Leave it to San Francisco to be the hub of innovation in a function of government as old as the republic itself.
A never-before-used style of commemorative coin — the type of specie produced at the United States Mint in San Francisco — honoring the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., will enter production soon.
Engraved with a design concocted by a 28-year-old San Luis Obispo artist, the coin has curved features that give it convex and concave heads and tails sides, respectively.
On the heads side of the new coin is a baseball, with a rounded edge as if the clad 50-cent piece were a real hardball.
And on the tails side is the glove design created by artist Cassie McFarland, which has a slight inward curve — just like a glove.
That familiar feel of the national pastime is what McFarland was trying to capture with her simple rendition of a regular, everyday symbol, she said Tuesday during a news conference at the Mint near Duboce Park. The federal building is almost never open to visitors.
McFarland, a visual artist who grew up in Roseville before graduating from Cal Poly — and a legitimate Giants fan — entered a U.S. Treasury contest to design the coin last year on “a whim,” she said.
She submitted her glove design on the last day before the deadline.
“I hate to say this, but I almost feel like it was my destiny,” she said. “The idea of the glove … it just clicked.”
It was no small feat for the creative coin to advance to the stamping stage: it took a special act of Congress to authorize the unique design, and further federal legislation to authorize the Mint to begin the process of stamping the coins, a Mint spokeswoman said.
Unlike other U.S. Mint sites, the San Francisco Mint building — regarded with mystique for its imposing design and very rare opportunities for nonemployees to visit — makes only commemorative, or proof coins, not coins stamped for circulation.
It is one of only five such locations in the United States, which include the famous gold bullion stash at Fort Knox in Kentucky. A crew of about 236 people are employed at the Mint, crafting the dies that stamp the coins, operating the machines and packaging the coins for shipment all over the country.
The Hall of Fame coin goes on sale March 27, for a price yet to be determined, in 50-cent as well as $1 silver and $5 gold denominations.