On December 13, forty five years ago the last step taken by a man on the moon occurred. Yes that was 1972, the mission Apollo 17, and that lucky guy was Gene Cernan, and like so many of these childhood heroes he passed away on the 16th of this year at the age of 82. Of course as Numismatist we have many avenues to commemorate the Apollo missions. Some items come at a very modest entry fee like a 72 Ike Dollar, as the reverse is basically identical to the Apollo 11 mission patch. Should you want an item that has actually travel to the moon the provenance of any such numismatic item can add thousands to the price putting it as much out of the reach as the moon is to most of us. Then there is a small Franklin mint piece that gives you the opportunity to own something at the fraction of the price that may have went to the moon.
The piece I am talking about has the moon on one side and a bold proclamation on the other stating that the silver contained within had been to the moon. Specifically it says on the obverse “THIS MINICOIN IS MADE FROM A SPECIAL MELT CONTAINING SILVER THAT WAS CARRIED TO THE MOON ON THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 14”. It is impressive they were able to contain such specific details in a coin only 13mm in diameter, kudos to the engravers in 1971. The price for such a piece of history is typically around $25-35 checking the most recent eBay listings. Odd for something that has been is space right?
Then if you do a little more research there are reasons that these pieces do not commend the four and five digit prices of similar flown objects. First it was not the coins themselves, but 10,000 grains of silver that made the trip. In checking the Guidebook of Franklin Mint Issues by Virginia Culver and Chester Krause there was 129,499 minted so assuming the metals was combined into each piece evenly you have approximated .077 grains of flight flown silver. The revelations about the piece do not stop there.
I have one minicoin as mailed to the Franklin Mint Collectors Society member that apologizes that though the piece states it went to the moon it did not. The medals actually “remained aboard the command module as it circled the moon”. So despite the fact that some fraction of the material that made up the minicoin did not actually touch down on the moon it did actually travel further from Earth than if it had set down on the moon. So they could have thrown that positive spin on it, but sadly they did not. For me that brings to mind a little bit of interesting trivia. On what mission did men travel the farthest distance from the earth? No it was not the mission the 10,000 grains of silver flew on but it was an Apollo mission.
So knowing this is this commemorative piece worth the approximate $25 entry fee for ownership. Well as it would seem based upon the selling price many, myself included say yes. No it did not get moon dust on it, nor can you know for sure that any bit of the metal within the tiny medal has really traveled around the moon in back. So what you have to assume is maybe it did and for those of us who had hoped to be an astronaut or just where enthralled by the possibility that we may have colonies on worlds other than earth, remember moon base Alpha, it a tangible link to a dream with a very low admission price.
If you did not know the answer to the trivia question it that was Apollo 13, check your Guinness book of world records if you are old like me or just google it. Reason for this record is they did not touch down and used the gravity of the moon to pull them back toward the earth giving them the record for the greatest distance any human being has been from the earth.