US Coins

One last step: House passes 2019 Apollo 11 coin bill

The nation is poised to get an innovative commemorative coin program in 2019 to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

H.R. 2726, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, was passed by voice vote in the full House on Dec. 5. The Senate approved the same measure by voice vote on the evening of Dec. 10. The bill will now be sent to President Obama for his signature.

If the House legislation becomes law, the measure would authorize the most ambitious commemorative coin program in years in that it would authorize four coins. No commemorative program has featured more than three coins since the 1985–1986 program for the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. The 2019 program would be the first U.S. commemorative coin program to offer two silver dollars of different specifications.

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Here is what the legislation seeks:

??A gold $5 half eagle of standard specifications, with a mintage limited to 50,000 coins.

??A silver dollar of standard specifications, limited to a mintage of 400,000 coins.

??A copper-nickel clad half dollar of standard specifications, limited to a mintage of 750,000.

??A silver dollar of the same specifications as the current America the Beautiful 3-inch 5-ounce .999 fine silver bullion coins, limited to a maximum of 100,000 pieces.

The three standard coins could be issued in both Proof and Uncirculated versions, while the 5-ounce silver dollar would be struck only with a Proof finish.

Baseball Hall of Fame influence

The Apollo 11 commemorative coin program would emulate the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coin program in that all four coins would be concave/convex in shape. As stated in the House bill: “IN GENERAL.—The coins minted under this Act shall be produced in a fashion similar to the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin, so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble the visor of the astronaut’s helmet of the time and the obverse concave, providing a more dramatic display of the obverse design chosen. ...”

Furthermore, “It is the sense of Congress that, to the extent possible without significantly adding to the purchase price of the coins, the coins minted under this Act should be produced with the design of the reverse of the coins continuing over what would otherwise be the edge of the coins, such that the reverse design extends all the way to the obverse design.”

These special provisions would challenge the United States Mint’s technical departments, especially for the 5-ounce silver dollar. While the Mint now has experience in striking copper-nickel clad half dollars, silver dollars, and gold half eagles with a concave/convex shape, and years of experience striking 3-inch 5-ounce silver coins, it has not produced a concave/convex 5-ounce coin. The suggestion that the reverse design continue over the edge to the obverse side would also require experimentation and testing by the Mint.

Selecting the designs

The House legislation states, “The design on the common reverse of the coins minted under this Act shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, that shows just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in which the visor has a mirrored finish and reflects the image of the United States flag and the lunar lander and the remainder of the helmet has a frosted finish.” 

Fellow astronaut and moonwalker Neil Armstrong shot the photograph.

The measure also dictates how the designs are to be selected: “The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.

“Proposals for the obverse design of coins minted under this Act may be submitted in accordance with the design selection and approval process developed by the Secretary in the sole discretion of the Secretary. ... As part of the competition described in this subsection, the Secretary may accept proposals from artists, engravers of the United States Mint, and members of the general public, and any designs submitted for the design review process described herein shall be anonymized until a final selection is made.”

The original article was updated on Dec. 12 with the news that the Senate passed the measure.

According to the measure, “The Secretary shall determine compensation for the winning design under this subsection, which shall be not less than $5,000.”


The price for each of the three standard coins would bear standard surcharges: $5 for the half dollar, $10 for the dollar and $35 for the half eagle; and the 5-ounce silver dollar would bear a surcharge of $50.

The surcharges raised through sales of the coins, once statutory requirements are met, would be distributed as follows: “(1) one half to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s ‘Destination Moon’ exhibit, for design, education, and installation costs related to establishing and maintaining the exhibit, and for costs related to creating a traveling version of the exhibition; (2) one quarter to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, for costs related to the preservation, maintenance, and enhancement of the Astronauts Memorial and for promotion of space exploration through educational initiatives; and (3) one quarter to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, to aid its missions of promoting the importance of science and technology to the general public and of aiding the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing college scholarships for the very best and brightest students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).”

The original article was updated on Dec. 12 with the news that the Senate passed the measure.

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