Austria: Second coin in inspiring Guardian Angels series dedicated to Gabriel

The Mint of Austria have unveiled their second coin in the Guardian Angels or Heavenly Messenger series, which highlights the divine beings who are worshiped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. These benevolent, but invisible, spirits have also been widely depicted throughout art history. The second coin in this inspiring series is dedicated to the archangel Gabriel—a deity full of surprises. He is often characterized as the bringer of good news. In the Koran, he is the guardian of the gate to heaven, the angel of revelation, and the mediator between God and man. In the New Testament, Gabriel is the bringer of happy news—the angel who told the Virgin Mary that she was with child and that the child should be known as Jesus.

Special Uncirculated silver obverse. (Hover to zoom.)

Brilliant Uncirculated copper obverse.

The coin is designed by Helmut Andexlinger and Herbert Wähner, senior engravers at the Mint of Austria, who designed the first coin in the series (dedicated to the archangel Michael). The centre of the obverse side of the coin features a lily, which symbolises Gabriel.

Proof silver obverse, with colour selectively applied to grapevine.

The lily is framed by the initial G, which is surrounded by an ornate, reddish-coloured (on the silver Proof examples) grapevine design.

Proof silver reverse.

The image of Gabriel on the coin’s reverse is a detail from a painting by a 15th- or 16th-century painter believed to belong to the German School. The painting shows Gabriel as a young man with curly hair and a halo, pointing his fingers to the sky. His wings are decorated with peacock feathers.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€10 Copper 15 g 32 mm Brilliant Unc. 130,000
€10 .925 silver 16.8 g 32 mm Select Unc. 30,000
€10 .925 silver 16.8 g 32 mm Proof with applied colour 30,000

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader 2oz Silver Coin

Darth Vader Ultra High Relief 2oz Silver Coin

RELEASED TODAY!

/29/08/2017


Marvel at the incredible 3D aesthetic of this brand-new Ultra High Relief Star WarsDarth Vader 2017 collectible coin. We expect demand to be high, so have reserved an allocation for our nzmint.com customers.

Star Wars: Darth Vader 2oz Silver Coin

You could be one of the first to own this magnificent Ultra High Relief 2oz fine silver coin featuring the Sith Lord, Darth Vader, wielding his lightsaber which is highlighted in colour to add further drama.

The unique Ultra High Relief effect is achieved by using cutting edge minting techniques which allow the image to rise much higher than the face of the coin. The process not only adds more depth to the coin’s design, but a deeper, brighter lustre which ensures that every millimetre of the intricate design shines through. So, it feels more like a tiny sculpture than a standard coin!

The coin is nestled in black velvet inside a high-quality Star Wars branded coin case – perfectly angled to display the 3D aesthetic. The stylised Certificate of Authenticity also sits within the coin case. Along with the Star Wars themed outer box, this coin could make a stunning gift.

With a worldwide mintage of only 5,000, which is half the mintage of our other Star Wars Silver coins, you will want to get yours soon!

Darth Vader 2oz Silver Collectible Coin

India: Fluorescent colour features on latest 50-rupee bank note issued by Reserve Bank

The Reserve Bank of India have announced (18th August) the addition to their latest bank-note series, which was introduced earlier this year. The new note is a 50-rupee denomination and the unusual feature it boasts is that the colour is somewhat fluorescent in appearance. The turquoise-blue note features a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, whose image was first introduced on Indian bank notes in 1996. The new, updated series also includes new denominations of 2,000 rupees and an upcoming 200 rupees. Both are the first time these values are issued in the Indian economy. Also included on the new-generation rupee bank notes is the symbol for the Indian rupee, “₹,” which the Reserve Bank introduced to the Indian public in July 2012.

The new bank note has been reduced in size from the previous issue and now measures 135 x 66 millimetres, which is in keeping with the new 2,000-, 1,000-, and 500-rupee notes in this updated series. The new note continues to depict the Mahatma on the face, with the portrait now positioned towards the centre. To the left of the portrait, the Devanagari symbol and numeral To the right of the portrait is the note’s watermark field and the name of the authority, along with the seal of the Reserve Bank of India and the denomination of ₹ 50. There is also a windowed, de-metalised security thread with inscriptions भारत’ and RBI seen vertically. The state emblem of the Ashoka is placed to the right edge of the note. The serial numbers, which graduate from smaller to larger sizes, are positioned to the upper left and lower right of the note on the face.

