Concave/convex Baseball coins pose challenges

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Published : 03/28/13
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A technical amendment to “specify the size of the precious metal blanks” to be used in production of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative gold $5 coins and silver dollars is pending in Congress.

The United States Mint requested the amendment to enable it to meet the requirements of the authorizing legislation for the coins. The Mint is required to use a technique that would produce gold $5 coins and silver dollars with a concave obverse and a convex reverse. The reverse of each coin is to depict a baseball, with the convex effect enhancing that resemblance.

The new legislation, H.R. 1071, was introduced March 12 by Rep. Richard L. Hanna, R-N.Y., to amend Public Law 112-152, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act. Hanna introduced in the House the authorizing legislation that became law.

The proposed legislation would mandate the specific size of the planchets used to produce the 50,000 gold $5 coins and the 400,000 silver dollars that are authorized.

According to a spokeswoman in Hanna’s office, the U.S. Mint requested the amendment because “the doming of the coin turned out to require a smaller [coin] circumference than [mandated] in the law (due to the physics of it). Neither we nor the Mint thought of the issue. I believe this is the first time they’ve domed a coin.”

Public Law 112-152, Section 3, (1) (B) states that the gold $5 coins “have a diameter of 0.850 inches …” and in Section 3, (2) (B) that the silver dollars “have a diameter of 1.500 inches. …” Both of these diameters are standard for the gold $5 and silver $1 denominations.

The amendment would authorize the striking out of the word “have” and insert “be struck on a planchet having a” in Section 3, (1) (B) and Section, (2) (B).

Nothing would change for the production of the copper-nickel clad half dollars.

According to Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs, “The legislation for the Baseball Hall of Fame Commemoratives was very prescriptive; it provided certain dimensions for the curved coins. When we were doing test strikes of the coins, we came just short of meeting the prescribed dimensions.”

“Imagine a contact lens. When you shape it, it loses a bit of its dimension. Consequently, the same would be true with the baseball coin — or any curved coin,” Jurkowsky said. “If we were to follow the exact letter of the law, we’d have to use two planchets or a special order one — adding to the cost. Clearly, this was not the intent of Congress and the sponsors of the legislation. Accordingly, the resulting coin may be a ‘smidgen’ less than as set forth in the legislation.”

Sense of Congress

A provision in the enacting legislation, called the “sense of Congress,” directed the Mint to use the special design technique “to the extent possible without significantly adding to the purchase price of the coins.”

“It is the sense of Congress that coins minted under this Act should be produced in a fashion similar to the 2009 International Year of Astronomy coins issued by the Monnaie de Paris, the French Mint, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble a baseball and the obverse concave, providing a more-dramatic display of the obverse design. …”

The year 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of the opening of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on June 12, 1939. ■

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