Italy: First bi-metallic five euro coin dedicated to the memory of comedian Totò

The Istituto Poligrafico Zecca della Stato (IPZS) have launched (19th September) their first bi-metallic €5 base-metal coin, which remembers the 50th anniversary of the death of one of Italy’s more memorable and irreverent comedians, known nationally by the stage name “Totò.” Born Antonio Clemente on the 15th February 1898, he was the son of Anna Clemente, a Sicilian woman of modest background, and allegedly, the Neapolitan Marquis Giuseppe De Curtis. Clemente’s parents were not married and it was not until 1937 that his biological father would recognise his son. Before this recognition in 1933, at age 35, he was adopted by the Marquis Francesco Maria Gagliardi Focas, who did so in exchange for a life annuity. As a consequence of this adoption, Totò became the heir of two noble families and claimed an impressive slew of noble titles denoting these inheritances.

As a new member of the titled nobility—which was in itself somewhat comical for a man who made his name as a comedic entertainer—his name was legally changed in 1946 from Antonio Clemente to “Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Ducas Komnenos Gagliardi de Curtis of Byzantium, His Imperial Highness, Palatine Count, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Exarch of Ravenna, Duke of Macedonia and Illyria, Prince of Constantinople, Cilicia, Thessaly, Pontus, Moldavia, Dardania, Peloponnesus, Count of Cyprus and Epirus, Count and Duke of Drivasto and Durazzo.” This change was recognised by the Tribunal of Naples, who henceforth saw one of their previously poorest citizens as a member of the now-defunct Italian nobility.

By claiming these many titles, which had since become meaningless with the end of the Monarchy in 1946, the comedian would mock them for their intrinsic worthlessness in his act. In fact, when he was not using his stage name “Totò,” he mostly referred to himself simply as “Antonio De Curtis.”

As early as 1913, at the age of 15, Totò was already acting as a comedian in small theatres under the pseudonym “Clerment” and was well on the way to developing his repertoire—mostly consisting of imitations of the characters of Italian comic Gustavo De Marco. Like all able-bodied men of his age, he served in the army during World War I, and after the fighting ceased, he was able to resume his career in acting. It was at this time that Totò perfected the art of the guitti,or improvisation, favoured by many of the Neapolitan scriptless comedians. He also began developing the trademarks of his comedic style and persona, including a puppet-like, disjointed gesticulation, exaggerated facial expressions, and an extreme, sometimes surrealistic, sense of humour—largely based on accentuating primitive urges such as hunger and amorous desire.

Embed from Getty Images

By the 1920’s, Totò’s performances extended into the genre of avanspettacolo, an Italian version of a vaudevillian mixture of music, ballet, and comedy preceding the main act. Its name roughly translates to “before show.” During the 1930s, Totò organised his own theatrical company with which he travelled across Italy, and by 1937, he had appeared in his first movie, entitled Fermo con le Mani. He would go on to star in another 96 films throughout his career, many of which are still frequently broadcast on Italian television. In his vast motion picture career, Totò is remembered as having worked with virtually all major Italian actors and many directors of note at the time.

Breaking new ground in the 1950s, Totò started to compose poetry, and the best-known of these works is “’A Livella,” which tells the story of an arrogant rich man and a humble poor man who meet after their deaths and discuss their differences. Totò is also remembered as a songwriter, as he penned the popular song “Malafemmena,” or “Wayward Woman.” The song, which held personal meaning to him, was dedicated to his ex-wife Diana after they separated. The song is considered a classic of the Neapolitan popular-music genre.

Totò died at the age of 69 on the 15th April 1967, in Rome, after suffering a heart attack. Due to his overwhelming popularity, there were no fewer than three funeral services. The first of these was held in Rome, while the second and third were held in his birth city of Naples. In the third service, organised by the local Cosa Nostra boss, an empty coffin was carried along the packed streets of the popular Rione Sanità quarter where he was born.

Hover to zoom.

The coin is designed by Uliana Pernazza and the obverse depicts Totò, as he was known in his typical theatrical “mask” or persona. The portrait is inspired by a photograph taken by Guy Bourdin, of the Guy Bourdin Estate, and is re-created on this coin courtesy of the Louise Alexander Gallery. (A signed print of the photo can be viewed on the website of Christie’s auction house.) To the right of Totò is the name of the designer, U. PERNAZZA, and seen around the image is the inscription REPUBBLICA ITALIANA.

On the reverse are elements of film encircling Totò’ s typical hand gesture. Above the primary design is the denomination of 5 EURO, and on the left is Totò’s facsimile signature. On the right field is the letter R, which identifies the Mint of Rome, and below are the commemorative years 1967 and 2017—for Totò’ s death and the coin’ s issue year, respectively.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€5 Bi-metallic  9.52 g 27.5 mm Brilliant Unc.  15,000

This is the first €5 bi-metallic coin which has been issued in Italy. However, it was not the first for the IPZS, as they already struck €5 bi-metallic coins for the Republic of San Marino. The coin is available from the 27th September directly from the website of the IPZS.

NEW RELEASE. NZ Mint. Star Wars Ships T-47 Snowspeeder — 1oz Silver Coin.

Star Wars Ships
T-47 Snowspeeder — 1oz Silver Coin

When stationed on Hoth, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebel Alliance modified their T-47 airspeeders to become snowspeeders. Rogue Group, led by Commander Luke Skywalker, pilots the snowspeeders against Imperial AT-AT walkers during the Battle of Hoth. When the snowspeeders blasters prove ineffective the Rebel pilots turn to tripping the walkers with the snowspeeders’ harpoons and tow cables.

This 1oz silver coin comes presented in a high-quality stylized inner coin case and Star Wars branded outer packaging. The Certificate of Authenticity sits within the coin case. There is a worldwide limited mintage of 10,000 coins, so hurry to get yours today!

NEW RELEASE

The cool T-47 snowspeeder™ is the fifth Star Wars Ship to be added to our Ships coin collection. This unique limited edition coin features part of the design blueprint for the T-47 snowspeeder.