The back depicts the motif of the Hampi with Chariot, referencing part of the country’s cultural heritage. The year of issue is included to the left of the field of the watermark, and an image of the Mahatma’s emblematic spectacles is seen below the watermark field together with wording in Devanagari. To the right of the watermark, a panel of text is included which shows the note’s denomination in several different languages which are prevalent in India.

The Reserve Bank of India have also announced that all earlier notes will continue to remain legal tender. The country was thrown into economic turmoil when, in November 2016, the 500- and 1,000-rupee bank notes were declared invalid by the administration of Narendra Modi after a specific date of exchange. The move was greatly criticised for its lack of forward planning, but was intended to bring to the surface what was believed to be trillions of rupees in the economy which were not declared as income or were earned in the black market. Banks were instructed to accept the soon-to-be invalidated 500 and 1,000 rupees in the first “Mahatma” series in order to offer credit to their customers. The Reserve Bank then introduced the country’s highest bank-note value: 2,000 rupees. This escalated the chaos, as there were few bank notes in circulation to make change for purchases below 2,000 rupees. A 500-rupee denomination followed sometime after. The new 50-rupee bank note is expected to be released before the end of September 2017.

Thailand: Funeral and cremation memorial medals unveiled for late king announced

(Background portrait of King Rama IX courtesy of the government of Thailand)

The Royal Thai Treasury, in association with the Mint of Thailand, have announced (20th August) that the anticipated commemorative medals issued to remember their late and revered King Rama IX will be made available after initial pre-orders are processed. The medals will be issued to commemorate the cremation of the king, who passed away on the 13th October 2016. It is Thai royal tradition to cremate the sovereign one year after their actual death, and this will occur on that day.

Hover to zoom.

The medals, four versions in total, will be produced by the Royal Thai Mint and will be struck in gold, silver, bronze, and cupro-nickel. All will share the same obverse and reverse designs. The obverse shows a front-facing portrait of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in full dress uniform, the robe of the Royal House of Chakri—the current royal Thai dynasty. The king is wearing the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri and a Chulachomklao breast chain. The late king’s name appears under his portrait.

The reverse side depicts an image of the royal crematorium. The royal cypher (or monogram) of the late king is placed above the crematorium, and the words Royal Cremation and the Thai date October 26, 2017, are placed under the design in the Thai script.

The Treasury Department will begin accepting orders for the commemorative medals in honour of King Rama IX’s cremation through commercial banks and state financial institutions from the 22nd August to the 30th September. The invitation to order the commemorative medals is extended to Thai nationals. They are scheduled to be dispatched to customers commencing on the 29th January 2018. The Royal Thai Treasury also announced that the net proceeds after expenses will be presented to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who succeeded his father last year.

The news of the death of the revered King of Thailand, who had celebrated 70 years as his country’s crowned head of state, was received with great sorrow and deep mourning by many Thais. The official mourning period will conclude on the day of the late king’s cremation. Thereafter, the royal court will begin preparations for the coronation of the current king, H.M. Rama X, of the Chakri Dynasty.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927–2016), the second son of Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla, ascended the throne of Thailand after the death of his elder brother Anada (King Rama VIII) in 1946. He was only 18 years old at the time. On the 28th April 1950, the young king married Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. She was a great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn and, thus, a cousin to Adulyadej. King Rama IX and his new queen would have four children, of whom their only son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (born in July 1952), succeeded his father on the 13th October 2016.

During his years on the throne, King Rama IX became an immensely popular figure in Thai society and was credited with preserving the Thai state and averting the collapse of the government during a time of great upheaval in Southeast Asia. King Rama IX earned the admiration and respect of many Thais, who came to regard their beloved monarch as the father of the nation during his seven decades as head of state—the longest ever in Thai history.

Denmark: Children’s definitive mint set issued with “off to school” theme

The Royal Danish Mint have issued their 2017-dated mint set that is aimed primarily at children, or as a keepsake gift. This year’s set is themed with an “off to school for the first time” scenario—and the pupil, in this case, is the ever-popular Teddy Bear, who has been the central figure since the children’s sets first launched in 2015. This year sees Teddy Bear embarking on a task quite familiar to every child at some point in their young lives—beginning school for the first time. Teddy Bear is depicted making his way to his first day of school, where he meets new friends and the nice teacher—who will teach him about numbers and letters.

The Coin Set for Children 2017 unfolds like a picture book with lovely colours and drawings of Teddy Bear, who has been the central figure since it first launched in 2015.

Hover to zoom.

