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The Hunt is on for the Apollo 11 Coin Design

April 16, 2017 0 Comments

In 2019, it will be 50 years since the first men stepped onto the Moon. It was in 1969 that Neil Armstrong, followed 20 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin, stepped out of the Apollo 11 space capsule and planted their footprints on the Moon’s dusty surface.  It was as he stepped down that Armstrong spoke the famous words “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”


The United States Mint plans to celebrate this pinnacle of America’s Space Program with a set of four commemorative coins. The coins will have a common reverse, already mandated by the legislation, that will be designed by the Mint’s in-house sculptor-engravers. The design will show a close-up taken from the famous photograph of Buzz Aldrin from July 20, 1969 on the Moon. It shows his helmet visor, with the reflections of Neil Armstrong, the US flag and the lunar lander all visible in it.

However, the obverse design has been opened up to competition, and May 1, 2017 is the official start of the race. A single design for all four coins will be chosen, and given the different sizes of the coins, it will be a challenge to create something that will work on all of them. Already comments are being made that the reverse design, which seems to have a lot of detail, will look great on the large 5-ounce $1 silver proof coin, but not so good on the smaller $5 gold coin, which is only the size of a nickel. The set is completed by a gold-clad half-dollar and a silver $1. Showing enough detail on the larger coin, while not turning the smaller ones into a blur, is going to be difficult.

The coins will have curved surfaces, with the obverse curving in a bowl shape, and the reverse curving out, capturing the curve of Aldridge’s visor. The US Mint tried this first with the National Baseball Hall of Fame coins in 2014, where the mitt on one side curved in and the ball on the other curved out. These coins hit a home-run for the Mint, and they are hoping to do the same with the Apollo 11 commemorative series. Finding an appropriate design that will exploit the bowl-shaped surface as effectively as the Baseball coins did is going to be a challenge for the designer. Maybe that is why they decided on a competition, to really open up the field to something creative.

Stage one of the competition runs from May 1 to June 29.  Each person can submit between 3 and 5 designs, sent in digitally. A jury will select 20 designers from all the entries, and those 20 will be asked to submit one single design each. Notifications of passing round one will be send out by July 31, and the designers have until September 8 to send in their final design. The result will be announced in 2018, and the winner receives $5,000. Perhaps more important for a new designer than the money, will be their initials going on the coin, and their name on all the certificates of authenticity and publicity materials. If the design is widely acclaimed, it could launch an unknown designer on a successful career.

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