October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the U.S Mint has released the limited-edition Breast Cancer Awareness Coin and Stamp Set.
The set includes a 2018-S Proof Breast Cancer Awareness copper-nickel half dollar and a Breast Cancer Research stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service. The set comes in a colorful package that features information about breast cancer and a certificate of authenticity. Only 25,000 of these sets were made, and they were sold by the Mint with a household limit of one. The Proof half dollar in the set has a maximum authorized mintage of 750,000 coins and has a reeded edge.
It is not often that the Mint issued this type of product that pairs a commemorative coin with a USPS stamp. The only ones from recent years were the Presidential Coin and Chronicles set, which did not include any commemorative coins.
The set is part of the Mint’s 2018 commemorative coin program on breast cancer awareness, which helps raise funds for research on breast cancer through the surcharges on each coin or product that goes towards research programs that help save the lives of those affected by the disease of breast cancer. This research deals with all aspects of the disease from prevention to diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and metasis.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer overall, and the most common in woman and can impact women of any age. More than 40,000 women and over 200 men die from the disease each year, and there are 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Thanks to greater awareness and early detection, and better treatments, which is partly a result of research programs, the death rate for breast cancer has decreased by 38% since 1989.
The 2018-S Breast Cancer Awareness half dollar features obverse and reverse designs created by the same artist, which does not happen often. The artist is Emily Damstra, who is a designer with the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program. Ms. Damstra won the design competition the Mint held for this program.
The engraving of her design was done by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phoebe Hemphill for the obverse, while the reverse was engraved by Renata Gordon, who is also a Sculptor-Engraver at the Mint; both have designed and engraved many U.S. Mint coins.
The design itself, which is common to all three of the coins in the Breast Cancer Awareness program, features on the obverse a young woman and an older woman. The older woman has her hands on her chest and a relieved expression on her face, perhaps because she just found out her cancer is in remission. The younger female has a scarf on her head and one hand over her chest, while the other is raised up. She is ready to fight for greater awareness of the disease, or for her own survival. There are inscriptions for “LIBERTY,” “2018,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.” There is also an “S” mintmark for the San Francisco Mint.
The reverse shows a tiger swallowtail butterfly, which has long been used as a symbol of hope and for that reason has over the years also often been used, like the pink ribbon, as a symbol of the fight against breast cancer. There are inscriptions for “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “HALF DOLLAR,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “BREAST CANCER AWARENESS.”
The accompanying Breast Cancer Awareness stamp was first issued in 1998 and has been reissued many times since then. It bears no stated denomination and is marked “FIRST CLASS” so that it can be used on first class letters indefinitely like the forever stamps.
The version included in this set is the one printed in 2014, of which 20 million were printed. From 1998 to 2018 more than 1 billion of these stamps have been purchased, which has generated $87.8 million for breast cancer research.
The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler, a survivor of breast cancer, and features an illustration of a mythical “goddess of the hunt,” Artemis, by Whitney Sherman, who did the artwork that appears on the stamp. It features the inspiring phrases “FUND THE FIGHT” and FIND A CARE.”
Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt and protector of women, and Ms. Sherman came up with the idea of using her as a symbol of the fight against breast cancer. On the stamp Artemis is shown in the position of a woman having a breast cancer exam, while she reaches for an arrow, symbolizing that she will protect women from harm.
Each of the stamps was sold with a surcharge over its face value, which after costs were deducted, were used to fund breast cancer research conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of defense.The program was originally spearheaded by a breast cancer surgeon, survivor, and advocate, who worked with members of congress to have the stamp program authorized.The stamp was much more successful than an earlier one that featured a pink ribbon.
The new Breast Cancer Awareness Coin and Stamp set is a great way to help support a very important cause, while also purchasing a limited-edition collectible. It would also make a great gift, especially for someone who is either battling the disease or is a survivor.