President Clinton signed the Library of Congress Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act of 1998 on Oct. 21. The House had passed the bill authorizing the coin on Aug. 4, with Senate approval following on Oct. 6 by unanimous consent.
The act authorizes the U.S. Mint to issue bicentennial commemorative coins for the Library in the year 2000, including the nation's first bimetallic coin (gold and platinum). Up to 500,000 $1 silver coins, with a surcharge of up to $5 will also be issued, with an option of up to 200,000 $10 bimetallic coins with a surcharge of up to $50 or up to 100,000 $5 gold coins, with a surcharge of up to $35. Proceeds will be used for educational initiatives at the Library, primarily the National Digital Library Program.
Dr. Billington said he was grateful to Congress and the president for their support of the Library and the legislation authorizing the coin.
"By authorizing a commemorative coin for the Library in its 200th anniversary year, Congress recognizes the significance of the Library in the nation's intellectual and cultural life," said Dr. Billington. "The President's signature on this act will energize the Library's Bicentennial effort."
The Library, which is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, announced on October 6, 1997, its intention to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1800. Commemorative coins are one of a number of Bicentennial projects that are planned. Others include "Gifts to the Nation" that will enrich the collections and their use, through special acquisitions and endowments; Local Legacies that will document -- through congressional offices -- events and traditions in communities around the country; and Favorite Poem, a program that will record for the Library's poetry archives 1,000 audio and 200 video tapes of people from all walks of life reading poetry aloud, as well as symposia, exhibitions, publications, a photo contest, and commemorative stamp.
The Library's Bicentennial will also mark the accomplishments of the National Digital Library Program, which is making available on the Library's Web site millions of items from the American history collections of the Library and other major repositories. The Library's Web site, one of the most popular in the world, is at www.loc.gov.
Efforts to secure a Bicentennial commemorative coin began more than a year ago. Dr. Billington first discussed the coin with Philip Diehl, director of the U.S. Mint, in May 1997. Mr. Diehl suggested that the Library coin might be issued as the nation's first bimetallic coin -- gold and platinum -- thereby increasing its value and appeal to the numismatic community.
In August 1997, Dr. Billington addressed the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee and requested their endorsement of a Library commemorative coin. In its December 1997 Annual Report to Congress, the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee recommended a Library bicentennial coin as one of only two commemorative coins to be issued in 2000. (Commemorative coin reform legislation passed in 1996 limited the number to two per year.)