It took five years and new legislation to be passed, but the Mint was finally ready to release the Basketball Hall of Fame commemoratives this year. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, part of the proceeds would go to support the Hall.
The Mint had big plans for these coins. They were set to be released in April in conjunction with the Final Four game in Atlanta, with VIPs of the coin world in attendance ready to sign labels and COAs. PCGS was set to attend the game, which would have surely put numismatics front and center in front of a new crowd.
Then the coronavirus intervened.
Sports were put on hold, including basketball, cancelling the Final Four game and March Madness entirely. The Mint pushed the release date back until June 4, when the commemoratives finally went up for sale.
Even without this delay, it was an unusual launch. The Mint’s retail stores are still closed and they aren’t accepting phone orders. Many coin launches coincide with large coin shows, giving collectors an easy way to get their hands on the new products immediately after release. With no coin shows happening, this wasn’t an option either. If you wanted one of the Naismith commemoratives on the launch day, you only had two choices: Order online, or visit the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
As it happens, the same world events that forced a total regroup for the launch have given this commemorative a whole new layer of significance. It not only commemorates the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, but the 2020 date will not only commemorate the year without an NCAA Tournament or a Final Four but also the tragic death of NBA super-star Kobe Bryant.
It’s certainly been a wild year for the sport, and while the launch may not have been what anyone hoped, the coins are certain to have quite a bit of significance for sports fans for years to come.
So what about the coins themselves? As expected, it’s the all-too-familiar clad half dollar, silver dollar, and gold $5 piece line-up. This is only the third domed coin produced by the Mint, following the 2014 Baseball and 2019 Apollo 11 commemoratives. New this year, they’re offering an enhanced uncirculated clad half dollar exclusively as part of a kids’ set, which is currently on backorder.
Another exciting prospect, the Mint will be releasing new versions later in the year that are colorized. These will be the first colorized coins ever produced by the Mint and are sure to draw some attention. Images haven’t been released, but feedback from the few who’ve gotten to see them has been good.
PCGS has also partnered with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to offer an exclusive label and limited time orange box for orders with the new label. Proceeds from coins with this label will go to support the Hall. The Hall’s own allotment of coins are also being graded by PCGS, pedigreed as the “Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Private Collection.”
Not to be left out, NGC is offering four different special labels for the new commemoratives, including the Basketball Core which features an all-over print of a bright orange basketball. One label includes designer Donna Weaver’s signature, and another has the signature of Naismith’s only living grandson.
Launched under undeniably less-than-ideal circumstances, the Basketball Hall of Fame commemoratives have the potential to become a coveted issue. If the final mintage numbers are low, we might even have a modern rarity on our hands... stranger things have happened this year.