By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
On Monday, December 5, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing the production and sale of commemorative coins honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing – the first time mankind had ever set foot upon the surface of another planetary body.
The bill (H.R. 2726) was originally introduced on June 10, 2015 by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL8) and cosponsored Representatives Gene Green (D-TX29), John Culberson (R-TX7) and Rod Blum (R-IA1). Posey has been a long-time advocate of space exploration in Congress, having personally worked as an inspector on some of the Apollo 11 equipment when he worked at McDonnell Douglas. Both Green and Culberson represent the Houston area. Blum’s district includes Cedar Rapids, which is where Apollo 11 radio manufacturer Rockwell Collins is based.
The Senate version of the bill (S. 2957) is sponsored by Bill Nelson (D-FL) and cosponsored by Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act authorizes the Secretary of the treasury to mint a $5 gold Uncirculated coin, a $1 silver Uncirculated coin, a half dollar clad Uncirculated coin, and a $1 silver Proof coin. The .900 fine gold coin will weigh 8.359 grams and have a diameter of 21.59 mm (0.85 in). The Uncirculated silver coin will have a fineness of .900 pure silver, weigh 26.73 grams and have a diameter of 38.10 mm (1.50 in). The clad half dollar will weigh 11.34 grams and have a diameter of 30.607 mm (1.205 in).
The .999 fine silver Proof coin will weigh five ounces and have a diameter of 76.2 mm (3 in).
Mintages will be limited to 50,000 $5 gold pieces, 400,000 Uncirculated silver dollars, 750,000 half dollars, and 100,000 Proof silver coins. All four coins will be legal tender and treated as numismatic items for tax purposes under Title 31 of the United States Code.
But the biggest news is the fact that the bill specifies that the coins be made in a “fashion similar to the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin“.
In other words, they will be curved or cup-shaped.
The act declares that the reverse will be convex, and that the design must be a close-up representation of the famed photo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin facing the camera with his visor down, reflecting the lunar lander and U.S. flag back to the viewer. As portrayed on the coin, Aldrin’s visor should have a mirror-like finish, while the rest of his helmet should be frosted. Section 3 of the bill also includes a special paragraph conveying the “Sense of Congress” that the reverse design should continue over the edge of the coin and interconnect with the obverse design.
The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will all be consulted as the to final reverse.
A juried competition, open to the public as well as Mint professionals, will determine the common obverse design. The design should be “emblematic” of the American space program leading up to he Moon landing. A prize of at least $5,000 will be awarded to the winner, though the Treasury Secretary is free to decide to compensate the winning artist further.
The inscriptions LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM–plus the coin’s denomination and the year 2019–will also be on the coin.
Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemoratives will be issued from January 1, 2019 through the end of the year, after which no more will be made. The usual provisions for bulk sales, prepaid orders and discounts are found within the bill.
The following surcharges will be added to the final retail price of each coin in the program. This is in addition to the Mint’s pricing, which is determined by factors such as the spot prices of precious metals and the recouping of costs relevant to the production of this series:
- $5 Gold Uncirculated: $35
- $1 Silver Uncirculated: $10
- Half Dollar Clad Uncirculated: $5
- $1 5oz Silver Proof: $50
Half of the surcharges collected will go to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s upcoming “Destination Moon” exhibit. The exhibit is currently set to open in 2020.
One-quarter of the remaining surcharges will go to the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, which maintains the Space Mirror Memorial (also known as the Astronaut Memorial) at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The other quarter will go to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which awards college scholarships to exceptional students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Like other recent commemorative programs, this one is self-funding, with no burden placed upon the American taxpayer.
One Small Step
The Apollo 11 spacecraft was successfully launched aboard a Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the landing module touched down in the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) and the astronauts, mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first and second humans, respectively, ever to step foot on an alien world. When he took his first step onto the surface of the Moon, Armstrong delivered the famous line “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The United States would make five more successful Moon landings, with Apollo 17 departing for Earth on December 19, 1972. We have yet to return.
We have, however, honored the Apollo 11 mission numismatically since. Both the Eisenhower dollar series (from 1971 through 1974) and the Susan B. Anthony dollar series (during the entire 1979-81 run plus the 1999 issue) featured an eagle preparing to land over the lunar surface with the Earth in the background – a design based on the Apollo 11 mission patch (above). And in 2011, Armstrong, Aldrin and Apollo 11 pilot Michael Collins (who stayed in lunar orbit during the mission) were honored with the New Frontiers Congressional Gold Medal. Also honored that day was Mercury Seven astronaut and future Senator John Glenn (D-OH), who recently died on Thursday, December 8.
Widget courtesy Govtrack.us
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