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US Mint Apollo 50th Anniversary Release

January 21, 2019 0 Comments

50 years after the actual launch, the US Mint is set for a launching of its own. January 24, 2019 is the big day for the launch of the Mint’s commemorative set for the epoch-making first man on the moon Apollo 11 Mission. Older collectors will surely remember exactly where they were when we all gathered round the nearest TV set – many still in black and white, and miniscule by today’s standards – and watched the blurry images beamed from Australia to Florida, and from there to TV sets around the world. The date was July 20, 1969, and everyone was in awe as John Armstrong said the words, “One small step for man, on giant leap for mankind.”  Despite the claims from the usual mob of crazies still insisting it was all a fake, and the grandiose plans of Elon Musk to send a private spacecraft to Mars, that day really was a piece of history.

You may or may not have been there, but there will certainly be a big demand for the Mint’s commemorative coins, which are being released with even more than the usual fanfare. Congress authorized a four-coin program, with a $5 gold coin, a $1 silver coin, a $1 silver proof coin weighing 5 ounces, and a $0.50 clad coin. All these coins are curved, or dish-shaped, in the same form as the Baseball Hall of Fame ‘catcher’s mitt’ coin released in 2014. That was the US Mint’s first curved coin.

The common obverse design of the coin – an astronaut’s boot-print on the lunar surface – was created by Gary Cooper of Belfast, Maine, who won a public competition for the design. The well-known Mint sculptor-engraver Joseph Menna turned that design into a working die for the coins. The inscriptions, MERCURY, GEMINI, APOLLO, 2019, IN GOD WE TRUST, and LIBERTY, are on the obverse side.

The reverse design is by Phebe Hemphill, also a Mint sculptor-engraver, and she based the design on the famous photograph of the reflection in the helmet visor of the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, when he was taking a picture of Neil Armstrong, and it shows Aldrin’s shadow, the US flag and the landing module. The inscriptions, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the denomination appear on this side, which is dished outwards, as the visor of course was.

For collector’s, the prices of these coins are higher than usual, based on their metal content. This is because the issue is also a fund-raiser, with surcharges on the price, as follows: $35 for each gold coin, $10 for each silver coin, $5 for each half dollar clad coin and $50 for each five-ounce proof silver dollar coin. 50% of this surcharge goes towards funding the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit, 25% to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and 25% to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

As well as these coins, the Mint is also contributing a one-ounce silver $5 coin of the same design to a joint Australian-US Commemorative Set, which contains the 6-coin Australian commemorative coin series. It was communication stations in Australia that made the Apollo 11 mission possible, and this is shown on these coins.  Collectors will almost certainly want to own full sets of all these coins to mark this extraordinary event, that established the USA as the premier nation in space.

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