US Coins

First square commemoratives on baseball

Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate July 18 seeking the nation’s first square coins, which would commemorate in 2022 the 75th anniversary of the racial integration of major league baseball.

S.B. 3239 was introduced by Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Corey Booker, D-N.J.

Identical legislation for the three-coin Integration of Baseball Commemorative Coin Act was introduced in the House July 23 by Reps. Roger Williams, R-Texas, and Cedric Richmond, D-La. 

Proponents indicate that identical bills were proposed so there would be no need for a conference between the two houses of Congress if one is passed. 

The legislation calls for the production and release of up to 50,000 gold $5 half eagles, 500,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 copper-nickel clad half dollars.

All of the coins would be square and the design would be corner aligned. In a corner-aligned coin design, the design elements are lined up so that one of the coin’s corners is at the bottom; when held right-side up, such a coin looks more like a diamond shape (though it’s really just a square standing on one point). Many of such “square” issues actually have rounded corners.

The gold half eagle would weigh 1 ounce, a departure from the traditional weight of approximately 0.295 ounce for commemoratives of the $5 denomination, and contain not less than 90 percent gold, which would match the traditional half eagle fineness. The gold planchet is to be of “appropriate dimensions,” without specification in the legislation.

The secretary of the Treasury would hold a public design competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins, with the design being emblematic of the integration of the game of baseball. A common reverse design will feature a baseball diamond. 

The reverses of all three 2022 square commemoratives are to exhibit an Enhanced Uncirculated finish.

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It is up to the Treasury secretary’s discretion to also use the Enhanced Uncirculated Finish on any of the three coins’ obverses.

The proposed legislation does not indicate how the Enhanced Uncirculated obverse would be used for what would generally be a Proof issue or whether the “Proof” version would have a dual-finish. 

The denomination for the gold half eagle and silver dollar are to be reflected as a numeral and dollar sign instead of being spelled out. The 50-cent denomination will appear as HALF DOLLAR.

Surcharges of $50, $10 and $5, respectively, will be included in the purchase price of each $5 coin, dollar, and half dollar.

Net surcharges, after the U.S. Mint has recouped all of its production and associated costs related to the production and distribution of the 2022 commemoratives, are to be directed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

The Hall of Fame is to work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation “so that the 2 organizations may develop and operate education programs about the integration of baseball and preserve artifacts related to the integration of baseball.”

Barrier broken

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he debuted for the National League’s Brooklyn Dodgers. The American League was integrated on July 5, 1947, when Larry Doby debuted with the Cleveland Indians.

After the coin proposal bill, S. 3239, was introduced in the Senate, it was sent to the Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs. After the House version, H.R. 6469, was introduced, the legislation was forwarded to the House Financial Services Committee.

Another ‘curve ball’

If either measure becomes law in its current form, the square or diamond-shaped coins would represent the second U.S. commemorative coin program to honor baseball with coins of nontraditional shapes.

Congress threw the U.S. Mint’s design and technology team at the Philadelphia Mint a curve ball before with the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins series, featuring a concave obverse design and convex reverse. These were the first U.S. coins with a concave/convex shape.

The Mint team would be again charting new territory for its production output, since a coin struck on a corner-aligned square planchet has ne ver been attempted before by the U.S. Mint. For the 2014 baseball series, Mint personnel had to consult with their counterparts at the Monnaies de Paris in France and Perth Mint in Australia since both world mints had production experience striking curved coins.

The 2014 commemoratives recognized the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a half eagle, dollar and half dollar.

A half eagle and dollar were issued in 1997 to recognize the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Square coins

Many foreign countries have already produced square coins.

Square coins are also struck in what is referred to as edge alignment. On an edge-aligned coin, the design is lined up with one of the coin’s edges so that when the coin is held right-side up it looks like a square.

Among the countries that have issued modern square coins are Aruba, Bahamas, Bailiwick of Jersey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), East Caribbean States, India, Iraq, Kurdistan, Malaya & British Borneo, Maldives, Netherlands Antilles, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Suriname and Swaziland (now called eSwatini).

Medieval square coins and ancient square coin issues are known as well.

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