The set comprises all of the currently  circulating coins in Denmark, from the 50-øre copper coin to the 1-, 2-, and 5-kroner cupro-nickel coins with their distinctive doughnut design.

The set also includes the golden-coloured, cupro-aluminum 10- and 20-kroner coins with a detailed and elegant effigy of HM Queen Margrethe II. The effigy was introduced in 2010 and created by sculptress Lis Nogel. The 2017-dated coins included in the set are produced at the Mint of Finland on behalf of the Royal Mint, and the graphics are illustrated by senior graphic designer Jeanette Skov Jensen at Danmarks Nationalbank.

The Coin Set for Children 2017 is issued from the 10th August. Please visit the website of the National Bank of Denmarkfor additional information on this and other coins on offer.

Malaysia: New silver coin celebrates 29th Southeast Asian Games and 9th ASEAN Para Games

(Background image by CLF)

The Bank Negara Malaysia have launched (16th August) new collector coins in conjunction with the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Game competitions as well as the 9th ASEAN Para Games. Both games are being hosted in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur from the 19th to the 31st August. The ASEAN Para Games is a biannual multi-sport event held after every SEA competition for Southeast Asian athletes with physical disabilities. It commences on the 17th September, concludes on the 23rd September, and is also hosted in Kuala Lumpur.

Hover to zoom.

The coins share the same designs. The obverse side includes the official mascot of the games—RIMAU—and is inspired by the graceful and powerful Malayan tiger. RIMAU is an acronym for “Respect, Integrity, Move, Attitude, and Unity,” and the mascot is depicted in full colour. BANGKIT BERSAMA is the theme of the games, which signifies the coming of age for Southeast Asia as a community. The words SUKAN SEA KE-29 and SUKAN PARA ASEAN KE-9 are depicted on the upper and lower circumference of the coin, respectively.

The reverse side includes the inscription BANK NEGARA MALAYSIA, which is the issuing authority of the commemorative coin and is positioned on the upper circumference of the design. The face value of the coin, 10 RINGGIT, is inscribed on the lower circumference. The centre of the coin features the official logo of the Games, the Wau Bulan, which is an intricately designed Malaysian moon-kite. The combination of stripes and shards of colour are collated from the flags of all Southeast Asian countries.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
1 ringgit Nordic gold 8.5 g 30 mm Brilliant Unc. 13,000
10 ringgit .999 silver 31.1 g 40.7 mm Proof & colour 700

The coins are available as separate purchases or as a limited set of 1,300. They will be available for sale commencing Tuesday, 29th August 2017, from representative offices of the Bank Negara Malaysia. Eleven countries will compete in 38 sports for a total of 404 events during the 29th SEA Games. The events will be hosted during the celebration of Malaysia’s 60th Independence Day as well as Malaysia Day.

The modern bird banknote series of the Netherlands Antilles, 1986 to present

(All images courtesy of the author)

The Netherlands Antilles was a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands located in the Caribbean. Originally a Dutch colony, the various islands are also known as the Dutch Caribbean and included various popular tourist destinations such as Curacao, Sint Maarten, and Aruba (the latter of which became a separate country of the Netherlands in 1986). The Netherlands Antilles was officially dissolved in 2010, when each of the islands received a different status within the kingdom, but the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles continues to issue a common currency for Curacao and Sint Maarten (several other islands switched to the U.S. dollar in 2011). In this article, we will take a look at the last and current series issued by the bank, first introduced in 1986, featuring local birds as the main theme.

The various islands that made up the Netherlands Antilles prior to 1986 (Aruba, Sint Maarten, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Bonaire, and Curacao) were initially part of the Dutch colony of Curacao and Dependencies. After 1954, the islands received semi-autonomous status as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Banknotes were first issued for the colony around 1828, and the Curacaosche Bank would be the sole issuer of paper money throughout most of its history, with the last issue being dated 1960, already after the Netherlands Antilles had been formed. In 1962, the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles, a successor of the Curacaosche Bank, issued its first banknotes. Even though the bank was officially dissolved in 2010 and succeeded by the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten, banknotes in its name are still being issued. It’s a little bit of a confusing situation thanks to the complicated political history of the various islands, but the fact is that the current (and probably final) series issued by the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles is a fascinating series to collect, filled with very scarce and underrated dates.

