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The E-Sylum (5/7/2017)

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Robert Pearlman's collectSPACE publication interviewed April Stafford of the U.S. Mint about the upcoming design competition for the Apollo 11 moon landing commemorative coins. Here's an excerpt - see the web site for the complete article. -Editor

April Stafford collectSPACE spoke with April Stafford, chief of the Mint's Office of Design Management, to learn more details about the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Design Competition.

collectSPACE (cS): Why a design competition over an in-house designer? The provision for the contest was written into the bill that authorized the commemorative coins. Was that something suggested by the Mint to Congress?

April Stafford: The Mint does not suggest or request that provisions be added to a bill. The U.S. Mint is required to administer all programs according to legislation enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President.

Accordingly, the sponsor of the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act added the competition provision, which lawfully requires that the Mint execute the program as so.

cS: How does this design competition differ, if at all, from past competitions held by the Mint?

AS: The structure of the competition is similar to those the Mint has recently held.

During Phase One, which is open to the public from May 1 through June 29, artists will submit three to five samples from their existing portfolio, along with contact information. This can be uploaded to the Mint's website. The portfolios will be evaluated by an expert jury. From there, the jury will choose no more than 20 artists to take part in Phase Two.

What is different with this competition is that during Phase Two, finalists only need to submit a two-dimensional digital design. Recent competitions have required or suggested a three-dimensional model be part of the entry.

For this competition, a three-dimensional model will not be accepted due to the complexity of sculpting on a curved basin. Also of note, those invited to take part in Phase Two will be paid a stipend of $500.

cS: On average, how many entries have been received in prior two-phase competitions?

AS: The Mint does not disclose the number of responses for past competitions. But we have been very pleased with both the quantity and quality of the entries.

cS: What is special about the four coins in the Apollo 11 50th anniversary commemorative program?

curved coin photo AS: All four Apollo 11 coins are curved, which, given the subject matter, will make for very engaging artistic designs. Also special is that this is the first time in recent years that a U.S. Mint commemorative coin program has more than three coins.

Finally, the fourth coin in this program is a 5 ounce version. The U.S. Mint has never produced and offered a curved 5 ounce coin in its history, so that will add to the excitement as well.

cS: The U.S. Mint advises on the competition website that artists should resist basing their designs on photos. Since NASA imagery (e.g. the photos taken on the moon) is in the public domain, can they be used for inspiration?

AS: The design of the coins' obverse (heads side) should be emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned moon landing.

Buzz Aldrin photo Inspiration for this program, and all coin designs for that matter, can be taken from photos, video, audio, personal memories or anything that inspires an artist. However, the design must be the artist's original work and not be based on pre-existing work, whether it is in the public domain or not.

It's also important to note that the designs may not include the name or depiction of any living person – including an astronaut – even with permission.

AS: The U.S. Mint will not be sharing publicly the designs submitted by the finalists. However, the legislation for this competition requires that the designs be reviewed by the two federal advisory committees — the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. As these committees hold public meetings, the designs will be released to the public on the date of those meetings.

The submissions will be released anonymously; the names of the submitting artists will not be released.

cS: The jury comprises members of the CCAC and Fine Arts Commission, as well as a U.S. Mint representative. Notably absent is someone from NASA or someone who has direct knowledge of space history. Will there be such a person or persons who will assist the Mint and/or jury to ensure historical accuracy?

AS: Yes, there will be subject matter experts available to advise the jury on historical and technical accuracy during the judging process. In fact, the legislation stipulates the Mint work with the Administrator of NASA or a designee on the reverse for this coin. The Mint plans to leverage this expertise also for a review of the obverse design.

For more details, see the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Design Competition website:

To read the complete article, see:
US Mint launches public art competition to design Apollo 11 moon landing coins (

To read the U.S. Mint Press Release, see:
United States Mint Launches Public Design Competition for Program Marking 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 (

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