U.S. Mint unveils a pink-hued gold coin to benefit breast cancer cause

The U.S. Mint on Monday unveiled the designs for a pink-ribbon product unlike any seen before: a $5 gold coin made with a pink-hued alloy.

When the breast cancer awareness collectible currency set goes on sale next year, buyers also will be able to purchase a $1 silver coin and a half-dollar metal-clad coin.

The obverse, or “heads” side,  features two women, one wearing a scarf and raising a fist, the other with her hands folded on her chest “and a relieved expression on her face,” according to the Mint’s news release. Above the women, as well as on the reverse, a butterfly floats as “a symbol of hope.”

Commemorative coin programs are created by acts of Congress to honor a person, place, or event. The breast cancer coins also will raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York City. A $35 surcharge on each $5 coin is earmarked for the foundation, which was created by Evelyn Lauder, who was a breast cancer survivor, daughter-in-law of cosmetics magnate Estée Lauder, and inventor of the Pink Ribbon campaign.

“More than just a beautiful reminder of the fight, the coin will directly contribute to research  —  the kind that has decreased mortality rates by 38 percent over the last 25 years,” foundation president Myra Biblowit and U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D., N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the breast cancer coin law, wrote Monday on MarieClaire.com.

Last year, the Mint, with a facility on Independence Mall, announced a competition to design the coins. The winner was Emily Damstra, a freelance illustrator whose art appears at museums and zoos and in many publications, the Mint said.

Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month promotions and races have raised billions of dollars for research and charitable programs, some women’s health activists are critical of what they see as a lack of financial transparency and the less-than-healthy products that profit from tie-ins.

One longtime critic, Breast Cancer Action, a California-based  education and advocacy organization, this year launched a “Knot Our Pink Ribbon” campaign, urging people to “join us in calling out Estée Lauder for their role in launching the breast cancer industry.”

The Mint’s collectible coins are part of that industry, Breast Cancer Action executive director Karuna Jaggar said Monday.

“Breast cancer remains an urgent public health crisis and social justice issue. It’s hard to see how a pink coin contributes to the systemic change needed to address the breast cancer epidemic,” Jaggar said in a email. “After 25 years of pink ribbons, we have too little to show for the billions of dollars spent on pink ribbon products, promotions, and publicity stunts.”