Star Wars Ships Snowspeeder 1oz Silver Coin

Star Wars Ships
T-47 Snowspeeder — 1oz Silver Coin

When stationed on Hoth, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebel Alliance modified their T-47 airspeeders to become snowspeeders. Rogue Group, led by Commander Luke Skywalker, pilots the snowspeeders against Imperial AT-AT walkers during the Battle of Hoth. When the snowspeeders blasters prove ineffective the Rebel pilots turn to tripping the walkers with the snowspeeders’ harpoons and tow cables.

This 1oz silver coin comes presented in a high-quality stylized inner coin case and Star Wars branded outer packaging. The Certificate of Authenticity sits within the coin case. There is a worldwide limited mintage of 10,000 coins, so hurry to get yours today!

 

ALSO IN THIS COLLECTION

Add to your Star Wars Ships collection with these previous releases.

TIE/LN Fighter Silver CoinX-Wing Fighter Silver CoinStar Destroyer Silver CoinMillennium Falcon Silver Coin

 

 

Our 2019 America the Beautiful Quarters take shape: CCAC advises the Treasury on five historic new coins

I.

Background image courtesy of AgnosticPreachersKid.

Part 1 of 6: The Lowell National Historical Park Quarter

This past Tuesday, September 19, 2017, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with fellow Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) members Thomas Uram and Erik Jansen on H Street in downtown Washington, D.C. We were in the nation’s capital for a meeting of the CCAC. The committee’s main agenda item: to review design proposals for five upcoming America the Beautiful quarter dollars and one Congressional Gold Medal.

A new addition to CCAC member Tom Uram’s collection: A 1935 silver medal.

Breakfast was relaxed because we’d started the morning early, well before our 8:30 administrative meeting, giving us time to visit and catch up over eggs, bacon, and steel-cut oats. Tom, a financial adviser by trade, showed us photos of a large silver 1935 Met Life medal that he’s going to research. It was awarded to a life-insurance agent who sold a remarkable $100,000 worth of policies six years into the Great Depression.

A worn Sacagawea dollar that circulated as pocket change in Ecuador. (Courtesy of CCAC member Erik Jansen).

Erik had shown us some “condition rarities” from Ecuador—U.S. Presidential and Sacagawea dollars in very worn circulated grades. These coins are rarely spent as cash in the United States, so here we typically see them in nothing less than lustrous Mint State or About Uncirculated condition. In Ecuador and El Salvador they’re actually used as day-to-day currency, so they get worn down like any other pocket change. I shared with my breakfast companions the story of a small collection of Franco-Prussian War satirical tokens I recently bought. They lampoon the defeated French emperor Napoleon III, showing him wearing a German spiked helmet, or chained with a collar marked SEDAN (the scene of his military defeat and capture). Some of the tokens depict him with a cigarette in his mouth—the emperor was a notorious chain-smoker, said to have been seen nervously puffing tobacco as his armies were routed by the Germans.

After coffee we walked a couple blocks down to United States Mint headquarters on Ninth Street. The entire committee (except for member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had a schedule conflict) assembled with Mint acting deputy director David Motl, Mint counsel, program managers, and others in the eighth-floor board room, for our 8:30 to 9:30 admin meeting. At 10:00 we moved to the second-floor conference room where we were joined by members of the press and public, with Mint medallic sculptors Phebe Hemphill and Joseph Menna on the phone line from Philadelphia, and several National Park Service and other liaisons present as well.

After some introductory business, we jumped right into our review of the America the Beautiful coin design proposals for 2019. The sketches were made by Mint artists (and Artistic Infusion Program artists) based on earlier guidance from the CCAC, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and liaisons from the national parks and other sites involved.

The first portfolio we reviewed was for Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts.

This site was established as a national park in 1978 to protect local history and interpret Lowell’s important role in U.S. industry. In the 1820s and 1830s the recently incorporated mill town grew into the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution. Its waterways and canal systems provided the power to run textile mills—innovative “integrated” factories that housed their entire operations under one roof, instead of spread out in several buildings or locations. New machinery was developed. Cloth manufacturing was revolutionized at Lowell, moving away from its cottage-industry origins into a new world of mass production. Providing the manpower—or womanpower—to run the machines were the so-called Mill Girls, most of them from the nearby farms of New England, recruited to Lowell to work in the factories. They stayed in company-owned boarding houses, with supervised educational and cultural opportunities and organized living. The Mill Girls became a social force in America, encouraging labor reform and education for workers.

Interpretive Park Ranger David Byers, who joined us in person at the meeting, discussed three important components for the coin design: It should include the human element, telling the story of the Mill Girls; it should capture the idea of technological innovation; and it should feature the “built environment” of the mills. The National Historical Park’s preferred design was MA-04.

MA-04 (hover to zoom)

In my own review of the Lowell portfolio, which included 18 sketches, I discounted those designs that don’t feature the Mill Girls, because their specialized labor was such an important transition from the artisanal hand-work of the past to the full automation of today. That took MA-02, 03, 05, and 06 off the table. They each have their strengths and weaknesses; these are the notes I made as I studied them:

  • In MA-02, I like the bold legend of AMERICAN INDUSTRY, and the use of the factory buildings to represent the new age of industrialization moving away from the cottage industries of the past. But the absence of the human element is a detraction for this design.
  • In MA-03, as with MA-02, the bold legend AMERICAN INDUSTRY and the architecture tell the viewer what they’re looking at. These aren’t warehouses or office buildings, but industrial factories. However, the absence of the Mill Girls leaves an important part of the story untold, or at most just hinted at.

MA-02 and MA-03.

  • MA-05 tells the story of textiles from cotton farm to factory, but I discount it because it lacks the human element of a worker in action.
  • MA-06: Yes, the raw cotton is important, and the shuttles and bobbins are important. But take the worker out of the equation and you end up with threads—you don’t get whole cloth.

