Mark Twain is getting his own coin – and it could be worth more than $1 million to the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.
The House of Representatives gave final approval to the Mark Twain coin legislation Thursday evening and President Obama is expected to sign the legislation so sales can begin by January of 2016. The $5 gold and $1 silver coins will be legal tender, though collectors are the primary market for the new money.
"It will help the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. For anyone who think it's simply symbolism there are real practical benefits,'' said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who worked with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Rep. John Larson and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt on the legislation.
A $35 surcharge on the gold coin and $10 for the silver coin will go toward four different Twain sites: The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley, the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, Elmira, N.Y. and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. The United States Mint will produce 100,000 $5 coins and 350,000 $1 coins.
Patti Philippon, interim executive director and chief curator at the Mark Twain House, said she expects the museum will receive a little over $1 million from the coin sales.
"We are just thrilled that this coin bill has gone through. It's something that we have been thinking about and working on for 10 years,'' Philippon said. She said money from the coin sales will go toward restoration and preservation of the Twain house and for educational programs.
Philippon expects the coins to be popular because "the market for Mark Twain collectables is definitely big … It goes to Twain's legacy and for the fact that he still speaks to people." Over the last two decades, for example, more than 100 books have been published about the life and work of Mark Twain.
"One of the great things about this coin act is the four different sites that worked together. It's bringing Mark Twain to the forefront,'' Philippon said.
The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act states that the author remains hugely popular around the world, with over 6,500 editions of his books translated into 75 languages. Most of Twain's books remain in print, including the popular -- and still controversial -- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In addition to "2016," the words "Liberty" and "In God We Trust" will be inscribed on the coins. The Mark Twain House and Museum, located at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, will assist with the selection of the final design for the coin.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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