US Coins

Apollo 11 astronaut children relive Moon mission

Coin presses were put into service Dec. 13 at the Philadelphia Mint to ceremonially launch production for the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins honoring the achievements of the space mission’s astronauts — Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong.

Sharing in the production of the ceremonial first strikes were Aldrin’s son Andrew; Collins’ daughter Ann; and Armstrong’s son Mark.

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They were among more than a dozen dignitaries and other invited guests who struck Proof 1.5-inch silver dollars. After striking, each coin was placed into an individual envelope identifying who struck the coin. Those who struck the coins will be able to purchase the coin they struck at the designated price when the program opens sales on Jan. 24.

Ann Collins, Mark Armstrong and Andy Aldrin were accorded the opportunity along with U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder to strike examples of the Proof 3-inch-silver dollar as well.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Jeff DeWit, chief financial officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Christopher Browne, deputy director, National Air and Space Museum; Sheryl Chaffee, vice-chair, Astronauts Memorial Foundation; Curtis Lee Brown Jr., chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors; and from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, members Mary Lannin and Tom Uram, and former member Mike Olson, who spearheaded the efforts for getting the enabling legislation drafted and passed.

Chaffee is the daughter of Apollo 1 Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee, who was killed Jan. 27, 1967, at Cape Canaveral, Florida, along with astronauts Gus Grissom and Ed White in a space module fire in preparation for a Feb. 21, 1967, planned launch.

Curtis Brown is a former astronaut and veteran of six space missions.

Neither Buzz Aldrin nor Michael Collins attended the event. Neil Armstrong died in 2012.

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong said he was 6 years old when the Apollo 11 mission launched. He told Coin World he vividly recalls the day when his father, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, blasted off, as well as watching the mission unfold on television, including his father and Aldrin walking on the moon.

Now a software engineer, entrepreneur and performing artist, Mark Armstrong, the younger of the astronaut’s two sons, said he was pleased to be able to attend and participate in the striking of the Apollo 11 coins. 

Mark said he was supportive of the three organizations that his father played a part in and that will share in the net surcharges from the sale of the commemorative coins — half is to go to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit, with the remaining 50 percent divided between the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and Astronauts Memorial Foundation.

Mark says he has seen screenings of the movie First Man, dedicated to the Apollo 11 mission, that stars actors Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, respectively, as his father, Neil and mother, Janet.

Mark said the film, for which he served as a consultant for director Damien Chazelle during script development, is an accurate depiction and he’s pleased with the outcome.

Mark said he was aware the Neil Armstrong Space Museum in his father’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, was also expanding and remodeling its physical structure as well as educational outreach, to serve more students.

Mark and his older brother, Eric, are overseeing Heritage Auctions’ multiple sales of flown and unflown space memorabilia from the Armstrong Family Collection.

The first sale, in mid-November, realized $5.2 million, and included many space-flown medals along with items such as pieces of spacecraft.

Mark said collectors can expect to see similar items offered in future sales from the Armstrong collection.

Ann Collins

With no pun intended, Collins called the Dec. 13 event “striking.” She said it was her first time to see the complete obverse and reverse art in coin form, art she had only seen in newspaper articles. She said seeing the art translated into coin form, shaped like the Moon with concave obverse and convex reverse, evoked strong emotions. Collins felt it extremely appropriate for the commemoratives to be executed that way.

Collins said she was thrilled to be able to meet the members of the Mint’s engraving staff that sculpted the designs and also to strike examples of the 1.5-inch and 3-inch Proof silver dollars. Collins said she will be buying examples of the coins, both because of their commemorative nature and to support the beneficiaries with the net surcharges from the sales.

Andy Aldrin

Aldrin said being able to strike examples of the Proof silver dollars is one of the “coolest” thing’s he’s ever done. Aldrin said he considers the coin designs to be incredible.

He marveled that as his father walked on the moon, the photograph he snapped there became one of the most iconic photographs ever and served as the model for the common reverse design for all four commemorative coins in the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program.

The younger Aldrin related that he considers himself something of a photographer, since he takes a lot of photos. 

Ryder said during his remarks Dec. 13 that he is working with NASA officials to have at least one Apollo 11 commemorative coin placed aboard a future space flight. Aldrin said if it were his choice, it would be one of the gold $5 coins.  

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