MA-05 and MA-06.

Among those designs that do feature the Mill Girls, I preferred those that give an expansive view of their work in the mills, showing more of the textile machinery (rather than focusing on individual elements such as shuttles and bobbins).

MA-01 and 01A feature a Mill Girl, and also textile machinery, but to my eye her stance is too posed and static. She appears to be displaying the loom, rather than working at it. The design looks like an old-fashioned museum diorama and not a living, breathing activity. There has been a lot of CCAC discussion recently about avoiding “pictures on coins” and moving toward more symbolism in American coinage art.

MA-01 and MA-01A.

Design MA-04 has a storytelling combination of machinery and humanity. It’s also one of only two designs that include a text reference to spindles, which adds another layer of understanding for 21st-century viewers looking at 19th-century technology. My only concern was that the spinning machine might be too finely detailed for a quarter-sized coin. On the silver three-inch coin the design would enjoy greater depth and more visible detail, but the circulating quarter offers less than a one-inch canvas.

MA-07 and MA-08 use the same Mill Girl figure—07 as the coin’s main motif, and 08 as part of a bigger scene. The figure of the woman handling a bobbin and shuttle is well drafted, but without a legend to accompany it (as with AMERICAN INDUSTRY in some of the other designs), it would be ambiguous and mysterious to a 21st-century viewer. Modern Americans won’t recognize the threaded bobbin or the shuttle, especially reduced in size to fit on the quarter dollar. On a one-inch canvas, it would look like the Mill Girl is shucking an ear of corn. Design MA-08, however, is an improvement with its combination of the human and machine aspects of Lowell’s textile industries. The loom gives context. Also, the Mill Girl isn’t just pressing levers, but she’s interacting with the machinery in a very intimate, literally “hands on” way. This is a good depiction of the transition from artisanal cottage-industry work to mass production. The machinery might be finely detailed, but we’ve seen fine detail work in some recent America the Beautiful quarters, for example, the 2017 Frederick Douglass and Ellis Island coins. It would be up to the Mint’s engraver to make MA-08 work, but I think it could be done. MA-08 was my #1 preference from the Lowell portfolio of designs.

MA-07 and MA-08.

CCAC member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, from Pennsylvania, a leader in the field of medallic sculpture with work exhibited throughout the United States and in the collections of museums here and in Europe, as well as in numerous private collections.

Committee member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman (representative of the general public, and herself an accomplished sculptor) noted the importance of showing Lowell’s architecture, and called out designs MA-16 and 17A. Member Dr. Herman Viola (specially qualified in American history) supported our liaison’s preferences and brought attention to the quote in MA-14: “Art is the handmaid of human good.”

MA-14, MA-16, and MA-17A.

Conversation quickly centered around MA-10, 11, and 12. These designs (three variations of the same motif) show a Mill Girl with thread stylized as if it were being spun from water, symbolic of the importance of Lowell’s canal system in powering its textile mills. These eye-catching designs ultimately were the ones that won the committee’s recommendation. Personally, I appreciate the artistry of the water being turned into thread, and I like the intervening force of the Mill Girl in that transformation (she’s literally the central figure in the designs), but to me this is too stylized of a depiction of the textile production process. It captures the importance of the waterworks, but reduces the loom machinery to a single element (the bobbin and shuttle). I feel that reduction goes too far. Committee member Robert Hoge, our member specially qualified as a numismatic curator, agreed, saying that “the water and thread doesn’t work” and critiquing the halo or nimbus effect of the water-wheel in MA-12.

Other committee members, however, were quite taken with the artful nature and symbolism of MA-10, 11, and 12. Mike Moran, a numismatic researcher and published author, said he was drawn to them as a civil engineer who appreciates that “water power drove these mills.” He did rhetorically ask, though, if they would resonate with the man on the street.

MA-10, MA-11, and MA-12.

Heidi Wastweet, our member specially qualified in sculpture and medallic arts, called this suite of three designs “what we’ve been asking for” in the CCAC’s recent push for more symbolism and less literalism. She called them “beautiful, symbolic, but representational.” In contrast, she addressed design MA-04 as one that is “adequate, informative, very literal, utilitarian,” and asked, “Is that the bar we want to set?”

Member Thomas Uram also spoke about MA-10 and 11 as being among his preferences, noting that they would “really let you see more than just a machine.”

Member Erik Jansen noted that “the face imparts emotion on a coin,” and for that reason MA-17 and 17A can be discounted, since the Mill Girls’ faces are turned from the viewer. MA-10, 11, and 12 don’t have that problem.

Member and former committee chair Mary N. Lannin, an expert in ancient coinage, was emphatic: “My heart is with number 11.” She praised the way MA-11 actually shows the water turning the mill wheel, and spoke about the stance of the Mill Girl: “She’s proud. This is her work.”

Acting Chair Donald Scarinci, a specialist in art medals, called MA-11 “clearly the nicest.” “It gives us everything we’ve been asking for” in terms of a movement toward artistic symbolism on American coinage. “The artists are listening to us.” He pointed out that the design has all three elements desired by our liaisons at Lowell National Historical Park. It focuses on the individual Mill Girl, it makes use of negative space, and it has a hint of abstraction in the thread depicted as water. It shows motion rather than photography, Scarinci said.

CCAC member Dennis Tucker, author of American Gold and Silver and publisher at Whitman Publishing.

Our Vote for Lowell, and Our Recommendation to the Treasury

The mission of the CCAC is to study and review coinage design proposals and make our recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, who ultimately decides what designs will be used. In our first round of voting for the Lowell sketches, each candidate could earn up to 30 points—10 members of the committee were present, and each member could assign 1, 2, or 3 points to each design. Our voting was thus:

  • MA-10, 11, and 12, grouped for the purpose of voting, got 18 points.
  • MA-15 and 16, grouped, got 12 points.
  • MA-04, our liaison’s first preferred choice, got 11 points.
  • MA-07, 08, 13, and 14 each got 4 points or fewer.
  • MA-01, 1A, 02, 03, 05, and 06 each got 0 points.

