US Coins

Breast Cancer Awareness coin design competition

The U.S. Mint will begin accepting applications Aug. 1 from artists interested in being considered to design the three 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coins.

Original image courtesy of U.S. Mint.

The U.S. Mint will begin accepting applications Aug. 1 from artists interested in being considered to design the three 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coins.

The Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 114-148, calls for the production and release, in Proof and Uncirculated finishes combined, of 50,000 “pink” gold $5 half eagles, 400,000 silver dollars and 750,000 copper-nickel clad half dollars. The composition of the $5 coin is to contain not less than 75 percent gold. Traditionally, the $5 gold commemoratives have been 90 percent gold.

The 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness $5 coin will be the first U.S. coin that will be executed in pink gold.

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The enabling legislation also provides for conducting a public design competition juried by three members each from the Commission of Fine Arts and Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, with the Treasury secretary as chairman.

Application rules detail how applicants are to submit representative examples of their work and in what form works must be submitted for consideration, along with contact information. Complete details for the open design competition can be found on the Mint's website.

How will the contest work?

The competition will be conducted in two phases.

The Phase I application process opens Aug. 1 and closes Oct. 17. As mentioned above, applicants in Phase I simply submit a portfolio of past work examples for consideration.

Up to 20 artists evaluated from Phase I will be selected to participate in Phase 2, which will require submission of proposed designs or final plaster models for the Breast Cancer Awareness coins.

Artists selected to participate in Phase 2 will be notified Nov. 14 of their selection.

Final submissions must be received by Jan. 31, 2017; winners will be announced in June 2017.

Invited artists in Phase 2 will be compensated $1,000 for their work and be eligible for an additional $10,000 if their obverse or reverse design is selected to appear on a coin.

The initials of each winning artist will appear on the coin bearing their design.

The final designs approved will be sculptured by members of the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff. 

How the Breast Cancer coins came to be

In June 2015, U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, introduced in the U.S. House the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, which would clear the way for the production and release of gold, silver and clad commemorative coins in 2018. 

"There are only a handful of ways Congress can raise money to assist this fight at no cost to taxpayers and creating a commemorative coin is one," Maloney said. "If we pass this bill, we can provide millions of dollars to raise awareness and accelerate research."

Congress passed the legislation in April 2016 and sent the measure to the White House on April 20. President Obama signed the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act into law April 29.

About that “pink gold”

The “pink gold” requirement is an homage to the Breast Cancer Awareness Movement’s reliance on the color pink to spread its message. However, to achieve the pink color, U.S. Mint officials will use a modified alloy for the coin.

Traditionally, modern gold $5 commemorative coins have been composed of 90 percent gold and 10 percent alloy, unless otherwise defined in the authorizing legislation. For example, Adam Stump, deputy director of the Mint's Office of Corporate Communications, said July 14, 2015, that the alloy in the Proof and Uncirculated 2015-W U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary $5 gold commemoratives is 6 percent silver and 4 percent copper.

According to Jewelry Information Place, 18-karat pink gold is 75 percent gold, 20 percent copper and 5 percent silver. 18-karat rose gold is 75 percent gold, 22.5 percent copper and 2.5 percent silver. 18-karat red gold is 75 percent gold and 25 percent copper. The higher the percentage of copper, the redder the resultant hue, according to the website.

Earlier in 2016, U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White said that the bureau is in the “very beginning stages” of reaching out to its current precious metals fabricators seeking the pink gold to fulfill the legislation’s composition mandate. When the Mint obtains planchets of the proper alloy and color, it will begin experimenting.

“We plan to conduct testing as we have with other alloys, working with our suppliers, to manufacture the highest quality Uncirculated and Proof commemorative coins,” White said.

In 2012, to mark Canada's bidding farewell to the its cent, the Royal Canadian Mint struck a commemorative Proof 2012 half-ounce .9999 fine silver cent with the Maple Leaf elements of the reverse plated with pink gold. The pink gold that the U.S. Mint must acquire for its 2018 coin will resemble that used on the maple leaf device on that commemorative Canadian cent.

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