US Mint Issues an Angry Breast Cancer Awareness Coin
What should have been an obverse coin design depicting women empowered in the fight against breast cancer instead became a design of women who are angry and in protest. There is a subtle difference in expression between power and anger. Unfortunately, the US Mint got it wrong.
This is the first time the public is seeing the result of the lack of leadership at the United States Mint following the retirement of Don Everhart, formerly in the modified Chief Engraver’s role. Virtually every senior level position at the Mint is occupied by someone with an “acting” status. Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and other Mint insiders have seen problems of a leaderless Mint, but until now the public had little evidence of it.
Other than the final sculpt of the pink gold coin that was permitted to go into production, the announcement of a silver bullion “medal” program, and the set of horrible designs for the 2019 American Legion Commemorative Coins presented to the CCAC and the Commission of Fine Arts in March, the lack of permanence in the Mint’s leadership has been largely a “behind the scenes’ matter.
Good Things About the Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Design
The Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coins launched on March 15, 2018. The set includes the first pink-hued gold coins issued by the U.S. Mint. They are composed in 85% gold, 14.8% copper, and 0.2% zinc. The pink gold coin should have been a triumph of design and R&D.
Emily Damstra, a prolific coin designer for the Royal Canadian Mint and member of the United States Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program, presented a fine drawing to the special design Committee created by Congress to recommend designs for this coin. Her 2017 Boys Town Centennial dollar design was masterful.”
Phoebe Hemphill, one of the finest sculptor engravers in the world, who did the sculpt for the Breast Cancer Awareness coins did a masterful job of rendering the facial expressions of the two women and producing a coinable work of art.
Ron Harrigal, the United States Mint Design and Engraving Manager whose tenacity led the Mint to produce the first cupro-nickel curved Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative that won Coin of the Year in 2015 and his team conducted extensive testing for optimal coloring and coining. He got it right and could have brought home another award-winning coin.
Any fault with the ultimate gold product that is being sold to the public does not lie with any of these people. If there is fault that must be assigned to what is happening at the US Mint right now, the fault lies with the delay by Congress to appoint a Mint Director.
Without a Mint Director who places a priority on coin designs, it is “Lord of the Flies” at the United States Mint. The key positions at the Mint are “Acting” or “Acting Deputy in charge of…” or some such temporary title. And on Capitol Hill these days even “permanent” positions do not seem to have much permanence.
There is no lead sculptor/engraver to replace the retired Don Everhart whose job it would have been to review the final sculpt of the coin before production. Catching this subtlety might not even have been the lead sculptor engraver’s job. But it was someone’s job, and in the recent past, someone would have seen that the final sculpt did not translate exactly right into the reduced die.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Program
Every 13 minutes a woman dies of breast cancer in the United States. It is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. Today, about 1 in 8, or 12 percent of, women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coins were authorized under a statute of the same name with the goal of raising funds and awareness to combat the disease. The statute mandated that the design of the coins be emblematic of the fight against breast cancer.
The obverses feature a butterfly, an older woman with her hands on her chest and a relieved expression on her face, and a younger woman wearing a scarf on her head with one hand over her chest and her other hand raised in a fist as if she is ready to fight. Meanwhile, the reverses depict a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly in flight, a symbol of hope.
The U.S. Mint will sell up to 50,000 $5 pink gold coins, 400,000 silver dollars and 750,000 clad half-dollars. They go on sale March 15 at introductory prices that range from $25.95 to approximately $430.
Pursuant to the federal statute authorizing the coins, a surcharge of $35 per gold coin, $10 per silver dollar and $5 per clad half-dollar will be added to each coin sale and paid to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) to continue its research efforts. Founded in 1993, the BCRF has raised more than $500 million to fuel discoveries in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, survivorship, and metastasis, making it one of the largest private funders of breast cancer research in the world.