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Apollo 11 coins clear last hurdle

“The Eagle has landed” were the dramatic words letting the world know that two American astronauts had arrived on the moon in 1969.

Apollo 11 will be honored by commemorative coins in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of this historic achievement.

President Barrack Obama signed the authorizing legislation into law Dec. 16.

Quick work by legislative supporters helped convince the U.S. Senate to take up the measure and pass it Dec. 10 just five days after it passed the House of Representatives.

The third and final action, applying the President’s signature, completes the trifecta of requirements to make federal law.

The Apollo 11 coins will be the second series of cupped coins issued by the U.S. Mint.

These will come five years after the first ones were issued in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

To make them, on display in 2019 will be the Mint’s technical skill at striking cupped coins and the original technical skill that guided our manned space program.

Will collectors be as enthusiastic about these new coins as they were for the 2014 issues?

I expect they will.

A common reverse design for the Apollo 11 coins will be of an astronaut’s helmet, based on a July 20, 1969, photograph of Buzz Aldrin.

Reflected in Aldrin’s visor is the American flag and the lunar lander.

To achieve this effect on the coins, the visor portion of the image would have a mirror-like surface while the rest of the helmet would be frosted, according to the text of the legislation.

Such a design would work especially well on the largest coin authorized, a 5-ounce silver coin.

This three-inch diameter coin is specified to be a proof, has a face value of $1 and a mintage no higher than 100,000 pieces.

I can see an instant sellout for this coin.

The 5-ounce $1 coin’s diameter will be double that of the silver dollar.

There will be three standard commemoratives also. Up to 50,000 $5 gold pieces can be struck, 400,000 silver dollars and 750,000 clad half dollars.

If the demand pattern is the same as in 2014, the precious metal pieces will sell out while the clad half mintage number will be sufficient to satisfy all demand.

For the obverse design, the legislation calls for an artistic competition with a prize of not less than $5,000.

Will the result be as neat a match as the recessed baseball glove combined with the rounded baseball look of the Hall of Fame coins?

Such a seamless pairing would cinch collector demand.

Surcharges will apply, as they do to all commemoratives, when they go on the market in 2019.

The surcharge amounts are $35 for the gold $5, $10 for the silver dollar and $5 for the clad half dollar. For the huge silver 5-ounce coin, the surcharge will be $50.

The money raised will be used for scholarships for students pursuing science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degrees, educational initiatives that promote space exploration, the Astronauts Memorial that honors the astronauts whom have fallen in the line of duty, and the National Air and Space Museum’s new “Destination Moon” exhibit.