By AUDREY FISCHER
On the occasion of its Bicentennial on April 24, the Library will be honored with the issuance of a 33-cent commemorative stamp and two commemorative coins. The Library's image has appeared on only one other stamp during the past two centuries, and the coins will be the first issued by the Mint to honor a library.
"These commemorative issues honor this great institution in a memorable manner on its 200th anniversary," said Dr. Billington. "This recognition is in keeping with the goal of the Library's Bicentennial to inspire creativity in the 21st century by stimulating greater use of the Library of Congress and of all America's libraries."
The Library's birthday celebration begins in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building on April 24 at 9:30 a.m., when Dr. Billington and Deputy Librarian Donald Scott will be joined by officials from the U.S. Mint and the U.S. Postal Service in ceremonies marking the release by the U.S. Mint of two commemorative coins and the "first-day" issue of the Library of Congress stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. Washington, D.C., Postmaster Delores J. Killette will preside as Master of Ceremonies for the stamp ceremony. Other honored guests include Henry Pankey, Postal Service vice president for the mid-Atlantic area; American Library Association President Sarah Ann Long; stamp designer Ethel Kessler, who will be available to autograph first-day covers (envelope with cachet design, stamp and "first-day" issue postmark); and coin engravers Thomas D. Rogers and John Mercanti, who will be on hand to autograph the certificates of authenticity.
Legislation calling for a Library of Congress commemorative coin program was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.), then chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, and in the Senate by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the Joint Committee's current chairman. The bills passed in the House and Senate on passed on May 5 and Aug. 4, 1998, respectively, and were signed into law (P.L. 105-268) by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 19, 1998. The legislation authorizes up to 500,000 silver and 200,000 bimetallic (gold and platinum) coins to be minted on demand.
The Library's issues represent the nation's first bimetallic commemorative, the first commemorative coins of 2000, and the first commemorative coins honoring a library. The $1 silver coin contains the Torch of Learning from the Jefferson Building dome, an open book, and the dates "1800-2000" on the obverse side, and the entire dome of the Jefferson building on the reverse side. The obverse of the $10 bimetallic coin highlights Roman goddess of wisdom Minerva's hand on the Torch of Learning with the Jefferson Building dome in the background; the Library's seal appears on the reverse side.
The U.S. Mint has set the pre-issue price for the silver coin at $28 and post-issue price at $32. The pre-issue price of the bimetallic coin is $395 and the post-issue price is $425. The lower rate will be in effect from April 24 until June 9. A percentage of the revenues from the coins will be returned to the Library for educational outreach efforts and other Library of Congress activities. Beginning April 24, coins will be available for public purchase through the U.S. Mint's official Web site at www.usmint.gov or by calling (800) USA-MINT.
On Oct. 14, 1999, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled all stamp designs for 2000, including the Library of Congress Bicentennial commemorative stamp (see Information Bulletin, November 1999). After reviewing more than 40,000 suggestions for stamps, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee recommended a commemorative stamp for the Library. Designed by Ethel Kessler, the stamp features a photograph by Michael Freeman of the interior dome of the Library's Main Reading Room. The selvage on the 20-stamp sheet reads, "The Library of Congress, America's library, is celebrating its 200th birthday in 2000. This Bicentennial recognizes all libraries and the vital role they play in advancing American creativity and liberty." From April 25 through May 31, libraries around the country will hold ceremonies as "second-day" issue sites.
Many U.S. stamps and other philatelic items are available online at www.stampsonline.com or call toll-free (800) STAMP-24. To view images of the Library of Congress Bicentennial stamp and coins, visit the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov/bicentennial.
Ms. Fischer is a public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office.