The U.S. Mint has won the Coin of the Year competition for its 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame copper-nickel clad half dollar.
Votes of an international panel of judges were tabulated yesterday following the cutoff of submissions Dec. 6.
The award trophy is to be presented by me on Feb. 6, 2016, at a special ceremony at the World Money Fair in Berlin, Germany.
The half dollar was one of three cupped coins created as part of a special set last year.
The other two are a gold $5 and a silver dollar.
There was stiff competition for the COTY honor.
The Austrian Mint, a perennial contender for the international award, fielded three of the 10 possibilities from which the judges made their final choice.
This year, the U.S. Mint had two of the 10 coins in the second and final round of contention.
Five other nations had coins in the race.
They are Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Latvia and Poland.
They, too, will be honored in Berlin for their wins as trophies will be given to winners in each of 10 categories..
American collectors might wonder why the judges selected a clad half dollar over similar coins made of gold or silver.
To answer that question is to burrow into the basic reason the COTY award was created in the first place.
The clad half dollar was a technical triumph for the U.S. Mint.
Gold and silver are much softer metals and easier to strike as cupped coins. Other mints in the world have pioneered in these unconventional striking techniques.
Striking a cupped coin of copper-nickel clad composition even in fairly small collectible quantities had not been done before.
Authorizing legislation for the baseball program had even presumed the half dollar could not be cupped and the coin could have been the standard flat disk.
However, the Mint staff went to work and figured out how to make the copper-nickel coin cupped.
That, I presume, is why the judges named it the Most Innovative Coin, one of 10 award categories of the first round of COTY voting.
The cupped $5 gold coin won in the Best Gold category, so it also competed for the top honor.
But it was the new and different aspect behind the issuance of the clad half dollar that apparently won out in the minds of judges in the second round of voting as they evaluated coins in all 10 categories.
I send my congratulations to the U.S. Mint not only on winning the COTY Award, but for the corporate culture that turned conventional wisdom into a challenge to be overcome.
By doing that, the U.S. Mint has opened a door to a future that might include additional innovations that will thrill future coin buyers as much as the baseball set did in 2014.
Innovation in coinage was one of the things we hoped to encourage when the COTY Award was created by World Coin News in 1984.
In winning this award, the U.S. Mint has fulfilled that hope.
Here is a complete list of winners.