Those dignitaries and invited guests who ceremonially struck Proof 2017-P Lions Clubs International Century of Service silver dollars Nov. 9 at the Philadelphia Mint will get the opportunity to purchase those coins only after Jan. 1. That's because the coins officially can only be released in the year struck on the coins.
U.S. Mint officials indicate the 19 ceremonial strikes will be made available for purchase to those individuals who struck the coins when the bureau opens sales for the commemorative coin program, likely in January. In the meantime, the strikes are being safely stored in a vault at the Philadephia Mint. U.S. Mint officials have not disclosed who struck each of the coins.
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The first of the 19 ceremonial strikes was placed in a brown coin envelope and is being held by the numismatics division at the Philadelphia Mint, with eventual transfer at a future date to Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Each coin was struck three times, with each strike exerting 210 metric tons of pressure on the planchets, to bring up the design relief. The coins were struck on a Graebener coinage press with the dies oriented to strike vertically. The obverse die bearing the portrait of Lions Clubs Internatioinal founder Melvin Jones is the upper, or hammer die, and the lion family reverse is the lower or hammer die.
Public Law 112-181 authorizes the U.S. Mint to strike and issue up to 400,000 silver dollars combined in Proof and Uncirculated versions to mark the Lions Clubs International centennial anniversary being celebrated on June 7.
Full-scale production of the Proof coins began Nov. 14 at the Philadelphia Mint. Production of the Uncirculated coins was scheduled to begin Dec. 1 at Philadelphia.
The U.S. Mint was presented with an unusual situation in 2014, when the bureau was able to sell coins in a commemorative program to U.S. Marshals Service employees three months before their official release. The 2015 commemoratives mark the service's 225th anniversary. The early sales, however, were legislatively authorized.
In total, 35 complete sets of Proof $5 gold, silver dollar and copper-nickel clad half dollars were sold in conjunction with a Sept. 24, 2014, U.S. Marshals Service anniversary event. At least two of the Proof gold coins were graded and encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., with the grading label detailing the pedigree to the 2014 event. The coins were sold to USMS employees packaged individually, not as three-piece sets.