The long-awaited U.S. Marshals Commemorative Coin will soon be a reality, with up to $5 million in proceeds from the coin authorized to support a segment of work at the planned U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday (Mar. 21) passed the Senate amended version of H.R. 886 — the United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. The bill now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama.
“Today marked the end of a long road for the City of Fort Smith and the U.S. Marshals Museum. With its passage, this coin will forever serve as a symbol and constant reminder of the character and tradition of one of America’s greatest institutions,” noted a statement from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. “Today, we celebrate, with the City of Fort Smith, the opportunity to honor and pay tribute to the U.S Marshals Service.”
The commemorative coin is scheduled to be minted in 2014 to coincide with the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Marshals Service. It would be available in three denominations, a $5 gold coin, a $1 silver coin and a half-dollar clad coin. The coins would be the first commemorative coin to honor the United States Marshals Service.
Language in the coin bill provides that $5 million from coin sales is to fund “the preservation, maintenance, and display of artifacts and documents.” Revenue from coin sales will also go to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Law Enforcement Museum, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In January 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the site for the national museum. The cost to build the 50,000-square-foot museum — including exhibit work — is estimated as high as $50 million. To date, museum officials have raised around $10 million toward the construction of the museum.
Jim Dunn, president and CEO of the Marshals Museum, has said the museum could see up to 165,000 visitors in the first full year of operation. An initial estimate for a Marshals Museum visitor count was 116,000 if the museum opened in 2012. Dunn said the 2012 opening was “wishful thinking,” but did not include the “synergies” of tourism and group travel between the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and western heritage museums in Oklahoma City.
Soon after naming Fort Smith as the museum site, U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. worked in the Senate to craft a coin bill. U.S. Reps. John Boozman — now U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. — and Mike Ross also pushed similar legislation in the House.
The bill saw several delays, including a move by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to block the legislation.
Not everyone is happy with the coin.
“Compared to job creation this kind of bill passage is fluff, Mr. Womack and you continue not to take job creation seriously,” Fayetteville resident Kerry Michael Berger posted on the coin legislation news on Womack’s Facebook page.
“No offense to the marshals, but don't you folks have a lot bigger fish to fry? Like cutting spending. Balancing the budget. Getting ALL of our troops out of Aghanistan (sic) and Iraq,” noted a comment from Dover, Ark.-resident Allen Hudson Veasman.
But most of the comments were positive. Dunn, the museum chief, weighed in to respond.
“This costs the taxpayer nothing. It honors the US Marshals Service (AND) their 250 + killed in the line of duty. Fluff? Pork barrel? Hardly,” Dunn wrote.