Since our most points were voted in a block, to MA-10, 11, and 12 as a general motif, we voted in a second round among the three. In the second vote:

  • MA-10 earned 0 votes.
  • MA-11 earned 6 votes.
  • MA-12 earned 1 vote.

The CCAC’s recommended design: MA-11.

This voting is not a final act itself, but a springboard for further conversation as we circle in on “final.” A bit more discussion led to a closer study of the wheel buckets shown in MA-11’s machinery, at the left of the design. Our recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury: adoption of MA-11, with the wheel buckets modified, as the reverse of the 2019 Lowell National Historical Park quarter.

Mr. Byers from Lowell agreed with our recommendation, appreciatively noting that MA-11 interprets the textile story from left to right, starting with the force of moving water, then the Mill Girl holding machine parts, and finally to woven thread.

 

II.

Background image courtesy of AgnosticPreachersKid.

Part 2 of 6: The American Memorial Park Quarter (Northern Mariana Islands)

My late-morning flight from Atlanta to the September 19, 2017, Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee meeting in Washington was quick and easy—no delays, no bad weather or turbulence. It’s an hour-and-a-half trip from The Big Peach to our nation’s capital. Convenient travel is one of the advantages of living in Atlanta, home to the busiest airport in the United States. I’m well aware that other CCAC members sometimes have to fly in at the crack of dawn, or take trains that might or might not be delayed.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport I received in change two bright, freshly minted 2017 America the Beautiful quarters—one Ellis Island, and one Frederick Douglass. Their designs illustrate the amount of fine detail that can fit on the small canvas of a quarter dollar. There’s a difference between busyness in a composition and detail in its execution.

The second portfolio of designs we reviewed in our meeting was for American Memorial Park on Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands.

This park honors the American and Marianas people who gave their lives during the Marianas Campaign of World War II. There are 5,204 names inscribed on a memorial that was dedicated during the 50th anniversary of the Invasion of Saipan.

Acting Superintendent Paul Scolari of American Memorial Park (right) joined us by phone for our CCAC meeting—even though it was 1:00 in the morning on Guam! (Photo by U.S. Navy First Assistant Engineer Mike Long.)

We were joined by Paul Scolari, acting superintendent of the park, who was calling in from Guam (where it was 1:00 in the morning). Mr. Scolari described American Memorial Park: It’s an urban setting of about 130 acres, a commemorative park and a memorial landscape that was established coincident with the creation of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. People use it as a living park, for recreation, Scolari said, and it’s an important part of the community in that sense. But its main focal point is the Memorial Court of Honor and Flag Circle, and its intent is to honor the war dead.

As I reviewed the design portfolio, I kept in mind the definition of a memorial: a monument or structure established to remind people of a person or event; especially to remember someone who has died; from the Latin word for memory. Although the physical beauty of American Memorial Park is an appealing attraction, I remember the words of Superintendent Jim Richardson in our March 2017 CCAC meeting: “World War II is the critical reason for the park’s being.”

To me, the hands-down winning design in this portfolio is MP-01. It shows a boy on the shoulder of a serviceman, saluting the Court of Honor and Flag Circle. The boy is specifically Chamorro—one of the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands. (The soldier could be Chamorro, or he could be continental American.) To me, it’s important to show the Chamorro culture and ethnicity—not only for the significance of local participation in the Marianas Campaign, but for the sake of young Asian Americans, so they can see themselves on a circulating U.S. coin. (There are about 20 million Asian Americans living in the United States and its territories.) The “brand promise” of the United States Mint is “Connecting America Through Coins,” and this design offers a unique opportunity to do just that without weakening its connection to the memorial park.

Another strong aspect of MP-01 is the boy’s salute. This physical act is a universal symbol of respect. A salute is immediately recognizable whether you’re a civilian or military. It transcends language. To me, this quietly but eloquently tells the story and the purpose of American Memorial Park.

I was pleased that Acting Superintendent Scolari agreed with my analysis of the coin design, and he indicated that MP-01 was also the preferred design of the National Park Service.

Other CCAC members spoke to the appeal of other designs. Acting Chairman Donald Scarinci found MP-06 and 06A to be “the most aesthetically pleasing.”

Former chair Mary Lannin referred to the delicacy of the flowers on MP-03, calling it a “beautiful design that should strike well.” She also was attracted to MP-06 and 06A, especially with the curvature of the wavy typography on 06. Ronald Harrigal, the Mint’s acting quality manager, who was present at the meeting, confirmed that the wavy effect is technically achievable, with the Mint’s artists able to craft the lettering to give the illusion of it being on a flag, even though they’re constrained by the small surface area of a quarter dollar.

Member Tom Uram (who was recently elected to the Board of Governors of the American Numismatic Association) called attention to the designs that feature the words THE COURT OF HONOR AND FLAG CIRCLE, including MP-07 and 08.

Member Heidi Wastweet, a sculptural artist based in California, called MP-01 “a lovely drawing” and noted its appeal, but she opined that it wouldn’t work well on a quarter-sized coin. The design would be too shallow, she said, and the layering would be a challenge for whomever is assigned its sculpt. MP-03 she felt would read well as a quarter dollar, with emotion conveyed in its combination of simplicity and detail. She found MP-06 and 06A to be too crowded, without enough negative space; and in MP-07 she found the perspective of the flags interesting (as did I and several other committee members). MP-08 she described as attractive, with symmetry, “though perhaps unimaginative.”

Member Erik Jansen, a scientist and businessman from Washington State and a lifelong coin collector, called the designs all utilitarian. He also gave a reminder to the artists who submit potential coin designs: “Grayscale is different from coin engraving.” He offered MP-06 as an example, noting that the toning in the drawing would not translate into sculpted metal.