Initially introduced as six denominations (5 gulden, 10 gulden, 25 gulden, 50 gulden, 100 gulden, and 250 gulden), the series was designed by Oscar Ravelo. The original series was dated March 31, 1986, but were not shipped to the Antilles until late 1987, and they first entered circulation in January of 1988. Higher denominations were also planned, but to this date have not come to fruition; in fact, the 250-gulden note was issued only in 1986 and even then saw very limited use. The 5-gulden note was also discontinued after 1994 when it was replaced by a coin of the same value.

5 gulden of the 1994 series. This denomination was replaced by a coin in the mid 1990s.

50 gulden of the 1994 series. Notice the lack of notable security features. These were added with the 1998 series.

100 gulden: More modern security features, including Omron rings, are seen on this 2011 100 gulden.

The 250 gulden is the highest denomination and was printed for the 1986 series only. It saw very limited usage.

This colorful series features birds local to the various islands. The design of the series has remained virtually unaltered since its introduction except for the date and signatures, although additional security devices were introduced with the 1998 series. The table below gives an overview of the various designs, colors, and dates of issue:

Denom. Bird on Obverse* Color Dates Issued
5 gulden Oriole Blue 31.3.1986, 1.5.1994
10 gulden Hummingbird Green 31.3.1986, 1.5.1994, 1.1.1998, 1.12.2001, 1.12.2003, 1.1.2006, 1.6.2011, 1.6.2012, 1.2.2014
25 gulden Flamingo Pink 31.3.1986, 1.1.1990, 1.5.1994, 1.1.1998, 1.1.2001, 1.12.2003, 1.1.2006, 1.1.2008, 1.6.2011, 1.6.2012, 1.2.2014, 1.8.2016**
50 gulden Andean rufous-collared sparrow Orange 31.3.1986, 1.1.1990, 1.5.1994, 1.1.1998, 1.12.2001, 1.12.2003, 1.1.2006, 1.6.2011, 1.6.2012, 1.12.2013, 1.8.2016**
100 gulden Bananaquit Brown 31.3.1986, 1.5.1994, 1.1.1998, 1.12.2001, 1.12.2003, 1.1.2006, 1.1.2008, 1.6.2012, 1.12.2013, 1.8.2016**
250 gulden Caribbean mockingbird Purple 31.3.1986

* English name. The name in Dutch is printed on the notes.
** As of September 2017, the 2016 series has seen very limited circulation.

The list of dates above was assembled using the official press releases from the bank. The astute collector will notice that three notes in the Pick catalog (Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961 to Present) are missing from the above listing. These notes do not exist and they are erroneously listed in the catalog, one of the reasons why collecting this series is not straightforward. These nonexistent notes are:

  • P-22b, 5 gulden 1.1.1990
  • P-23b, 10 gulden 1.1.1990
  • P-26b, 100 gulden 1.1.1990

Now, since these notes have been issued only in the last 30 years or so, one would perhaps assume that the series is easily completed. One would assume that while the notes are appealing, they are perhaps not worth seriously collecting. However, nothing is further from the truth. There are a few complications with this series, making it more challenging to complete a date collection than one would assume.

First of all, even though some collectors put the 1986 series aside at the time, all but the lowest denominations have mostly disappeared from the marketplace. Try finding a 50 or 100 gulden of 1986 in full Uncirculated condition; finding one of these is nearly impossible. One would presume that the 250 gulden would be even more difficult, but this is not the case. As it only saw limited circulation, the bank kept large quantities on hand, and in the past decade or so it has run a side business of selling certain earlier issues to collectors at a small premium over face value. While the bird series is not heavily affected by this, some earlier notes previously known as great rarities are now considered common. The 500 gulden of 1962, with a printing of 5,000 notes, is one of these issues that was once a great rarity but can now be found easily from many different sources at a small premium over face value.

While the bank sometimes keeps stock of older dates on hand, this is not always the case, and sometimes new dates are quietly released into circulation, taking the collector community by surprise. This happened with the 2001 issue, which saw 10-gulden, 25-gulden, 50-gulden, and 100-gulden banknotes issued. Printed in rather small quantities to start with, they quietly entered circulation, and all are very scarce in Uncirculated condition, in particular, the 10 gulden. Other scarce dates are the notes from the 1990 and 1994 series (except for the 50 gulden of 1994, which also was sold to wholesalers at a later date in quantities enough to satisfy collector demand), as well as some of the more recent 100-gulden notes.

A modern key note, the 10 gulden 2001 quietly entered circulation and is very difficult to find in Uncirculated condition.

