US Coins

U.S. Mint considering colorizing two of three 2020 Basketball commems

The United States Mint is considering the use of colorization techniques on two of the three coins to be issued in 2020 under the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program. 

April Stafford, chief of the Mint’s Office of Design Management, disclosed the possibility July 17, during the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee review of proposed obverse and reverse designs for the 2020 coin program.

Stafford said colorization is being considered for the .999 fine silver dollar and copper-nickel clad half dollar, but not the .900 fine gold $5 coin.

The CCAC considered 20 proposed designs for a common obverse for the gold $5 coin, silver dollar and copper-nickel clad half dollars that were rendered by artists who participated in a legislated public design competition executed by the U.S. Mint. 

For a common reverse for the program, 23 proposed designs were rendered by members of the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff and Artistic Infusion Program. The reverse design is mandated to resemble a basketball.

Whatever designs receive final approval from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or his designee will be sculpted by sculptor-engravers from the Mint’s engraving staff.

Just how the colorization will be pursued will be determined by which designs are adopted, Stafford said.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, Public Law 115-343, calls for the combined production in Proof and Uncirculated versions of up to 50,000 $5 coins, 400,000 dollar coins and 750,000 half dollars.

The obverse design of each coin is to be concave, while the reverse will be convex, the same treatment used for the three-coin 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Program and three-coin 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program.

During its July 17 meeting, the CCAC voted to recommend a pairing of obverse and reverse designs, as well as a secondary, alternate pairing. A motion to also consider pairing the alternate obverse with the primary obverse design as a reverse was rejected.

The top recommended obverse was the top choice among five obverse designs favored by the Basketball Hall of Fame.

According to the U.S. Mint’s design narrative, the favored obverse “portrays the intense, hands-on action of the game of basketball — the constant struggle for possession of the ball and the skill required to overcome the opponent and put the ball through the hoop. The design features three different figures all reaching for the ball in unison, suggesting how the sport has brought together millions of diverse people around the world through a simple, universal, and unifying athletic experience. Their arms are intentionally elongated, just slightly, to emphasize the full exertion of physical and mental effort required to excel in the game. The rim and net are presented as subtle background elements to complement the primary figures.”

The figures are of a male at left challenging a female at center, with a wheelchair athlete at right.

The recommended reverse was not one of the four favored by the Hall of Fame. The CCAC-favored reverse presents a three-quarter profile view of a basketball.

The alternate obverse and reverse pairing suggests for the obverse a design that “depicts a slam dunk, one of the most exciting plays in the game. The perspective of the design accentuates the concavity of the athlete’s body as his legs come forward through the momentum of the dunk. The 60th anniversary of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is referenced with the number on the player’s jersey; the American roots of the game are indicated by the 13 stripes on the soles of each of the shoes.”

The alternate reverse portrays two players, one male and one female, reaching for the basketball in a jump ball situation, set against the background of a basketball.

CCAC member Erik Jansen suggested the Mint’s technical staff strongly consider how to represent the texture of the surface of the basketball, a critical component of the coin.

Ron Harrigal, manager of design and engraving for the Mint, says the Mint will likely have to adjust some of the design elements in whatever are the approved obverse and reverse designs, to execute coinability and extend die life. Harrigal said the Mint will also likely experiment with different levels of polishing and laser frosting to bring out the strongest details in each design.

Jansen also recommended that Mint officials inform Congress about design opportunities missed because of the mandated common obverse and common reverse for all three denominations, in a “one design fits all” sense.

Jansen said Congress could have also included a circulating coin component to help sell the whole program, having such a coin distributed at venues where the game is played to generate interest in coins and the sport.

CCAC Chairman Thomas J. Uram suggested to the Mint that, when contemplating packaging options, consideration be given to randomly salting into the packaging autographs of noted players. John Doleva, president and chief executive officer of the Hall of Fame, said officials there are working with sports cards companies on possible packaging options and premiums.

During the design review discussion, additional marketing suggestions included promotion of the coins in overseas markets, especially the Philippines and China, where the sport has strong support.

The Commission of Fine Arts was slated to review the same proposed commemorative coin designs at its July 18 meeting.

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