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Each year, the U.S. Mint issues two congressionally-mandated commemorative coin programs. In 2018, one of those will be the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin program. This new initiative will include a $5 gold coin, a silver dollar, and a clad half dollar, all issued to raise awareness of the disease of breast cancer and to raise funds for the fight against it.
Maximum mintages for these coins will be the usual levels of 50,000 for the gold half eagle, 400,000 for the silver dollar, and 750,000 for the half dollar. As in the past, each coin will be minted in uncirculated and proof finishes.
The legislation that authorizes this program is Public Law 104-148, which became a law on April 29, 2016. The original bill was H.R. 2722, the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, which was introduced on June 10, 2015 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (Dem - NY).
According to the legislation, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among American women after skin cancers, and is the most common cancer among women worldwide. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women. In 2015 it was estimated that 231,840 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and that 40,290 women would die from it. There are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Even among men, there were estimated to be 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 440 deaths.
In addition, the bill notes that there is a strong interest among the American public to do more to address this important disease and seek to find a cure for it. That will require greater resources for research, treatment, and early detection.
The surcharges from sales of the coins, once all costs associated with them are first recouped, will be directed to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which the legislation says is one of the most efficient cancer research non-profit organizations in existence. As one of the largest privately-funded breast cancer research organizations, 91 cents of every dollar received goes towards research (88 cents) and awareness (3 cents).
As is normally the case with a three-coin commemorative coin program, the surcharges will be $35 for the $5 gold piece, $10 for the silver $1 coin, and $5 for the clad half dollar.
Of particular interest to collectors of modern U.S. coins is the fact that the $5 gold coin will mark a major departure from past practice. It will be the first-ever U.S. coin that will be minted using pink gold.
The color pink is widely associated with the fight against breast cancer because of the well-known pink ribbon that appears in the logo of the BCRF and of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which trademarked the symbol. The Komen Foundation was originally going to be the recipient of the coin surcharges until House of Representative members who oppose abortion objected to the links between that entity and Planned Parenthood.
To make a gold coin pink, alloys of copper and silver are added to the coin in varying amounts depending on the desired color intensity of the pink. The legislation calls for the coins to be made of at least 75% gold rather than the usual 90% gold and 10% copper. Pink gold is often seen in jewelry made of 18-karat gold that includes 20% silver and 5% copper, but if the copper amount is increased a little and the silver is decreased, a deeper red is achieved in the pink color of the coin.
The exact metallic content of the 2018 breast cancer coins is unknown at the present time apart from the fact that it will be struck from a minimum of 75% gold.
The first pink gold coin should attract considerable interest among collectors, and the coins, especially the less expensive dollars and half dollars, should be popular with the larger public if the coin is marketed widely.
The Royal Canadian Mint, often the first to try out new approaches, has produced three coins that are pink in appearance, including a 2006 25-cent circulation Breast Cancer piece with a pink ribbon, a 2012 Farewell to the Penny coin with rose gold-plating, and a 2016 $3 Queen Elizabeth Rose Silver Dollar with rose gold-plating.
Another important aspect to the breast cancer coin program is that the design will be selected by the Secretary of the Treasury based on the design that wins a juried, compensated design competition. This unique opportunity was open to both artists and engravers of the U.S. Mint and members of the public.
The jury that will evaluate the designs will consist of three members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and three from the Commission of Fine Arts, each of who will be elected by their respective peers on those entities.
Submissions that include a physical, three-dimensional design, rather than an electronic one, will be given preference, and the winning design will result in compensation of “not less than $5,000.” Designs must be “emblematic of the fight against breast cancer.
The competition was announced on August 2, 2016, and the first phase closed on October 17. Artists whose designs made it through the first round were invited to participate in phase two, which ended on November 14. The winning design will be announced in June of 2017.
In recent years, sales of commemorative coins by the U.S. Mint have often been lower than expected, and one program, the Girl Scouts Centennial coins, did not earn enough to cover the cost associated with the coin, which meant no surcharges were given to the Girl Scouts of the USA. In fact, in 2016 a new low mintage was established for $5 commemorative coin series with the National Park Service issue.
The 2018 breast cancer awareness coins offer the potential for greater success than recent commemoratives have achieved, especially if the selected design is attractive and inspiring.
It is hard not to be excited about the idea of buying coins that can help save lives.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|