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Apollo 50th Anniversary Two-nation Coin Set

January 14, 2019 0 Comments

July 20, 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the historic first landing of a man on the moon in 1969. Older people will almost certainly remember exactly where they were, watching on a tiny TV set the flickering, blurry pictures sent from the moon, and hearing John Armstrong say, “One small step for man, on giant leap for mankind.”  Although the mission was American, it caught the global imagination, so it is appropriate that America and Australia have got together to issue a joint commemorative coin set for the anniversary.

Apart from the long-standing friendship between America and Australia, standing as they do on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, for Apollo there is a special connection, because in those early times the four tracking stations in Australia, at Carnarvon, Honeysuckle Creek, Tidbinbilla and Parkes, were vital links in the communication system between NASA and the astronauts. So a joint issue of coins from the US Mint and the Royal Australian Mint seems completely appropriate.

We will look in more detail another time soon at the four coins being released by the US Mint to commemorate Apollo, but for the two-nation set, it is the half-dollar that is of interest. Briefly – see our later blog for more details – the copper coin, clad in nickel, is curved, like the others in the series, in the way the earlier Baseball Hall of Fame coin was. The dished side is the obverse, featuring a boot print on the lunar surface, as well as the inscriptions, MERCURY, GEMINI, and APOLLO, images of the phases of the Moon, and the date, 2019, IN GOD WE TRUST, and LIBERTY.

The reverse shows the Apollo craft standing on the moon, with Buz Aldrin standing beside it in his space suit, the American flag on a pole (with a rod to keep it standing out), and the long shadow of the photographer, Neil Armstrong. The curvature of the coin makes this side bulge outwards.

The set is being produced by the Royal Australian Mint, and their contribution is a $5 one-ounce silver coin. The details of this coin have not yet been released, but we can perhaps guess that it will continue with the theme of their own 6-coin Apollo commemorative set. That set, consisting of the 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins, has a common reverse, with a very significant image. We see a scientist making notes in a book facing a small screen showing Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface, with the Apollo craft in the background. There is a second scientist standing behind him. Above them is a radio scanning disc, pointing towards space.

This is the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station, near Canberra, Australia’s national capital. Few viewers on that day in July 1969 would have known that the image they were viewing was being captured by that remote station, and being beamed around the world, so the image is especially relevant. A banner across the face of the coin has the inscription, 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOON LANDING. Presumably this side will have the inscription FIVE DOLLARS as well. The obverse design is unknown, as each coin in the existing series has a unique obverse, but perhaps the 5c design will be used, since it features a boot print similar to that on the US half-dollar in the set.

We will have to await the release of the Australian design, and the date of release of the set, which will probably be announced in the spring.

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