The 5 oz, 3-inch, proof-polished, curved Apollo 11 coin marked the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, in 1969.
The obverse design features the names of NASA’s previous space exploration projects around the rim, which laid the foundation for the success of the Apollo 11 landing. In the centre is a boot print on the lunar surface, representing NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s quote from the lunar surface, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ The concave curvature evokes a lunar crater, while the sculpted rough texture represents the moon’s surface.
The reverse design is a representation of the famous photo of NASA Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon, with the curved visor represented by the curvature of the coin, reflecting back Neil Armstrong as he took the picture.
The United States Mint in Philadelphia produced 100,000 of the coins – the first time it had minted a curved coin with such a large diameter and also the first time it had applied a proof polish finish at that size.
To accommodate the proof finish wearing off faster during production, it bought six CNC milling machines to produce 450 dies (by comparison, only 3-4 pairs are needed for a typical 3-inch silver coin program).
The application of the laser frosting, which required complex adjustments in the focal height related to the depth and curvature of the curved surface, was also challenging. Once addressed, new fixtures for the PVD die-coating chamber were developed to accommodate the large diameter of the dies, representing another first at the United States Mint.