Another problem that the collector will face is that the catalog values for this series are very inaccurate. Not only are values infrequently updated (the 250 gulden of 1986, for example, is listed at $750 in Uncirculated, but can be found at a fraction of that price since the bank sold their surplus to collectors), but new issues are listed for very high amounts that are unsubstantiated by the current market. On the other hand, rare issues, such as the 2001 series, are listed at very low prices (but in line with other dates of their respective denominations), making the Pick catalog virtually worthless. It’s very important to do your homework or you will end up overpaying for many notes, but on the other hand, there are some rarities that would be very good buys if you can get them for catalog value.

The frequently used 25-gulden denomination has gone through many different printings since 1986, the most recent being 2016.  To this day the design contains the name of the Curacaosche Bank in the lower part of the central emblem on the reverse: Voorheen de Curacaosche Bank (“previously known as the Curacaosche Bank”), the predecessor to the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles.

There is a lot more to be said about this fascinating series, but hopefully, this article will have given you a good introduction to these beautiful notes. For further reading, I can wholeheartedly recommend the three-volume set by Theo van Elmpt, published in English, which covers all banknotes of the various issuers from 1828 to 2008, and gives a wealth of valuable background information such as design elements and printing quantities. The books are simply called Bank of the Netherlands Antilles, Paper Currency from 1828 to 2008, and are the definitive standard reference to this fascinating collecting field. The Netherlands Antilles gulden (or guilder) is set to be replaced in the coming years, and although plans have not been finalized yet, it is very well possible that these beautiful banknotes will soon be withdrawn from circulation.

Ascension Island: Gold and silver coins pay tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961–1997

The government and treasury of Ascension Island have issued (15th August) new coins which pay tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, whose tragic death 20 years ago stunned the world and brought a nation into great mourning for a beloved member of the British royal family.

Above, the silver coin with mother-of-pearl inlay; below, the virenium coin. (Hover to zoom.)

The coins are produced by the British Pobjoy Mint on behalf of the treasury of Ascension Island and are issued in pure gold, pure silver, and virenium with a special mother-of-pearl inlay. The gold and silver coins are also issued as piedfort versions in very limited number. The reverse design depicts the hybrid tea rose, a delicate blend of cream and blush pink with darker pink at the very outer edge of each petal. The rose was named after the Princess, as she was often referred to as “England’s Rose.” Above the rose is the inscription DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES 1961 – 1997. Below is the coin’s denomination, 1 CROWN—or in the case of the gold coins, 1/2 CROWN.

The obverse features an effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II which is an exclusive design to the Pobjoy Mint. The effigy is struck in high detail.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
1 crown Virenium 20 g 38.6 mm Proof 10,000
1 crown .999 silver 33 g 38.6 mm Proof with mother-of-pearl inlay 2,017
1 crown .999 silver 62.2 g 38.6 mm Proof 650
1/2 crown .999 gold 31.1 g 30 mm Proof 300

The mother-of-pearl inlay is achieved by striking an indentation into the coin and fixing an intricately carved piece of mother of pearl in the shape of the rose into the cavity. The colour of the mother of pearl is unique to each coin and features a mixture of different colours and patterns. The ordinary silver crown is struck as a piedfort coin with high-relief detail. The gold half crown is also struck as a piedfort example with high detail. The Diana Rose Fine Silver coins are shipped in an acrylic capsule for protection and housed in a custom red box with a certificate of authenticity. The virenium coins are dispatched in a plastic blister-pack held in a colour card. For more information on this and other coins issued by the government and treasury of Ascension Island, please visit the website of the Pobjoy Mint.

England’s Rose

The fairytale romance of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles raised even more worldwide interest in the United Kingdom’s royal family. Lady Diana Frances Spencer, daughter of Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer (1924–1992), was the earl’s youngest daughter and third child. Speculation had grown in the early months of 1980 that the Prince of Wales was getting serious with the beautiful young lady he had been seen with on several occasions. The paparazzi had intensely followed Lady Diana for weeks leading up to the official announcement that they had become engaged on the 14th February 1981. The date of their wedding was announced soon after and in just over three weeks after Diana’s 20th birthday, on the 29th July 1981, millions crowded the London streets to catch a glimpse of the couple before they exchanged vows at St Paul’s Cathedral. Internationally, the televised event was seen by more than two billion viewers.

Coin Update sponsor APMEX is a resource for collectors of coins pertaining to the British royal family.

