Louis Braille Commemorative Silver Coins

Louis Braille Commemorative Proof Silver Coin - Click to Enlarge

Louis Braille Commemorative Proof Silver Coin - Click to Enlarge

2009 Louis Braille Commemorative Silver Coins were launched by the United States Mint on March 26, 2009, at the National Federation of the Blind Headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

Struck in both proof and uncirculated conditions, the two silver dollars celebrate the bicentennial of Louis Braille's birth on Jan. 4, 1809.

The silver coins feature a portrait of Louis Braille on the obverse (heads side) designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.

The reverse (tails side), designed by Susan Gamble and sculpted by Joseph Menna, depicts a child reading a Braille book at a desk. The word INDEPENDENCE is displayed on a bookshelf behind the child and the word "Braille", abbreviated BRL in Braille code, is featured in the upper field.

The commemoratives have a notable distinction in US coinage.

Orginal Braille Silver Dollar Coin Designs and Prototype - Click to Enlarge

Orginal Braille Silver Dollar Coin Designs and Prototype - Click to Enlarge

"For the first time in history, the United States has a coin with readable Braille," US Mint Director Ed Moy said when the coin designs and a prototype were first unveiled to the public. " The 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar honors the developer of Braille, a tactile code that has been instrumental in the literacy and independence of the world's blind people."

Three other US coin included Braille characters -- the Alabama state quarter and 1995 and 1996 Paralympic Silver Dollars, but these were too small for the visually impaired to read.

Louis Braille Commemorative Uncirculated Silver Coin - Click to Enlarge

Louis Braille Commemorative Uncirculated Silver Coin - Click to Enlarge

Born in France, Braille lost the sight in his left eye at the age of three from an accident with a tool in his father's workshop. An infection spread to his right eye, and by the age four he was blind. Braille went to the the Royal Institute for Blind Children in Paris, where he learned to read from large letters imprinted on paper.

Unhappy with this system, Braille designed a new one based on night writing shown to him by Charles Barbier de la Serre, a captain in Napoleon's army. Louis Braille used 6 dots in 2 columns to represent letters in the alphabet. This code punched into paper can be read by feel, and is the essence the Braille system still in use today.

Commemoratives Make Space Journey Aboard Atlantis

To help the public become more aware of the silver coins, NASA flew two (one uncirculated and one proof) into space aboard space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-125 mission to service NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. These were later presented to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

"NASA believes strongly in the importance of educational opportunities for everyone," said Dr. Joyce Winterton, the Assistant Administrator for NASA Education. That is why we have partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to help create programs that enhance scientific study for blind youth."

The special Braille coins join the ranks of the gold Sacagawea Space Dollars, which blasted off in 1999 on NASA Mission STS-93 to carry the Chandra X-ray Observatory -- one of NASA's four Great Observatories, like the Hubble Telescope.

NFB has been active in promoting Braille dollars to the public, to include a commercial explaining how they benefit the blind. A $10 surcharges from the sale of each coin is paid to NFB to further its programs to promote Braille literacy.

US Mint issue pricing for the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar coins are listed below. The introductory sales period ended on April 27, 2009, at 5 pm ET.

US Mint Issued Braille Silver Commemorative Prices

Product Code

Description

Introductory Price

Regular Price

BR1

Proof Silver Dollar

$37.95

$41.95

BR2

Uncirculated Silver Dollar

$31.95

$33.95

BR3

Uncirculated Silver Dollar in Easy-Open Capsule

$31.95

$33.95

The commemorative coins were authorized by the Louis Braille Bicentennial Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 109-247).

2009 Louis Braille Silver Coin Specifications

Mint: United States Mint in Philadelphia
Finish/Condition: Uncirculated; Proof
Metal Content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: 26.730 grams nominal
Diameter:1.500 inches (+-0.003) or 38.10 mm (+-0.08)
Edge: Reeded
Issue Date: 26 March 2009
Mintages: 400,000
Obverse Designer/Sculptor: Joel Iskowitz; Phebe Hemphill
Reverse Designer/Sculptor: Susan Gamble; Joseph Menna

Braille Commemorative Coin Resources