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Squaring the Circle – Proposals for a Square Coin

August 13, 2018 0 Comments

Today you have to put in some air-miles to find a square coin being used in circulation. Perhaps the nearest, and most likely to have been seen by an American collector, is the square 15 cents used in the Bahamas. They haven’t been made since 1992, but they are still in circulation, and could easily turn up in your holiday change. In the Caribbean the Dutch Antilles have older 5 cent square coins in circulation, and a recent 50 cent square coin as well. Other than that it will take a trip to India, Iraq, Pakistan or Surinam to find such a rare item.

That could be about to change, with proposals being made in Congress for legislation to create America’s first square coin. If things go as planned 2022 will see the issue of a square coin by the US Mint. Admittedly, this is technically not for circulation, since these will be gold and silver coins denominated well below their melt value, so it’s unlikely that you will get one in change from the supermarket – but still. For collectors these will certainly be a novel item to add to your collection, so sales will probably be strong.

The intention is to create these coins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the integration of baseball. Before 1947 both Major League Baseball and its affiliated Minor League had a racial ban in place, which prevented African Americans from joining Major League teams. This ban, called the Color Line, had been in place as an informal ban throughout the 19th century, and it became more formal after 1887. Its existence led to the development of separate teams for African Americans.

It was the Brooklyn Dodgers, under their manager Branch Rickey, who broke the ban in 1947 by hiring Jackie Robinson for the team. After a season of insults and death threats his skill won through, and he was named Rookie of the Year. The more ‘low-key’ Larry Doby was another black player who entered the league a few months later that year, joining the Cleveland Indians.

The Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act is sponsored by Senators Tim Scott and Cory Booker and Congressmen Roger Williams and Cedric Richmond, as required for coin acts. Their bill calls for 50,000 $5 gold coins, up to 500,000 silver dollars, and up to 750,000 half-dollars to be issued. These would be proof and uncirculated quality and aimed at collectors. The reverse of the coin will show a baseball diamond, fitted into the square, and the reverse would have an image that was ‘emblematic of the integration of the game of baseball’. This design would be chosen by competition, which is the normal way today for choosing commemorative and other coin designs. Outside the usual selection groups, the legislation calls for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, to be involved in selecting the final design.

Such an unusual design would follow the innovation of another Basketball coin, the catcher’s mitt curved shape of the 2014 coin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the National Basketball Hall of Fame. The square coin has a way to go through the legislative process, but it probably won’t be long before that square coin will be able to fit neatly into a prominent corner of your collection.

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