It looked like Aaron Swartz was up to something.
Two months before his death, the high-profile Internet activist filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US Mint and asked for copies of its 2005 survey results which claimed, "147 million adults continued to collect the 50 State Quarters ... the most successful coin program in the nation's history."
The 50 State Quarters Program reportSwartz cited in his November 24 FOIA request said the US Mint "shipped 34.3 billion quarter-dollar coins to the Federal Reserve Banks (FRB), generating $8.6 billion in revenue and nearly $6.3 billion in seigniorage, which helps finance the national debt."
"The United States Mint estimated it shipped 16.3 billion more coins to the FRB than it would have in the absence of the Program. Consequently, the Agency attributes $4.1 billion in revenue and $3.0 billion in seigniorage solely to the 50 State Quarters Program," according to the report. "The sale of 50 State Quarters numismatic products generated another $470.1 million in revenue and $136.2 million in earnings and seigniorage."
It's unknown what Swartz had hoped to do with the information if and when he received the survey results. Swartz's request remains open, according to Muckrock, a transparency web site that streamlines the FOIA request process for journalists and the public. Swartz used Muckrock's service to request records under FOIA.
Michael Morisy, the founder of Muckrock, who met Swartz in 2010 after Morisy launched the site, told Truthout they spoke regularly about a number of Swartz's FOIA requests "but not that one in particular."
Perhaps the boy genius who founded a software company that merged with the popular social networking web site Reddit was hoping to come up with a solution to the country's financial woes and use the statistics in the government report to show why an idea to mint a platinum trillion-dollar coin as a means of dealing with the federal debt ceiling could be even bigger than the 50 State Quarters Program. Last week, he took to Twitter and urged his followers to "save the country" and "sign the platinum coin petition."
The idea was ultimately shot down on Saturday.