Apollo Coin

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Over the years there have been references to flown Franklin Mint medals for both Apollo 13 and Apollo 14, but reliable information had not been available to collectors. Some believe the controversy that arose with the flying of souvenirs for money by the crew of Apollo 15 caused people not to talk about the Apollo 13 and Apollo 14 Franklin Mint medals when they were discovered, as once again, it could be seen as more commercialization and profiting from souvenirs flown in space. Even years after the missions, it seemed like an effort was made to avoid any publicity about them, as requests to the Franklin Mint archive for the historical data concerning the medals for the two missions, although met with friendly responses, only produced confirmation that records going back that far have all been destroyed.

It wasn't until 2007, when Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 crewmember, clarified the details about the Apollo 14 FM medals, and most importantly, provided the documentation that confirmed how many of them were flown. Dr. Mitchell's information solidified many loose ends, and his explanations should be the last word, which is consistent with how collectors treat the word of an astronaut who has confirmed whether or not an item has flown.

After consulting the original PPK contents lists, Dr. Mitchell was able to confirm that each of the three crewmembers carried 65 of the FM medals aboard the command module, Kitty Hawk, in their command module Personal Preference Kits (PPKs). He also confirmed that none of these went in the lunar module, Antares, to the lunar surface, contrary to what was previously reported in Russ Still's Relics of the Space Race.

Collectspace.com was also able to provide a valuable 1971 article from the Numismatic News that provided great insight into the controversy that these medals created. Among the interesting highlights in this article was the fact that the issue became the subject of a Congressional Investigation. More importantly, the article confirmed that there were 200 silver Franklin Mint medals made, referred to as specimens, and that 50 of them were returned to the Franklin Mint. The remaining 150 medals were divided among the three crewmembers.

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From a melt of silver that included the coins the crew returned to the Franklin Mint, they struck 129,449 silver mini-coins, each 13 mm in size. According to the insert that accompanied each mini-coin, the melt included 10,000 grains of silver that had been flown to the moon aboard Apollo 14. The mini-coins were not for sale but were sent free of charge in 1971 to members of the Franklin Mint Collectors Society.

It's interesting that the mini-coins are quite well known among space collectors and regularly available, but details about the flown silver they were struck from have not been clear. The mini-coins can be regularly found on e-Bay in the $20-$50 range.

Further confusion about the medals has to do with the fact that the Franklin Mint struck identical silver medals for collectors as part of a 36 medal series called Special Commemorative Issues, also in 1971. The collector medals have the identical edge markings except they are not serial numbered. According to the 1971 book, Numismatic Issues of the Franklin Mint, the silver Proof Quality medals had a 'Net mintage of 6477' with a notation 'includes 200 specimens numbered on edge.' which means 6277 collector medals and 200 specimens. It also lists 1725 Proof Quality bronze medals and 500 Proof-like Quality bronze medals as being struck.

Franklin Mint Apollo 14
Silver Special Commemorative Issue

Franklin Mint Apollo 14
Bronze Special Commemorative Issue

The Special Commemorative Issues medals, including the Apollo 14 medal, were issued on a blister card, a heavy card stock with a cutout for the medal with the medal sealed over with a thin Mylar layer. The front of the blister card is titled:

CAPTAIN ALAN B. SHEPARD, JR.
Apollo XIV Commemorative

Pai gow game. The reverse of the blister card displays the population numbers and other details.


Also included with the blister packed medal was an additional information insert card that reads:

Apollo XIV
Commemorative Medal
Designer: Daniel Stapleford
Sculptor: Ernest Lauser
This commemorative honors the flight of Apollo XIV, the sixth mission to the moon, and the third to have landed men to explore its desolate surface, some 238,000 miles from the earth. Two hundred sterling silver specimens of the medal, serially numbered 0001-0200, were minted specifically for the Apollo XIV flight commander, Captain Alan B. Shepard, Jr. for his personal presentation to dignitaries involved in the Apollo XIV program.