Member Mike Moran, a natural-resources industrialist by trade and also an award-winning numismatic author, said he was “troubled” by MP-03, noting that it doesn’t capture the memorial park’s Court of Honor. I agree this is a detraction for the design, even though I find the artist’s work beautiful and I think it would make an attractive coin or medal. To me the flowers are too generic of a memorial symbol; they could represent any grieving commemoration, public or private, and don’t speak specifically to American Memorial Park. MP-06 and 06A, Moran said, wouldn’t coin well, and he said 07 and 08 are “okay”—not very creative, “but how many ways can you show a circle of flags?”

CCAC member Dr. Herman Viola (left) with Maj. General (ret.) Tony Taguba, director of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project. Viola has written books on the American West and American Indians.

Member Dr. Herman Viola, a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution, called this coin “a tough design,” but gave his support to MP-08.

Member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a Pennsylvania-based sculptor and president of the American Medallic Sculpture Association, commented on the difficulty of this portfolio. The flags in MP-07 and 08, scaled down to coin size, would be too small, she said. MP-06 was her preference; she praised its quality, but also wondered aloud if it would strike well.

CCAC member Robert Hoge (right) with retired U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Don Everhart. Hoge has appeared as a numismatic expert on the PBS Television programs “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” and “The History Detectives.”

Member Robert Hoge, retired curator of North American Coins and Currency for the American Numismatic Society, and former curator of the American Numismatic Association, acknowledged the difficulty of the subject. MP-01, he said, is an attractive design but with details too small for a quarter dollar—a critique he also leveled at MP-07 and 08.

He brought attention to MP-04: “It does show the park, though in a very stylized manner.” His favorite among the designs was MP-03, and he noted the significance of the date, June 15th, 1944, observing that the coin’s year of issue, 2019, makes it a 75-year commemorative of the arrival of American troops on Saipan.

Ron Harrigal discussed some of the technical challenges of depicting long, straight lines, such as flag poles, on coins, especially in Proof format. He said the Mint’s artists and technicians would have to make multiple versions of the tooling to get it right. We also discussed with Ron and with April Stafford, director of the Mint’s Office of Design Management, the feasibility of changing the peripheral legend of NOR. MARIANA ISL. to N. MARIANA ISLANDS. They assured us that the possibilities had already been discussed with the National Park Service, and the wording and lettering had been experimented with, and the current legend was what worked.

Our Vote for American Memorial Park, and Our Recommendation to the Treasury

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee was established by Congress to advise the Secretary of the Treasury on theme and design proposals relating to circulating coinage, bullion coinage, Congressional Gold Medals, and national and other medals.

The CCAC doesn’t “decide what goes on coins.” We give our studied, reasoned advice to the Treasury secretary, and he makes the final decisions.

Part of our process in coming to a recommendation for any given coin is to take a vote after we discuss and analyze each design proposal. In our voting for the American Memorial Park coin, each design candidate could earn up to 30 points. (10 members were present, and each could assign 1, 2, or 3 points to each design.) This is how our voting went:

  • MP-01 earned 14 points and was our favored design.
  • MP-03 and MP-06/06A each earned 10 points.
  • MP-08 earned 8 points.
  • MP-07 earned 7 points.
  • MP-04 earned 6 points.
  • MP-05/05A earned 3 points.
  • MP-02 earned 0 points.

The CCAC’s recommended design: MP-01

With several committee members noting that MP-01 would benefit from slight modifications to fit a small coin diameter, we further advised the Mint’s artist to enlarge the figures, push the flags more to the background, and/or otherwise provide variations of the design for our review and approval. We will then make our final endorsement to the Secretary of the Treasury.

Next: The War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam) quarter.

III.

Background image courtesy of AgnosticPreachersKid.

Part 3 of 6: War in the Pacific National Historical Park Quarter (Guam)

Every time I go to Washington for a meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, I visit the gift shop on the ground floor of United States Mint headquarters at 801 Ninth Street. Most of the facility is closed to the public, but the lobby gift shop (they call it a “sales counter”) is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. during the week and anyone can stop by and browse the latest Mint products, as well as older pieces.

The U.S. Mint’s 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated coin set.

After our September 19, 2017, CCAC meeting I stopped by and bought a 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated coin set. This is a special set made for the Mint’s celebration of the 225th anniversary of American coinage. It contains 10 coins with “Enhanced Uncirculated” finishes, each bearing the S mintmark of the San Francisco Mint. It’s an attractive collection of the Mint’s current coinage, including the year’s five America the Beautiful quarters.

Designs for the 2019 America the Beautiful quarters were among those the CCAC convened to study in our September 19 meeting. The first two portfolios of quarter dollar designs were for Lowell National Historical Park (in Massachusetts) and American Memorial Park (in the Northern Mariana Islands). The third was for War in the Pacific National Historical Park in the U.S. territory of Guam.

Guam’s only official national park was created to remember the bravery and sacrifice of everyone who participated in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War II—including, interestingly, the Japanese.

The National Park Service’s acting superintendent for Guam, Mr. Paul Scolari, was on the phone line for our meeting, despite it being well past 1:00 in the morning in his time zone. He described War in the Pacific as being a historical park (including two important landing-beach battlefields) more than a living park, although it does include natural and scenic areas.

Hover to zoom.

The 1944 liberation of the island is very important, he said, and the Park Service’s preferred design, GU-02, commemorates it in a very active way. Scolari noted that Memorial Day is a significant celebration on the island, with traditional displays of U.S. and Guam flags, as seen in the right-hand portion of the design.

Another military-action design, GU-03, was developed with a lot of input from park staff based on photographs from World War II.

Scolari called GU-03 “compelling and raw,” and “a very realistic portrayal of the assault on Guam.”

