Will Collectors Buy a Pink Coin?
There has been surprisingly little reaction so far from the coin collecting community to the announcement that the U.S. Mint will issue the first pink gold coin ever in 2018. The coin will be part of a set of three coins to mark breast cancer awareness and the legislation, which was first proposed in 2013, was signed into law on April 29 by President Obama.
As usual the law calls for up to 750,000 clad halves, 400,000 silver dollars, and 50,000 pink gold $5 coins. The designs will represent the fight against breast cancer and will be selected through a design competition. The legislation also opens the door to producing the dollar with a higher silver fineness than the usual 90%. It also stipulates that the pink gold coin will contain at least 75% gold with the balance consisting of copper and silver, which are used to give it a pinkish color.
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There are few causes that have the widespread support that this one does, and these coins could introduce new people to numismatics. This program will also be an important test of how far the innovation envelope can be pushed on U.S. coins.
The potential problem is that the gold coin is likely to cost the same amount as other $5 gold commemoratives, or about $420, and more if gold is higher than $1300 in 2018. The savings from the smaller amount of gold will likely be offset by production costs. In recent years $5 gold commemoratives have continued to see decreasing sales numbers, and to sell more than the usual 6,000 or so coins, a lot of non-collectors would need to be willing to spend over $400, especially since depending on the design some regular buyers may not want the coin.
One collector has proposed that it would be better to issue a dollar coin with selective pink gold plating, as was done on the 2012 Canadian farewell to the penny coin that was clearly an inspiration for the breast cancer gold piece. It would be priced at a level that is much more accessible to a broader range of buyers, which means the coin would raise a lot more money than the gold coin is likely to. Perhaps a simple pink ribbon against a silver background, or even a pink silver coin created with alloys, as a collector-friend suggested.
A selective pink plated dollar could be a big seller, but it is not clear how it would be received by regular collectors. Younger ones might like it, but I can just imagine the traditionalist middle aged ones saying "we don't need circus coins," which is how some of them have reacted to the pink gold coin idea.
So all things considered it will be especially important that a great design be selected. And the Congress really should consult more closely with the numismatic community on these programs to get a sense of what collectors are interested in and what will sell.
Good intentions have a way of getting lost with modern commemoratives, and if they sell poorly, they may not even cover all the production and associated costs, and then no funds will be raised. Which is why commemoratives should not be about causes. They should be about significant people, events, etc.