In the early years of her marriage, Diana appeared a shy, private member of the British aristocracy. However, her grace, nobility, and natural warmth towards people won the hearts of the nation, and she soon blossomed into the people’s princess. She quickly became an active member of the royal family by taking on an abundance of royal duties and appearances—much to the delight of her adoring public, exhibiting an empathy and concern for all those causes she supported. Seen as one of the most stylish and fashionable young ladies in public life, Diana became the most photographed member of the royal family, eclipsing even the Queen herself in terms of media coverage. The couple became parents to two sons: Prince William, born 11 months after his parents’ wedding, and Prince Henry, born in 1984.

By the late 1980s, it had come to the attention of the country, and ultimately the world, that the fairytale marriage of the royal couple had soured. This owed to the Prince of Wales’s continuing adulterous relationship with his former love interest in addition to the princess’s own infidelity (both of which were admitted to in later televised interviews). A separation was announced in 1992 and a divorce was granted to Charles and Diana in 1996. Suggesting further estrangement from the royal family, Diana’s status as a Royal Highness was rescinded, but her title as Princess of Wales remained as she was the mother of a future king—Prince William.

The world was stunned to learn that in the late evening of the 30th August 1997, the princess had been in Paris with her companion, Dodi Fayed, and ended up in a fatal car crash. Her death was announced in the early morning hours on the 31st August—leading the country, as well as much of the world, to mourn her untimely death. Hundreds of thousands of flowers were laid at the gates of Buckingham Palace and at Kensington Palace, her home in London. A million mourners lined the route of her funeral procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey on the 6th September 1997. Most wept or watched in silence as the gun carriage passed carrying Diana’s coffin. Many applauded their beloved Diana, and thousands threw flowers onto the carriage and hearse as it drove her coffin back to her ancestral home of Althorp, Northamptonshire, where she was laid to rest.

Finland: Presidents Series concludes with new Kekkonen coin

The Mint of Finland have issued their last coin in the popular “Presidents of Finland” series, which included eight coins featuring past and deceased presidents of the country since it gained independence in 1917. In addition, the series is issued as part of the national centenary celebrations in Finland for 2017. The last coin in the series features H.E. Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (1900–1986), Finland’s eighth president, who served from 1956 to 1981. At 25 years as president, he was the country’s longest-serving head of state. Kekkonen’s long tenure as president took the country from being an emerging, agriculturally oriented economy to a modern economic success story. Kekkonen also followed a strict policy of political international neutrality which colloquially defined “Finlandisation” to mean “domination by Soviet intrigue.” The eighth president sought to change this definition to “a policy of independence and neutrality.”

Hover to zoom.

The bi-metallic collector coin is designed by Tero Lounas. The inner disc features a portrait of President Kekkonen in three-quarter profile toward the left with the lower part of the bust extending onto the golden ring, on which the text URHO KALEVA KEKKONEN 1900–1986 surrounds the primary design.

The reverse, which is common to all eight coins in the series, features a landscape of Finnish fields framing an open book depicting a constructed urban environment. The motif symbolises the president’s mandate from the people.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€5 Bi-metallic 9.8 g 27.2 mm Brilliant Unc. 30,000
€5 Bi-metallic 9.8 g 27.2 mm Proof 6,000

President Kekkonen is the first Finn to have appeared on three collector coins. A 10-markkaa silver coin was issued on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1975, and a 50-markkaa silver coin was issued in 1981 to mark both the president’s 80th birthday and his retirement from office.

The series has been produced in conjunction with Finland’s centennial anniversary of independence, which is officially marked this year with several national celebrations. The Proof-quality coin is encapsulated and housed in a white folder specifically designed for this series and national anniversary. The Kekkonen coin concludes the eight-coin series in its entirety. For additional information on this and other coins on offer, please visit the website of the Mint of Finland.

The other coins in the “Presidents of Finland” series are as follows:

2016

  • Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg (president from 1919 to 1925)
  • Lauri Kristian Relander (president from 1925 to 1931)
  • Pehr Evind Svinhufvud af Qvalstad (president from 1931 to 1937)
  • Kyösti Kallio (president from 1937 to 1940)
  • Risto Ryti (president from 1940 to 1944)

2017

  • J.K. Paasikivi (president from 1946 to 1956)

A President for Every Season: Urho Kaleva Kekkonen

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen’s administration is credited for leading Finland’s slow emergence from the long shadow of two military defeats by the Soviet Union into self-assured participation in international affairs.

Kekkonen was born on the 3rd September 1900, in Pielesvesi, as the son of a lumberman. He was 17 years old when Finnish independence was declared and 18 when he became an officer in the White Guard which engaged in a civil war against the Moscow-supported Reds. Kekkonen studied for his law degree at Helsinki University, where it was said he helped to obliterate the tsar’s monogram on the university’s façade with a coating of tar.

