth hundreds of dollars. The Governor and General Assembly have signed off on a proposal to mint a Virginia commemorative coin that could raise money for the cash-strapped state.

Coin expert Paul Sims at Yesterday's Change showed us one of the best selling collector coins: the American Eagle.

"For an American tenth ounce gold Eagle right now, we'd be charging around $170," said Sims.

Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William wants Virginia to mint its own commemorative coin. Mock wooden "Bob Buck" coins were circulated around the statehouse when he proposed the idea. But the real coins would be made of a precious metal, feature the state seal, and could be called "ginnies." You couldn't spend them. Federal law prohibits states from using their own currency. But gold and silver coins typically rise in value.

"Precious metals are going to become much more expensive per ounce per dollar, so this is a way to avoid losing your wealth to the inflation that's taking place," said Marshall.

Marshall hopes Virginia would make some money selling ginnies. The US mint makes a lot of money selling American Eagles.

"Three years ago, their income was $28, $29 million. In 2010 it was over $1 billion," said Marshall.

You might imagine that Virginia could mint a larger, shiny gold or silver piece. But because the coin would be made of a precious metal, Sims says a large coin could cost thousands of dollars to make. He says to make sure collectors and investors could afford the coins, they would likely need to be smaller and priced under a couple hundred dollars.

Other states have sold commemorative coins, including California, Alaska, Hawaii, and South Dakota.

"That didn't work very well. The government sold them directly as opposed to putting them in a distribution network. They sold very small quantities and made no money in the end because of the expenses of doing so," added Sims.

Sims says Virginia stands to make more money if "ginnies" are sold in bulk to dealers, the way American Eagles are sold.

Delegate Marshall hopes both the state and investors would turn a shiny profit.

But don't expect to see a "ginnie" just yet. The governor has signed Marshall's bill, which enables him to ask the State Treasurer to mint a coin. But State Treasurer Manju Ganeriwala tells us that the Governor has not yet asked for one to be minted.

Marshall had also introduced a separate bill for Virginia to create an alternative currency in case the Federal Reserve system fails. But that proposal was defeated.

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