US Coins

2019 Apollo 11 commemorative coins striking ceremony

Ceremonial first strikes of both versions of the Proof 2019-P Apollo 11 50th Anniversary silver dollar were executed Dec. 13 at the Philadelphia Mint.

More than a dozen dignitaries and invited guests were accorded the opportunity to strike examples of the standard silver dollar that were placed into envelopes after striking. Those who struck the coins will be able to purchase the examples they struck when sales for the commemorative coin program open at noon E.T. Jan. 24.

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Among those in attendance were offspring of the three Apollo 11 astronauts — Buzz Aldrin’s son, Andy; Neil Armstrong’s son Mark; and Michael Collins’ daughter, Ann. The three joined U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder in also striking examples of the 3-inch 5-ounce silver dollars.

Both silver dollars are the first of their kind in the traditional U.S. commemorative coin program. The 5-ounce silver dollar is the first of that denomination and the 1.5-inch silver dollar is the first struck on a .999 fine silver planchet instead of a .900 fine silver planchet.  

The 3-inch silver dollar is limited to a maximum release of 100,000 coins while the 1.5 inch coin is limited to a combined maximum mintage in Proof and Uncirculated versions of 400,000 coins.

Ryder said pricing has not been determined for the Proof 5-ounce silver dollar but expected it will likely be on the upside of $200.

The copper-nickel clad half dollar is limited to 750,000 Proof and Uncirculated coins combined and the gold $5 half eagle is limited to 50,000 coins.

All of the coins are being struck with a concave obverse and convex reverse. The obverse, designed by Maine artist Gary Cooper as winner of an open design competition, was sculptured by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph F. Menna. The reverse design, mandated under Public Law 114-282, was sculptured by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.

The obverse features as its central device a footprint on the lunar surface. The reverse features a representation of a close-up version 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 Aldrin. The reflection in Aldrin’s helmet includes Neil Armstrong, the United States flag and the lunar module.

Ron Harrigal, manager of the U.S. Mint’s design and engraving division, said die preparation proved a challenge to execute the curved features. The Mint started with the 3-inch coin first then adapted the findings to the smaller diameter coins.

Harrigal said each of the obverse and reverse dies were engraved individually on CNC cutting machinery and hand-finished, in essence making master dies into working dies, eliminating any hubbing.

Ryder predicted a program sellout, which if achieved, would generate surcharges of $14 million for the three designated beneficiaries — 50 percent to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum Destination Moon exhibit, 25 percent to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and 25 percent to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Coin World will have much more extensive coverage of the program and the ceremony in its January 2019 monthly issue.

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