FOIA Requests for Mint and Treasaury
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10 posts in this topic

FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests often do not produce the hoped for results. Here are some of the reasons this happens.

A FOIA is a formal request under the "Freedom of Information Act" for any Federal government records not covered by any of nine exemptions or three exclusions. For the kinds of requests made by coin collectors, problems arise not from the exemptions or exclusions, but from: 1) the absence of records, 2) cost of locating and assembling the records, and 3) the Mint/Treasury's understanding of the requested information.

1) Applies to almost anything more than 20 years old. These are transferred to NARA for review and can take 5 years or longer to reach the point of public access. In the interim, the records are in archive processing (at Suitland, MD) and not available for search except under a Federal Court order.

2) Records held by Mint/Treasury are often scattered among many departments and operation organizations. At the Mint, no one actually has a complete project file on a specific coin or medal. Under FOIA rules the agency can request payment for certain portions of the actual cost of locating, reviewing for personal information and assembly of the requested materials. Fees can range from zero to thousands of dollars. There is also no assurance they will be complete, or even on the subject originally requested. (Some years ago a FOIA request was filed with the Mint Bureau for everything relating to 1964-D silver dollars. The requester received, at no charge, 1-page -- a press release from the 1970s claiming that all the coins had been destroyed. It seems that was all the Mint had -- everything else from that era had been turned over to NARA, or destroyed under routine orders.)

3) Requests have to be in language that Mint/Treasury employees can understand -- that is, made in their internal jargon, and not necessarily in "coin speak." An example might help -- If I want to know how fields of a die are repaired I might ask: "Please explain the tools and processes used to repair or resurface the field of a coinage die." Seems straight forward -- until we encounter specific jargon. To a Mint die technician the word "field" is ambiguous (this is called the "die table"); also is the request about repairing a die and if so, what type of repair...design, die steel, or what? Last, what does "resurface mean? Is that filing after die numbers are punched into the shank, or changing the butt angle, or what? The result is although the Mint might be trying to answer the FOIA question, they might or might not understand what a coin collector wants to known.

The above comes from first hand experience with FOIAs and in communicating in person with US Mint employees in different areas of expertise.

So, my suggestion is to make your FOIA request as specific and unambiguous as possible. Keep your expectations modest. Be prepared to wait. Godot is on the way.

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All excellent points!   I just hope I have them all covered.  It's an uphill battle for sure.  

I'm pretty sure I have #3 covered.  Along with my notarized FOIA request, I sent copies of articles from newsletters and magazines, pictures and letters from experts.  

The reason I know this is because three weeks after I mailed my request, my phone lit up.   The phone said: US Treasury   I was shocked!!   A lady on the other end said she was from the Department of Treasury, FOIA Document Release Office.  She just wanted to thank me, let me know they received my request and wanted to gave me a reference control number.  I almost fell out of my chair!  I work for the Gov't and that rarely happens!!  

She said she rarely sees requests coming through her office that comprehensive.  She was apparently impressed.  She couldn't offer any outcome to the request, just that she was forwarding it to the proper office at the Mint for action.  We'll see what happens.

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On 2/28/2022 at 12:06 AM, RWB said:

Great response! Hope it all succeeds.

I wonder who sparked your interest to start this thread??  :roflmao:

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On 2/28/2022 at 12:06 AM, RWB said:

Great response! Hope it all succeeds.

I need to mention.  I think I recruited a new coin collector.  I had over a 30 minute conversation with this lady from the Dept. of Treasury.  I couldn't get off the phone with her.  She kept asking me (off the record) basic questions about coins.  She knew nothing about coins and was intrigued with my request.  She was a supervisor (administration paper pusher) type employee. 

She said her sister had some old random coins from her father.  She was actually asking me question and taking notes!  I told her every collector needs a Redbook.  She was on her way to get one that day!   It's a crazy world!! 😃

Edited by tj96
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On 2/28/2022 at 9:07 AM, RWB said:

That's great! She was also collecting information that could help others understand your request.

It is great. One thing to keep in mind is that nearly NOTHING in government is stored with an eye to easy retrieval. Higher ups regularly encourage record destruction. Even records covered by VERRRRRY specific record retention laws, such as federal election records (22 months) are ROUTINELY shredded. 

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