To me, GU-02 is the design that most dynamically illustrates the military action of the war along with the scenery of its locale. It would translate well to the three-inch diameter of the five-ounce silver bullion version. My only concern is the angle and position of the Marine’s right foot: it appears to be to the foreground of his left foot and simultaneously twisted to the right, which would throw him off balance. This is the type of thing the Mint’s artists can review and either decide to keep (for dramatic tension) or modify. To me, GU-03 lack the energy and sense of urgency of GU-02, although it meets what I consider a crucial requirement of this coin: it shows World War II military action.

Background photo by AgnosticPreachersKid.

Part 4 of 6: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Quarter (Texas)

Image of 2017 Ellis Island five-ounce silver, Uncirculated.

Another souvenir I bought during my September visit to United States Mint headquarters in Washington was an Uncirculated five-ounce version of the Ellis Island America the Beautiful quarter. The Philadelphia Mint strikes these large (three-inch–diameter) coins in 99.9% pure silver. Regular bullion versions are sold through the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers, while numismatic versions are sold directly by the Mint to collectors. The latter are specially made with an Uncirculated (also called Burnished) finish, encapsulated, and packaged in a sleeved box with a certificate of authenticity. The Ellis Island coin “depicts an immigrant family approaching Ellis Island with a mixture of hope and uncertainty. The hospital building can be seen in the background.” This is a design with important significance to many American families whose ancestors traveled to a new life through Ellis Island. It was composed by Artistic Infusion Program designer Barbara Fox and sculpted by U.S. Mint sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill.

The reason I was in Washington in September was to attend the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee’s review of upcoming coin and medal proposals, including those of the America the Beautiful quarter program. The designs we review in 2017 will be the coins we spend and collect in 2019 and beyond—assuming the secretary of the Treasury accepts our recommendations. He has the final say on all coin designs.

The fourth in our slate of 2019 design reviews was a portfolio of sketches for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas. This park is a network of four Catholic missions (not including the famous Alamo). It was established to educate people about Spain’s successful effort to extend its territories north from Mexico in the 1600s and 1700s. This was before the “United States” existed as a nation when North America was made up of British and other colonies, unclaimed wilderness, and contested lands.

TX-03A

We were joined by phone in our discussion by Lauren Gurniewicz, the missions’ chief of interpretation. She told us the National Park Service’s choice from the selection of 15 designs was TX-03A, calling it “fantastic” and saying “it represents what we’re about.”

CCAC members don’t arrive in Washington with a blank slate for these America the Beautiful coin-design reviews. Several months before our meeting we discuss the national parks and other sites that will be under consideration. We talk with National Park Service liaisons who have already worked with U.S. Mint staff to flesh out their thoughts and ideas and identify important potential themes. These liaisons typically are high-level NPS managers and historians; for example, chiefs of interpretation, such as Ms. Gurniewicz. (The chief of interpretation, as defined by the Service, is “a senior leader in the NPS and has a major impact on the organizational effectiveness of the park in meeting mission goals for stewardship, relevance, education, and workforce. The Chief serves on the park management team, works collaboratively with park partners, and is the critical organizational link between tactical action in the field and strategic park planning.”) CCAC members give our guidance to the Mint’s artists on what we recommend, design-wise, for each coin. Then, several months later, the Mint mails each CCAC member a package of design portfolios—usually 10 to 20 proposals, by several artists, for each coin. We get these packages a few weeks before our scheduled design-review meeting, which allows us time to study and critique each proposal, weighing its artistry, its appropriateness for the subject, its coinability, and other factors. Then we convene to discuss the designs in the committee’s public forum.

TX-01

To my eye, the portfolio for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park started off strong with TX-01. This design incorporates architecture from the missions, symbolizing their civilizing aspect (in the Western European mode), along with flowing water. The quatrefoil subtly represents the Christian cross, and it also has ancient Mexican significance, having been incorporated in water rituals, symbolizing rain and fertility.

Meanwhile, the architectural designs, TX-04 through 11A, are all beautifully drafted.

From left to right: TX-03, TX-03A, and TX-03B

The true standouts in this portfolio, though, are the trio of TX-03, 03A, and 03B. These are the symbolically strongest and most numismatically significant designs of the Texas group. They hark back to the Spanish-American coinage of reales dating from the founding era of the San Antonio missions. The quadrants illustrate symbols of wheat (farming and cultivation of the mission lands); arches and a bell tower (fortress, community, and home); a heraldic lion (Spain); and water (the San Antonio River and its life-sustaining resources). I was drawn to these designs because of their artistic connection to Spain’s colonial coins. TX-03A and 03B, in particular, stood out for me, since they show the church tower and the lion in the top quadrants. These represent the most significant and pervasive elements of life in the missions. The native Americans who sought shelter there (from Apache raiders, from disease, and from drought) were compelled to embrace, in the words of the National Park Service, “a new god and a new king.” They had to convert to Christianity and swear loyalty to the Spanish monarch.

CCAC member Tom Uram praised the artists who worked on this portfolio, commending them for well-thought-out designs. He mentioned that he’s a member of the 1715 Fleet Society (a group that promotes public awareness and scholarly study of all facets of the hurricane destruction of Spain’s 1715 treasure fleet off Florida’s coast). As such, he couldn’t help but be attracted to the coin-inspired designs, and he called out TX-03B, with the cross free-floating, as his favorite.

TX-02

Member Heidi Wastweet, too, gave thanks to the Mint’s artists, calling this portfolio “a fantastic packet.” The well-known sculptor said TX-01 is “very good,” and she appreciated the addition of wildlife in TX-02.

TX-08 and TX-10

“The stylization of the trees is remarkable” in TX-08, she noted, and TX-10 would be good for a medal. Her preferred design from the portfolio of 15 was TX-03B.

Member Erik Jansen, a longtime numismatist, concurred, noting TX-03 and 03B as his favorites.

CCAC member Donald Scarinci (right) discussing U.S. coinage with Mint sculptor-engraver Don Everhart (September 16, 2016). Scarinci is a noted art-medal collector, a fellow of the American Numismatic Society, and a coordinator of the J. Sanford Saltus Award and Krause Publications’ “Coin of the Year” awards.

