One small week for mankind: US Mint celebrates America’s 1969 moon landing with four domed coins

It’s fifty years since Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar lander and onto the surface of the moon – the first human being to set foot on a planetary body other than Earth. This week we’ll have a look at some of the coins coming out in celebration and as we don’t want to repeat the back-story several times (we’ve repeated it below anyway, we’ll crack on with the coins. We will start with the issues of the country that made that giant leap – the United States of America.

The US Mint is, unfortunately, heavily tied to the political institutions of America and creativity is often stifled at the expense of political will (First Lady gold coins anyone?). Luckily, a lunar landing coin was authorised and a competition undertaken to design the obverse face of it. Couple that with it being a domed strike, and we have the ingredients for something more interesting than usual.

Two elements have been chosen to represent the mission and they’re ones we suspect will appear on a whole lot of similarly themed numismatics from other producers. The reverse face reproduces the photograph taken by Neil Armstrong, of Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. It has that fisheye-goldfish bowl perspective as if it were reflected in the visor of a spacesuit. Full of neat touches like Armstrong’s shadow, it’s a great effort. The obverse by competition winner Gary Cooper, depicts the iconic footprint left on the moon. Overall, a neat design, although we’d like to have seen some nod to Michael Collins, whose contribution to the endeavour is just as important.

Four coins are on offer, two of which have a choice of finishes. The 0.900 gold coin has a fine content of ¼oz and can be purchased with either a proof, or uncirculated finish. The mintage split will depend on orders, but the total combined will not exceed 50,000 units. The smaller silver coin (0.999 fineness) also has the finish choice and comes in shy of an ounce at 26.73 grams. Again, the mintage split will be set by orders, but the combined total is capped at 400,000. The third coin is perhaps the most interesting and desirable. A five-ounce proof-finish coin with the same domed strike is a US Mint first, and at 76.2 mm in diameter, offers an impressive canvas to showcase the artwork. The mintage is set at 100,000 pieces. Lastly, and not covered here, are the cheap base-metal coins, so even those on a tighter budget can pick up a remembrance of this ground-breaking mission. All will be available to buy from the 24th January.

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THE LANDING

One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. With these words, astronaut Neil Armstrong opened up the next phase in human exploration by stepping from the Apollo 11 lunar lander onto the surface of the Moon. Joined 20 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin, and watched overhead by designated driver, Michael Collins, this was an event that was watched around the world with absolute admiration.

It was July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC that the lunar module Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, and six hours later Armstrong set foot on the surface. Along with Aldrin, they spent around 135 minutes walking on the lunar surface and collected a little more than 21 kg of material to return to Earth. Including their time in the module, they spent 21½ hours on the Moon.

The mission to the Moon was called Apollo 11, and started with the launch of a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, on 16 July at 13:32 UTC and was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft was constructed around three basic parts. A command module was the living and control space for the three astronauts, and was the only part that splashed back down to Earth in the Pacific Ocean on July 24 after more than eight days in space. The service module supplied the command module with power and propulsion, and the lunar module landed on the Moon surface (The Eagle has landed) and returned the two walkers back to the command module.

One of the first major events that was broadcast live around the world, the landing affirmed the United States as the victor in the Space Race against the Soviet Union, after being beaten by the Communist superpower in the race to get a man into orbit some years previously. There were just five further manned landings on the Moon, the last in 1972, and amazingly, there weren’t even any unmanned landings between 1976 and the end of 2013. Conspiracy theories abound about the truth of the landings, of course, most complete nonsense, but it happened and this fantastic achievment will be heavily commemorated this year.

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MINTS DESCRIPTION

The world eagerly watched on July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. took mankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unprecedented engineering, scientific, and political achievement was the culmination of the efforts of an estimated 400,000 Americans and secured our Nation’s leadership in space for generations to come. The Apollo 11 crew—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins—safely returned to Earth on July 24, 1969, fulfilling the national goal set in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Nearly half a century later, the United States is the only country ever to have attempted and succeeded in landing humans on a celestial body other than Earth and safely returning them home.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, Public Law 114-282 authorizes a four-coin program: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5 ounce $1 silver proof coin.

OBVERSE: The obverse design was selected from entries in a juried competition as required by the authorizing legislation, Public Law 114-282. The winning design is by Gary Cooper of Belfast, Maine. It features the inscriptions “MERCURY,” “GEMINI,” and “APOLLO”— separated by phases of the Moon—and a footprint on the lunar surface. The design represents the efforts of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing. Additional inscriptions are “2019,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and “LIBERTY.” Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna sculpted the design.

REVERSE: The reverse design is by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill. It features a representation of a close-up of the iconic “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The reflection in Aldrin’s helmet includes astronaut Neil Armstrong, the United States flag, and the lunar lander. Inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” the respective denomination, and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” Ms. Hemphill also sculpted the design.

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SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $5 United States $1 United States $1 United States
COMPOSITION 0.900 gold 0.999 silver 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 8.359 grams 155.517 grams 26.730 grams
DIMENSIONS 30.0 mm 76.2 mm 38.1 mm
FINISH Proof or B/Unc Proof Proof or B/Unc
MODIFICATIONS Domed strike Domed strike Domed strike
MINTAGE 50,000 total 100,000 400,000 total
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
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