Congressional Bill Would Benefit Hartford's Mark Twain House
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
April 19, 2012
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would require the Treasury Department to issue Mark Twain gold and silver commemorative coins in 2016, with revenue from the sales to benefit the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford and three other nonprofit groups.
Each $5 gold coin would come with a $35 surcharge that raises money for the organizations, while the silver dollar would carry a $10 surcharge.
If collectors buy all the Twain coins — 100,000 minted in gold and 350,000 in silver — that could mean $7 million to be split evenly among the four groups, including $1.75 million for the Hartford institution.
"We're absolutely thrilled," said Jeffrey Nichols, the Twain House executive director. "It's something we've been working on for a number of years."
The Mark Twain Papers and Project at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley; the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College in New York; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Mo., are the other beneficiaries. The U.S. Senate must vote on the legislation, which requires presidential approval.
"These coins will help a new generation of Americans learn about Twain's contributions to Connecticut and our country by providing support for the institutions that work every day to honor his legacy," U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Missouri, introduced the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act and Larson was the chief Democratic sponsor. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has introduced the companion Senate bill. Nichols encouraged people to contact their senators in support of the legislation.
Larson also lobbied for the Twain coin during the 111th Congressional session that began in 2009, but no vote was taken, according to a Larson aide.
Twain, of course, lampooned politicians in his lifetime. Nonetheless, 408 representatives voted in favor of the bill Wednesday, with four against.
The American humorist also held a complicated view of money and wealth.
"Tom, being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be," Huck Finn grumbled in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." "It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat ..."
In 1981, Twain and his robust mustache were featured on a 1-ounce gold medallion issued as part of the government's now-defunct American Arts Commemorative Series. These days, the medallion fetches $1,950 to $2,250 on eBay.
What might the price be for a Twain gold coin in 2016? Depends on the market rate for precious metals. The U.S. Mint's 2012 commemorative, uncirculated piece honoring "The Star-Spangled Banner" currently sells for $500. The silver dollar is priced at about $50.
The House bill noted that "Twain's work is remembered today for addressing the complex social issues facing America at the turn of the century, including the legacy of the Civil War, race relations, and the economic inequalities of the 'Gilded Age.'"
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at