Member Mike Moran, author of Striking Change and 1849, two books that study the history of gold in United States coinage, observed that “Before 1857, Mexican and Spanish coins were what everyday Americans used in change.” They were legal tender in the United States until shortly before the Civil War. Moran identified TX-03B as his preferred design.

Member Herman Viola, an expert in Native American history, called TX-01 “a great work of art,” while giving his approval “wholeheartedly” to TX-03B.

Member Jeanne Stevens-Sollman—like Heidi Wastweet, an artist and medallic sculptor—called TX-01 “powerful” and said it would make a great coin. Her strongest support went to TX-03B, which she described as “wonderful.”

CCAC members Erik Jansen and Robert Hoge, September 2016. Jansen is CEO of a medical-device firm he co-founded in Washington State. He brings his knowledge of engineering to technical questions of U.S. coinage. Like Hoge and many other members of the committee, he is a longtime coin collector.

Member Robert Hoge also was enthusiastic about the portfolio: “We can’t go wrong with this group.” He pointed out that the quatrefoil, an element of design TX-01, also appears in gold Spanish-American coins. He gave his preference to TX-03B while noting that the symbology is not fully Spanish—”the lion is León, but nothing represents Castile.” Hoge’s understanding of Spanish and Spanish-American coins comes from long study and experience. He is the former curator of North American coins and currency for the American Numismatic Society, and his wife is art historian and University of Barcelona professor Immaculada Socias i Batet.

At the time of our September meeting, Mary Lannin’s nomination for continuing in the CCAC’s chairmanship was under consideration by the Treasury Department, so member Donald Scarinci, the committee’s senior member in years of service, acted as chair for this meeting. As did other members, he praised the Texas portfolio. “The artists listened and they heard us,” he said, noting that the only reason TX-01 doesn’t win is because the 03 grouping is so strong. Otherwise, he said, 01 is “what we’re looking for.”

TX-04

04, he said, “uses the coin in a really nice way to show the architectural importance” of the missions.

From left to right: TX-05, TX-06, and TX-07

He also expressed admiration for 05, 06, 07, and 08, saying that, although he’s not usually a fan of buildings on coins, “these are buildings on coins that actually work.”

TX-11 and TX-11A

He gave encouragement to the artist who created TX-11 and 11A, calling them good designs. Ultimately his strongest support went to 03B, which he praised for its sense of history combined with symbolism important to Spanish Mexico.

Mary Lannin was the final committee member to remark on the San Antonio designs. She, too, voted for 03B in particular, noting the importance of showing the cross in its entirety, rather than extended to the interior perimeter. Lannin, a retired television producer and winery owner who now edits and volunteers for numismatic groups, said, “It’s wonderful to have the luxury of choosing from such a great group” of designs.

Our Vote for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Our Recommendation to the Treasury

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee was set up by Congress as a public body qualified to advise the secretary of the Treasury on themes and designs for circulating coins, bullion, and medals. Each of our 11 members is either specially qualified in a particular field, recommended by a member of Congress, or chosen to represent the general public.

Part of our process of making recommendations is to take a vote after we discuss and analyze each coin’s design proposals. The vote results lead to final discussion, which generates our recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury. In our voting for the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park coin, each design candidate could earn up to 30 points. (10 members were present, and each could assign 1, 2, or 3 points to each design.) This is how our voting went:

  • TX-03B received 29 points, making it the standout design.
  • TX-01 received 14 points.
  • TX-03A and 03 received 11 and 7 points, respectively.
  • The rest of the designs received 1 to 4 points each, except for TX-12, which received 0.

The CCAC’s recommended design: TX-03B

With TX-03B coming in just one point shy of a perfect ranking, it will be our formal recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury for the design of the San Antonio Missions quarter in 2019.

Next: the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (Idaho) quarter.

Portugal: “Youth and the Future” a focus for latest silver collector coin

Caretos performing at the 2008 Carnaval de Podence in Portugal. Caretos are typically young men who wear wooden masks and dress in suits of vibrant colors made of fringe wool quilts. They tend to operate in groups, shout loudly, and attempt to rob wineries. The performance is one of the oldest ongoing cultural practices in Portugal, and since it is performed by the country’s male youth, it is a way of connecting the past and the future. Background image courtesy of Rosino.

The Imprensa Nacional–Casa do Moeda (INCM) have unveiled (6th September) a new coin which intends to focus on the country’s youth with a design personally created by a youngster.

According to the INCM, the demographics of collectors in the numismatic market is growing older. In order to reverse this trend and appeal to a younger demographic, the INCM initiated several programs directed to children and youth in Portugal, working in close cooperation with schools. Their intent is to mobilize students from cities across the country on a regular basis to raise young people’s awareness of their culture and heritage through the use of coins.

“The future” was the theme presented to the students to create a €5 collector coin. Guided and motivated by their teachers, hundreds of children depicted their ideas of the future with a variety of symbols. The jury awarded the first prize to a rudimentary composition by 12-year-old Martim Estanislau, who drew and wrote a design to conceptualize his perception of the continuity of time. He dismissed the present, explained the past, and announced what the future would be—peace and liberty—as expressed in his drawings. This initiative is a moving contribution to what so many Portuguese young people idealize, and it makes this contribution using the format of money to draw their interest.

Brilliant Uncirculated coin.

Proof coin.

The reverse depicts two figures engaged in battle, swords in hand, and represents the past. The denomination of €5 is placed above the primary design, with the year of issue, 2017, toward the bottom.

Brilliant Uncirculated coin.

Proof coin.

The obverse depicts two modern figures holding balloons—the young boy’s idea of peace—and represents the future. The national crest is placed below the primary design, and PORTUGAL is placed at the top.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€5 Cupro-nickel 14 g 30 mm Brilliant Unc. 60,000
€5 .925 silver 14 g 30 mm Proof with applied colour 2,500

The coins will be issued in both Brilliant Uncirculated (cupro-nickel) and Proof quality (.925 silver). The Proof editions include colour on elements of the design on both sides. For additional information on these and other coins offered by the INCM, please visit their website.

