With no US Mint product releases scheduled for this week, I wanted to devote a few posts to upcoming or potential United States Mint commemorative coins.
Since commemorative coin programs are authorized by Acts of Congress, collectors can gain insights into the shape of things to come by following the progress of coin related bills. In addition to specifying the subject of commemoration, the bills generally specify denominations to be minted, mintage limits, the period of issuance, guidelines for design of the coins, and surcharge distribution.
Many coin related bills are introduced each year, but only a small number become law. In order for a bill to become law, it must be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed into law by the President. Under Congressional rules, two-thirds of each body must co-sponsor a bill before it is even put up to a vote, which is the hurdle that many bills cannot meet. Another rule limits the number of commemorative coin programs to only two per year.
The most recent bill to become law was the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act. The bill H.R. 2527 was introduced on July 14, 2011, passed in the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, passed by the Senate on July 12, 2012, and signed by the President on August 3, 2012.
The program calls for the minting and issuance of up to 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars, and 750,000 clad half dollars in recognition and celebration of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. These coins will be issued only during the one-year period beginning on January 1, 2014.
There are two intriguing aspects to the program. It is included as the sense of Congress that to the extent possible and without significantly adding to the purchase price, the $5 gold coins and silver dollars should be produced so that the reverse of the coin is convex to more closely resemble a baseball and that the obverse is concave to provide a more dramatic display of the design. The legislation specifically mentions the 2009 International Year of Astronomy Coin issued by the Monnaie de Paris, shown at left, which was shaped in this fashion. Another more recently issued dome shaped coin issued by the Royal Australian Mint is shown below.
As with the two astronomy themed coins that have used the convex/concave arrangement, the Baseball Hall of Fame coins would be particularly suited to the shape to accentuate the reverse design of a baseball. The last time that a commemorative coin program required an uncharacteristic innovation was the issue of the 2000-W Library of Congress $10 Coin, which was the first and only US Mint bimetallic coin, with an inner gold core and outer platinum ring.
A second interesting aspect of the program is that the process for selection and approval of the common obverse design will be determined by a competition held by the Secretary of the Treasury. Design proposals may be submitted from engravers of the United States Mint, as well as artists and members of the general public. Compensation of not less than $5,000 will be awarded for the winning design.
Depending on how the competition is structured, this could build some greater public awareness of the coming coin program and encourage a greater number and variety of design proposals than is typically the case for commemorative coin programs.
Early within the modern commemorative coin era, sales were multiples of current levels, likely driven by greater numbers of coins purchased by the general public. With a broadly popular topic and two particularly intriguing aspects to the program, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins may help spark some renewed interest in modern commemoratives.
Update: Tomorrow, there will likely be a price increase for the recently released 2012 Proof Platinum Eagle.
The initial price of the coin for the August 9, 2012 release was based on an average market price of platinum within the $1,350 to $1,449.99 range. The London Fix prices from the prior Thursday through the current Tuesday, result in an average price well within the $1,450 to $1,549.99 range. In the most likely scenario, as long as the Wednesday PM London Fix platinum price is above $1,449.99, than a price increase will take place. Price changes have generally become effective around mid-morning on Wednesday.
Sales of the 2012 Proof Platinum Eagle based on the sales report released today are 3,460 out of the 15,000 maximum mintage.