As I write this, Bernard von NotHaus, the inventor of the so-called "liberty dollar" awaits sentencing after being convicted of making, possessing and selling his own coins. The coins were made by the Sunshine mint, which also makes many silver rounds which are not scrutinized. So what are the problems with the liberty dollar?
First, the coins looked as if it might be a legitimate coin produced by the US government. It contained an image of liberty (later replaced with Ron Paul) that looked reminiscent of classic coins from the 1880's such as the liberty nickel or morgan dollar . In particular it contained the word "liberty" and a motto "Trust in God" which is similar to "In God we Trust." The bigger problems appear on the reverse of the coin, where a denomination is given. The original one ounce liberty coins had a denomination of $20 (even when silver was around $8 an ounce). Both the dollar sign and the word "dollar" were used, making it appear as if these were US coins.
The government also did not care for Bernard von NotHaus' politics and planned use for the coins. Mr. NotHaus clearly wished to place the coins into circulation to compete with US coinage. When the government called his coins "counterfeit" he filed suit against the government. The government is clearly threatened by any introduction of alternate currency. Anne Thomkins, the US attorney called the liberty dollar "a unique form of domestic terrorism." and called it a "challenge to the legitimacy of our democratic form of government."
The government would prefer that there be no discussion of alternate currencies. They ordered the shutdown of the website libertydollar.org. Von NotHaus' book,The Liberty Dollar SOLUTION To the Federal Reserve is still available, but in short supply.
Is the liberty dollar a true threat to our democracy. Despite Ms.Thomkins hyperbole, I hope our democracy is not that weak.
The initial seizure of the coins and the subsequent conviction caused the price of the coins to skyrocket. It is still possible to purchase a Liberty dollar coin. Yes, nothing increases interest and value more than the government banning something. Liberty dollar collectors may need to feel slightly nervous. Are they possessing counterfeit coins? Will the federal government target collectors?
Whatever happens, the Liberty dollar is sure to have its place in US numismatic history along with other privately minted coins such as the Hard Times Tokens and Mormon gold coins.