Before the war between Finland and the USSR and World War II, he earned a doctorate in law at Helsinki University; he was 36 years old. Kekkonen also won a seat in parliament and entered the government as minister of justice. He served through the years in several ministries, including serving as speaker of parliament.

Urho Kekkonen was born in a humble log cabin called Lepikon Torppa in Pielavesi. (Photo by Nilakka)

The Early Years

The Kekkonen presidential era began on a precarious note, since the new president brought with him a reputation as an often Machiavellian politician. This reputation had perhaps been earned undeservingly during a political career that included serving five terms as prime minister. There was no controversy in Finland over the necessity to maintain a policy of strict neutrality, but there was over his judgment on how this should be achieved or maintained. To Kekkonen’s dismay, he was denounced by political foes as a cynical politician who was playing a dangerous game with the Soviet Union to both remain in office and keep his agrarian Center Party in a dominant position.

His first term in office as president, in March 1956, came after an uneasy period in which Finnish leaders dared not even mention the word or policy of “neutrality” for fear of provoking Moscow. Finland’s postwar policy of neutrality had been carefully developed and delicately cultivated during the administration of his predecessor, Juho Paasikivi. It became the primary task of Kekkonen to use diplomacy to convince Moscow that he, too, could be trusted to guide Finnish affairs in a direction that would pose no threat to the Soviet Union. Thus, under a Kekkonen presidency, Finland was able to safeguard and expand trade with its major economic partners in the West. During this period of economic expansion, Finland also became an associate member of the British-led European Free Trade Association and organised a special relationship with the European Economic Community.

Give and Take, but at What Cost?

Economic conditions at the time improved the Finnish state, and the country enjoyed a modicum of political calmness after the war which had eluded many countries in the West. The level of trust that Mr. Kekkonen entered into with Moscow led to a shattering of the presidential election process in Finland during his quarter of a century in office. Moscow continued to make it abundantly clear at the end of each of Kekkonen’s six-year terms that they would prefer to see him continue in office. Thus, normal elections proved impossible in Finland, and it would not be until January 1982, and Kekkonen’s resignation, that President Mauno Koivisto (1923–2017) would win in a landslide victory, finally freeing the country from Moscow’s external pressure.

President Kekkonen was chosen in a normal election only once—and that was during his first race in 1956, when he won on the third ballot in Finland’s electoral college by the narrowest of margins: 151 to 149. Another election battle appeared to be looming as his first six-year term drew to a close. However, his opponent, Olavi Honka, a civil servant who had actually been endorsed by five parties, withdrew in late 1961 under pressure from new Soviet demands for military consultations. Honka stated that his removal from the campaign would be “in the national interest.”

The Soviet government questioned whether the attempt to defeat President Kekkonen was a disguised move to change Finnish foreign policy. Their suspicions that a change in the president at that time would not be in Finland’s interest were eventually confirmed. From that time on, elections were a formality, and no political party was willing to chance Soviet displeasure by running a real candidate against President Kekkonen. As a result, formal elections with only nominal opposition candidates were held in 1962, 1968, and 1978, with the 1968 term being extended by act of parliament from six years to 10. The special legislation was decided upon at a time when Finland was negotiating for its Common Market membership. Another reason for the extension, according to close presidential associates, was Soviet Union’s demand for absolute guarantees that President Kekkonen would continue as president long enough to ensure that this new EEC association would bring about no change in Finnish foreign policy towards Moscow.

Road to Freedom from External Influence

During these tumultuous years, President Kekkonen had made clear in numerous interviews that Finland’s freedom of action on the world stage depended directly on the degree of trust Finland enjoyed in Moscow. He reiterated that the Finnish Constitution charges the president with the conduct of foreign policy and he stressed that his interest was in keeping the “freedom of maneuver” at its most advantageous.

Kekkonen knew that Finland could not proceed haphazardly on the assumption that everyone knew its foreign policy was one of neutrality and friendship with the Soviet Union. Finland could also never take their foreign policy for granted but must, on the other hand, reconcile themselves to it every day. One of the more important aspects of Kekkonen’s presidency was time spent cultivating Soviet leaders, which he managed with frequent, private visits to the Soviet Union for hunting and other leisurely pursuits as well as more official visits. It was during these many visits, and with the visits of Russian officials to Helsinki, that he took the opportunity to show typical Finnish hospitality and entertain the Russians in the presidential sauna, as well as at luncheons and dinners.