Dr. Mitchell also confirmed that Alan Shepard was the sole contact with Franklin and dealt with all the particulars, which is corroborated by the information on the additional information insert card that came with the blister card and the 1971 Numismatic News article.

Although it is documented that 200 numbered specimens were made, according to Dr. Mitchell's detailed records, only 195 of them were flown. And, even though the medals are individually serial numbered, the PPK inventories strictly list that 65 Franklin Mint medals were flown in each of the three crewmember PPKs, but no serial numbers are listed. So, of the 200 specimens made, there are five that exist that may have been given away before launch that were not flown. This fact makes a certification letter from a crewmember, confirming the flown status of a medal, critical.

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Background

The world eagerly watched on July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. took mankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unprecedented engineering, scientific, and political achievement was the culmination of the efforts of an estimated 400,000 Americans and secured our Nation’s leadership in space for generations to come. The Apollo 11 crew—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins—safely returned to Earth on July 24, 1969, fulfilling the national goal set in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Nearly half a century later, the United States is the only country ever to have attempted and succeeded in landing humans on a celestial body other than Earth and safely returning them home.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, Public Law 114-282 authorizes a four-coin program: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5 ounce $1 silver proof coin.

About the Competition

As required by the Public Law, the Mint invited American artists to design a common obverse image that is emblematic of the United States Space Program leading up to the first manned Moon landing. The Secretary of the Treasury selected the design from a juried competition. Gary Cooper of Belfast, Maine, created the winning design in the Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin Design Competition.

About the Coins

Recipient Organization

Apollo Coin Apl

Apollo 11 coins 1969

Prices for the coins include surcharges of $35 for each gold coin, $10 for each silver coin, $5 for each half dollar clad coin and $50 for each five ounce proof silver dollar coin, which the law authorizes to be paid as follows:

  • one-half to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibit,
  • one-quarter to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, and
  • one-quarter to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Additional Resources

Games

In honor of the upcoming Apollo 11 50th Anniversary coin collection, we’re launching a new game on the U.S. Mint Kids site, Space Supply. In this game you will deliver critical supplies to the Space Colonies across our solar system while dodging space debris, asteroids, and UFOs.

Coins in Space

Coin

Did you know that there are coins currently in outer space? Two of our state quarters, Maryland and Florida, are on NASA’s New Horizons mission exploring Pluto, its moons, and the Kuiper Belt – the farthest spacecraft flyby in history.


The gallery below features coins and medals related to space.

NASA Lesson Plans

NASA provides free educational resources about the U.S. space program and its explorations. Below are some interesting lesson plans in PDF format that explore moon and Apollo 11 related topics. Find additional education resources on NASA’s Educators Page.

  • Moon ABCs Fact Sheet (Grades 4-12): Learn fun facts about comparisons of Earth and the moon, including “Brain Busters”, or questions designed to stimulate deeper thinking.
  • Diameter of the Moon (Grades 4-12): Learn to calculate the diameter of the moon using proportions.
  • Lunar Landing Sites (Grades 4-12): Plan a mission to the moon, including designing a space craft and choosing a suitable lunar landing site, and share their ideas.
  • Impact Craters (Grades 4-12): Recreate a lunar surface using flour, baking soda, and cornmeal, and drop impacts such as marbles at various heights to understand how certain factors, including size, velocity, and geology, impact how craters are formed.

U.S. Mint Lesson Plans

Apollo Coin Wallet

  • Many Happy Returns (Grade 4): Make connections between the past and present by comparing the journey of Lewis and Clark with the space flight of Apollo 11.
  • Distinguished Discoveries (Grades 4-6): Analyze the importance of discoveries, including the U.S. space program, and research, compare, and contrast two discoveries.
  • Exploration Across Eras (Grades 9-12): Research and write a persuasive essay that discusses the similarities between the Corps of Discovery and the space program.