The 1997 Jackie Robinson commemorative coins came during a time of
extreme commemorative coin fatigue following the 32-coin 1995–1996
Atlanta Olympic Games program, which drained collector wallets and
dampened enthusiasm for commemorative issues more generally.
The U.S. Mint anticipated that the Jackie Robinson issue would be a
strong seller, as Robinson is a household name with broad appeal
In 1947 Robinson became the first African American to break the
color barrier and play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. He
was the recipient of the first MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947
and won the National League Most Valuable Player in 1949. He later
became the first black television analyst in Major League Baseball and
served as the first black vice president of a major American corporation.
The legislation that authorized the coin provided for the production
of up to 100,000 gold $5 coins and up to 200,000 silver dollars. While
the silver dollars were a modest success, with 110,002 Proof and
30,180 Uncirculated pieces struck, the gold $5 coins fell far below
expectations: 24,072 Proof gold $5 coins and just 5,174 Uncirculated
examples were released. These low figures followed the passage of
special legislation in 1998 that allowed for an extension period that
opened up sales for coins that remained unsold in the Mint’s
inventory. Ultimately the Jackie Robinson Foundation did not take
advantage of the opportunity to buy additional coins.
At the time, collectors and the Mint shared the concern that the
Robinson sales extension would prompt other program beneficiaries to
seek similar extensions if sales weren’t up to expectations.
Then-Mint Director Philip N. Diehl said that he received letters
from collectors threatening to return their Robinson coins if the
extension was approved. The Citizens Commemorative Coinage Advisory
Committee called the extension “a serious breach of trust by the Congress.”
Almost immediately after the final mintage was reported, the
secondary market shot up. For comparison, the 1996-W Smithsonian
Institution 150th anniversary gold $5 Uncirculated coin had a
distribution of 9,068 pieces and the Uncirculated 1995-W Civil War
Battlefield Preservation gold $5 coin saw 12,735 Uncirculated coins
released. The Uncirculated Jackie Robinson gold $5 coin had an issue
price of $205 and a year after its issuance the price doubled in the
secondary market to $400.
Today, the prices for the Jackie Robinson gold $5 coins have settled
down considerably from their highs of several years ago. On Feb. 28,
two coins, each graded Mint State 70 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.,
each sold for $2,585 in Heritage auctions while an NGC MS-69 coin
brought $1,468.75 in the same sale. These prices are roughly half of
what comparably graded coins brought in 2010.