IMDA – a New Force for Circulating and Collector Coins

In August, the MDC (Mint Directors Conference) announced the formation of a new professional association – the International Mint Directors Association (IMDA). To date, 19 mints have already agreed to join. At the same time, it announced a related organisation, the International Mint Directors Network (IMDN), which will continue to be the forum for networking within the minting industry. The MDC itself will now refer only to the actual Mint Directors Conference, the next of which takes place in Ottawa next October.

Coin & Mint News™ spoke to Ross MacDiarmid, former CEO of the Royal Australian Mint and Acting Executive Director of the MDC, a role which has now been transferred to the IMDA, about the reasons for the creation of the two organisations, the challenges facing the mint community and what the IMDA hopes to achieve.

Q: IMDA has been created out of the MDC (Mint Directors Conference). What was the MDC? How will the IMDA be different?

A: The MDC was established in 1962 by a few likeminded mints to become a networking forum, but the industry has matured since then. For at least six years, and possibly longer, there’s been an attempt to try and professionalise the industry in a way that there was a funded organisation. That funded organisation is now what is called the IMDA, the International Mint Directors Association.

There are 19 members in the association so far and we’re hoping that will grow over time. It really is about creating an association that actually does promote the industry and shares information, through platforms such as webinars, maintaining a website, building an effective database, and which has programmes to remind policymakers of the role that coins play in the cash cycle, plus information on how to attract new collectors.

It’s about trying to encourage the industry to become more sustainable, and also about how we can enhance the experience of visitors to the various mints around the world through sharing best practice, experience and ideas.

It’s about collaboration where possible, so quite a fundamental shift from MDC in what IMDA is attempting to do.

Q: In addition to the IMDA, you have announced the IMDN? What is the difference between the two?

A: The IMDN (International Mint Directors Network) really is the new name for what was the MDC. There is no fee to be paid – it’s simply the networking function of what MDC was touted to be back in 1962. The MDC itself is actually now the conference, with the next one being staged in Ottawa in 2023.

The IMDA, meanwhile, is a funded organisation and it has a much more specific role to play. The IMDA will help to ensure that IMDN continues to be the networking function that it’s been set up to achieve, the challenge being to ensure that there continues to be inclusivity of the broader industry.

Q: Why has it taken so long for the mint industry to have a formal association?

A: There are two things that need to be in place. There needs to be a reason why an association is formed, and I think that it was demonstrated to the 19 members that decided to make a contribution to join the IMDA that there is value to be had in having a funded association that can invest in programmes and activities. That’s the first and most important thing.

There is also a need for a critical mass of organisations who recognise the value that can be added that can make this association viable into the future.

Q: What is its structure?

A: We are in the process of creating articles of association which will become a draft to be presented to the membership by the end of this calendar year. Hopefully by February, at the World Money Fair, there will have been a decision, which includes the structure of the organisation and governance.

It will be a not-for-profit limited liability association starting with the 19 members, and as I said will hopefully grow over the next few years.

Q: Will it be a lobbying organisation, eg. for cash?

A: We are not going to be a lobbyist, we’re much more of a promoter and an advocate.

Q: What are its principal goals and priorities?

A: The object of the IMDA is to promote the minting industry and to pursue solutions which will help solve the challenges it faces.

Importantly with a public sector lens, informing and reminding policymakers and central banks that cash and coins should continue to play a role in a rapidly digitalising world.

Q: At this stage, do you have any specific work programs or plans?

A: We have already created a sustainability charter and there is a work programme underneath that. It has really come from the Royal Canadian Mint and the Royal Mint in particular recognising that the industry has to be doing more to demonstrate commitment to sustainability. Many mints are doing some amazing things, but it hasn’t been particularly well presented to the community or the world at large.

By the creation of the sustainability charter, the 19 mints of the IMDA are committing themselves to actually get onto the journey or are on the journey to being much more sustainable operations. I think that’s a fantastic initiative with all credit to the membership who are now going to really drive that whole agenda forward.

We’re hoping to create a visitor or gallery experience forum where mints will be able to not only share their experiences but also potentially share the technology development that they are currently investing in.

We will obviously continue to produce the monthly publication, which has now been rebranded as Mint Edition, and webinars.

There is a work programme for the moment, and of course as the organisation matures that work programme will be much more comprehensive and have much more substance to it.

Q: Will the MDC Technical Committee (TC) now be rolled into the IMDA?

A: The Technical Committee was a subcommittee of the MDC, and will now be referred to as the IMD (International Mint Directors) Technical Committee, with support from the IMDA.

Q: Where do you see the key priorities (and challenges) for mints? To what extent will the IMDA help address these?

A: It will be of no surprise to anyone that the declining demand for circulating coins is a primary challenge. The other would be the potential decline in interest in collecting coins and if there is a correlation between circulating coins and demand for collector or numismatic coins then there’s also a potential risk to the ‘collector’ and gift market.

It goes back to the role of IMDA to promote the industry and remind policymakers that coins are part of the transactional process. The UK has been a good example of this, where as a result of rapid digitalisation there have been people left behind, and the UK government has recognised that and ensured that those people disadvantaged still have access to cash.

The other would be that we have to demonstrate that we are making a positive contribution, as an industry, to helping to address the issue of climate change, and not just as Mints. By adopting an holistic approach it means we can and should address the issues from a supply chain management perspective ie. from source all the way through to use and recycling.

Q: Is membership limited to mints, or is it looking to have a broader membership?

A: Over time we are looking to become an organisation for suppliers and others in the industry, and once we have the articles of association in place we will be able to encourage membership into the IMDA, beyond the 19 members.

Q: Will the IMDA be stand-alone, or will you seek partnerships with related/ complementary associations?

A: We will look to partner and collaborate wherever the opportunity arises. It’s important to note that it is the membership who should make that call for what they believe is appropriate.

Q: Where do you and the IMDA hope it, and indeed the industry as a whole, will be in 10 years time?

A: It’s much more about what does the industry look like in 10 years’ time. I hope that the central banks will still be supplying circulating coins, but this will vary around the world depending on the culture and economic status of each country.

Obviously we are going to try and encourage collectors, and of course mints are also involved in the supply of precious metals.

It is telling a story in which a lot of mints are experienced, and those stories will continue to be told.