During these visits, he would talk about strengthening Soviet-Finnish relations and also took the opportunity to politely remind the Russians of the stark everyday differences between the lives of Finnish and Soviet peoples. There was one particular polite but blunt exchange with General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in September 1960. The Soviet leader used a luncheon speech in Helsinki as an occasion to suggest that the Finns deliberately elected anti-Soviet politicians into their government—and that they did so at their own peril. President Kekkonen politely declared in turn:

The leaders of the Soviet Union know that under all circumstances we defend our own system because we regard it best suited to us.

Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev attended Kekkonen’s 60th birthday party in the presidential palace in Helsinki. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Remaining Years

Throughout his presidency, he was referred to in government circles as Finland’s “trump card,” which could be played during touchy or precarious times in relations with Moscow. Kekkonen seemed able to take risks and emerge unscathed, as he had done in the latter half of 1960. President Kekkonen visited Moscow to clear the way for Finland to become an associate member of the European Free Trade Association. As a measure to attract the attention of General Secretary Kruschev, the Finnish president took off his shoe during the luncheon in a motion which imitated Mr. Khrushchev’s at his United Nations speech, when he famously pounded the table with his shoe to attract the attention of the UN secretary-general.

At the same time, Kekkonen was placating the concerns of his powerful neighbour to the East, which involved ensuring Soviet acceptance of Finland’s foreign policy. He also sought Western recognition of Finnish neutrality. In the early 1960s, President Kekkonen undertook a series of strategic visits for that purpose, with the principal one being held in Washington in 1961. He received the desired acknowledgment from President Kennedy, who publicly expressed his “understanding of why Finland is neutral,” and also reflected the State Department’s reluctance to assign the word “neutrality” to the Finnish government.

Urho Kekkonen, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sylvi Kekkonen, and John F. Kennedy at Dulles International Airport, 1961. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, President Kekkonen was welcomed as the first Finnish head of state to the White House. Thus, a clarification of their precarious position in the world was made and an emerging friendship was also strengthened.

Toward the end of his tenure, Mr. Kekkonen grew increasingly concerned over the term “Finlandization” in Western Europe to describe a nation’s drift under Soviet domination. He and other Finnish officials would have preferred to argue or point out that the name “Finland” should be properly attached to the definition of independence and neutrality rather than dominance by one country over another. This was done by a number of speeches and interviews, but the perception would remain for many more years, almost until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Urho Kekkonen announced his resignation on the 26th October 1981, after falling ill while on holiday in Iceland the month earlier. He had been president for more than 25 years, and at the age of 81, he hadn’t thought of retirement until his health deteriorated. He died days before his 86th birthday on the 31st August 1986, at the presidential residence of Tamminiemi, which had been, for all intents and purposes, his home for the last 30 years. The government had believed it would worsen his health if he were to be moved. He was buried with state honours at the Hietaniemi Cemetery and was survived by his wife, Sylvi, whom he married in 1928; their sons, Matti, who followed his father into government, and Taneli, who was a diplomat.

The funeral cortege of Urho Kekkonen in Helsinki, 1986. (Photo by Matti Karjanoja)

Finland: Latest “Presidents” coin focuses on J.K. Paasikivi

The Mint of Finland have launched the latest coin in their ongoing “Presidents of Finland” coin series. This collector coin—the seventh in the series—pays tribute to J.K. Paasikivi (1870–1956), who served as the seventh president of the Republic of Finland from 1946 to 1956. Succeeding the very charismatic Carl Gustaf Mannerheim after the country emerged from the tumultuous Second World War and the aftermath of territorial loss to the USSR, Paasikivi came to be considered one of Finland’s more conciliatory political figures.

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The bi-metallic coin is designed by Tero Lounas. The inner disc features a portrait of President Paasikivi in three-quarter profile facing toward the right. The lower part of the bust extends onto the golden ring, on which the legend JUHO KUSTI PAASIKIVI 1870–1956 surrounds the primary design.

The reverse features a landscape of Finnish fields, framed by an open book depicting a constructed urban environment. Reading clockwise on the outer ring, from the left, are the words SUOMI FINLAND and the date of issue, 2017; at the bottom, the denomination 5 EURO. (All coins in the series share a common reverse.)

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€5 Bi-metallic 9.8 g 27.2 mm Brilliant Unc. 30,000
€5 Bi-metallic 9.8 g 27.2 mm Proof 6,000