By Bullion Shark LLC ……
Mark your calendars for June 4!
That’s when the United States Mint will launch the highly anticipated 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame commemorative coin program. For only the third time in U.S. Mint history, a dome-shaped coin — in this case to resemble the shape of a basketball — will be issued. Like the previous coins of this shape – the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame and the 2019 Apollo 11 50th anniversary coins – the basketball issues are expected to be strong sellers because of the wide appeal of the subject matter and a shape that works well with the topic.
The basketball coins also include two U.S. Mint firsts – the first partially colorized coins and the first Enhanced Uncirculated pieces.
The new coins are being issued to recognize the 60th anniversary of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Named for Canadian-American physician James Naismith, who is considered the father of basketball, the Naismith Hall of Fame is an independent non-profit that promotes, preserves and celebrates basketball at every level within the U.S. and internationally. Over 300 million people play the game worldwide.
The coins, which are the first of this year’s two planned commemorative coin series, were originally scheduled to be released in April in conjunction with the Final Four basketball event in Atlanta. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the ceremony had to be canceled, as was the entire NCAA 2020 tournament. There was discussion about possibly holding it at the U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., but since D.C. is still under restrictions on social gatherings, that will not be possible. Other locations were also considered.
On February 25 at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Mint Director David Ryder held a first strike ceremony for invited guests who were able to strike their own examples of the new coins on the mint’s coin presses. Guests included basketball legends Julius Irving and Sheryl Swoopes, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who sponsored the legislation that created the coins program, officials and supporters of the Hall of Fame such as its president John Doleva and CFO Don Senecal, and Thomas Uram, Chairman of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).
In an interview last year, Mr. Senecal discussed how the Hall of Fame planned to work aggressively to promote the new coins over the course of the year largely by tying it to major events in the 2020 basketball season, and he also stressed that the global appeal of the game would also create a larger market for the coins.
Designs and Specifics
As for the designs and details of the coins, the obverse, which is concave, features three players of different genders and ethnicities as they reach for the same basketball against a background of a basketball net, which symbolizes the way the game brings together people of diverse backgrounds through a unifying athletic experience. Their arms are extended to show the physical exertion the game demands. The reverse, which is convex, depicts a basketball as it is about the pass-through a net.
The obverse design was selected through a public competition and was created by Justin Kunz, a member of the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) who has designed many coins for the U.S. Mint such as the 2020-W American Platinum Eagle Proof coin. It was sculpted by Michael Gaudioso.
The reverse design was created by Donna Weaver, who is also part of the AIP and retired in 2006 from the Mint’s full-time staff of coin designers. This side was sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.
These designs were unveiled live on NBA TV on September 6, 2019, during the Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony by Mint Director Ryder and the two artists.
As with many past commemoratives, up to 750,000 clad half dollars, 400,000 silver dollars and 50,000 $5 gold coins – including both uncirculated and proof coins – as well as an Enhanced Uncirculated half dollar only available in a special kid’s set limited to 75,000 units will be issued. The kid’s set also includes a colorful booklet about basketball.
New Finish and Partial Colorization
The new finish was created by using a laser polish on select design elements. Compared to a standard uncirculated coin, the Enhanced Uncirculated finish has a brighter and shiner sheen.
In addition, 75,000 each of the 2020-S clad proof halves and 2020-P proof silver dollars will be struck with colorization only on certain design elements, and those will also be released later than the standard issues. The Mint has contracted out the colorization of the coins to an outside vendor.
Although the Mint has not unveiled official images of the finished colored coins, attendees of the Feb. 25 first strike ceremony noted that Director Ryder had an example there and that on it the basketball was a brownish-orange color and that the rim was also colorized.
The clad Proof halves were struck at the San Francisco Mint, and the clad Uncirculated halves at the Denver Mint; the Proof and Uncirculated silver dollars were produced at the Philadelphia Mint; and all $5 gold coins – Proof and BU – were struck at the West Point Mint.
Surcharges added to the price of each coin, provided all costs associated with striking and advertising of the coin are first recouped, will go to help fund the Hall of Fame’s programs, including its youth scholarships.
NGC and PCGS are each producing special grading labels for the basketball coins, and NGC is adding the designation “Tip Off Releases”—a reference to the basketball term for a game that starts with a jump ball.
As was the case with the 2014 baseball coins, it is likely that many coin collectors are also fans of basketball to at least some degree, and the coin will also have appeal outside numismatics from fans of the game.