Did You Know that the U.S. Mint Issued Its First Colorized Coins in 2020?

Many nations across the world have issued colorized circulating and commemorative coins over the last 30 years. The U.S. joined their ranks in 2020 when it issued colorized commemorative coins honoring the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 60th anniversary. “Colorized coins” in this context refers to pieces produced with colorized elements, as opposed to coins modified after production with colored stickers or enamel by third parties.

The early 1990s saw the issuance of the first such coins by private mints, mostly commemorative issues for small nations, mostly in the Global South. According to the U.S. Mint’s website, Canada was the first country to issue colorized circulating coins when it released quarters bearing colorized poppies honoring Remembrance Day in 2004. Bizarrely, U.S. intelligence personnel filed reports on the quarters after they encountered them, believing the colorization might incorporate nanotechnology that could be used in espionage (according to the Associated Press).

The U.S. Mint was relatively slow to embrace colorization and their decision to do so was somewhat controversial. Some collectors appreciated the creative aesthetic possibilities, while others derided them as unattractive and cheap. The U.S. Mint has only issued one colorized coin since 2020 – 25,000 of the 2022 National Purple Heart Hall of Honor commemorative silver dollars have purple coloration applied to the medal on their obverses.  

Two of the three coins commemorating the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020, the copper-nickel clad half dollar and the silver dollar, were colorized, the former more than the latter. The entire basketball, rim, and net on the reverse of the half dollar are colorized; on the silver dollar this is seen just on the rim, net, and black seams. The U.S. Mint contracted LulaRose, a Winchester, MA-based printing firm (a division of The Clancy Group Corp.)  to apply the coloration via “an automated process” which entailed “both pre and post treatment, as well as a two-step wet and dry colorization,” per Paul Gilkes’ reporting in Coin World.

Named for James Naismith, the Canadian-born educator credited with inventing basketball at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, MA in 1891, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was established in Springfield in 1959, inducting its first class the same year. Its first facility opened in 1968.

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