Austria: Majestic Alpine ibex graces the latest gold coin in Wildlife in Our Sights series

Background photo by Bert de Tilly.

The Austrian Mint has launched (12th September) their latest gold coin which highlights some of the European continent’s more interesting and diverse wildlife and habitats. The series was initiated in 2013 and is entitled “Wildlife in Our Sights.” It features the animals who dwell in forests and make delicate, but robust, habitats their own special homes. This year’s coin features the Alpine ibex with intricate and detailed images on both sides of the coin. Almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because its blood and horns were thought to possess mythical healing powers, today the population of the Alpine ibex is estimated to be around 45,000. After a gestation period of five to six months, the Alpine ibex’s young are born in May or June with immature males and females living together in a herd. However, young bucks break away to form a separate herd as they approach maturity. In the rutting season, adult bucks seek out females and try to win control over the herd by putting on a show of strength confronting rival bucks. On hind legs, they bring their horns crashing down against those of their opponents. In spring, the bucks become solitary again and spend increasingly more time alone as they get older.

Hover to zoom.

The design of the coin is a collaborative effort between Helmut Andexlinger, Kathrin Kuntner, and Herbert Wähner. The obverse shows an ibex in profile surrounded by Alpine primroses and edelweiss on the obverse side. Like the other coins in the series, the lower part is exquisitely decorated with a handsome design that gives the series its distinctive character. The text REPUBLIK ÖSTERREICH and the face value of 100 EURO are also incorporated into the design.

The coin’s reverse side shows an ibex with its young on a steep rock face, as a marmot looks on.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€100 .986 gold  16 g 30 mm Proof  30,000

The coin is struck in a ducat standard of .986 fine gold to Proof quality. Each coin comes in an attractive box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. A specially designed custom wooden collector case is also available to house the entire six-coin series and provides a perfect format in which to admire your coins. Designed and crafted in-house by the Austrian Mint’s engravers, a minted shield graces the center of the lid. The coin will be officially issued on the 18th October 2017, and the Mint of Austria are accepting pre-issue orders for delivery after the 18th October. For additional information on this and other coins offered by the Mint of Austria, please visit their website.

The series to date has included: 2013 — the Red Deer; 2014 — the Wild Boar; 2015 — the Capercaillie; 2016 — the Fox; 2017 — the Alpine Ibex; and scheduled for next year, 2018 — the Mallard.

United Kingdom: Bank of England releases new Jane Austen £10 polymer note

The Bank of England have officially released their latest £10 bank note with significant changes made from the previous (and current) bank note issued in 2000 with the image of Charles Darwin on the back. The new “G” series, which includes the latest £5 polymer bank note featuring the image of Sir Winston Churchill, is also printed on polymer and includes a familiar image of the well-known 19th-century author Jane Austen (1775–1817).

People were seen lining up outside the main offices of the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street in London from the early hours in the morning on September 14 to be counted among the first to obtain the new Austen notes. Many of them were in pursuit of low-serial-numbered notes or were simply fans of the author herself. Austen is remembered for such classic stories as Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Miss Austen also had additional works published posthumously. This is only the fifth design change for this denomination since it was introduced back in 1795. The Queen’s portrait has only been included on the front side since 1964, which is continued with this latest design.

The Portrait of Jane Austen, which is the basis from which the Bank of England depiction is derived from, was commissioned by Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh in 1870. James also wrote the first biography of Jane Austen, also published in 1870 and entitled A Memoir. Her family approved the creation of an engraving by William Home Lizars as the illustration facing the title page of a book. It was based on an original sketch of Jane Austen drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery collection in London.

Also included on the back design is a quote—“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”—which is taken from her work Pride and Prejudice and is attributed to the character of Miss Bingley in chapter 11. In the centre to the left of the portrait of Austen is an illustration of Miss Elizabeth Bennet undertaking “The examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her,” which is from an original drawing by Isabel Bishop (1902–1988), illustrator of E. P. Dutton & Company’s 1976 edition of the book.

The face side of the note continues to use the same portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II which was first introduced on Bank of England notes with the issue of a new £5 note in 1990. The colour of the note has been enhanced to a darker brown with corresponding shades of orange.

The security features are in keeping with polymer, and include a see-through window featuring the Queen’s portrait. Winchester Cathedral, the final resting place of Austen, is shown in gold foil on the face of the note and silver on the back. A quill at the side of the window and across from the Queen’s portrait changes from purple to orange. Another hologram integrated into the overall design contains the word Ten, which changes to Pounds when the note is tilted. A third hologram of the Queen’s crown used during her coronation appears in 3-D and multiple colours when the note is tilted. A book-shaped copper-foil patch which contains the letters JA is placed to the lower portion of the series of hologram designs.

The new bank note is also the first issued by the Bank of England to include a tactile application of raised dots that are placed in the upper left corner to assist visually impaired persons to identify the note. The £20 will also have this application, but the £5 polymer note will remain without this added tactile feature.

The current Series “E” £10 Charles Darwin bank note will gradually be taken out of circulation with the increased issue and use of the new Austen £10 note. A date for the end of their legal tender status is expected to be announced at the end of 2017; by that time, the Darwin notes will no longer be used for transactions but can always be redeemed at the Bank of England for current legal tender. The process of transitioning Bank of England bank notes was undertaken after a public consultancy was initiated in 2013 and the announcement was made in 2014 that the next £5 denomination would be produced in polymer. The move to polymer is expected to reduce the cost of replacing old and worn banknotes substantially since polymer notes can last up to 2.5 times longer than their paper counterparts.

A question arose in 2016 with the release of the £5 Churchill polymer note since it contains traces of tallow—an animal by-product which contributes to the flexibility and wear of the polymer substrate. On the 10th August, the bank announced that after careful and serious consideration and extensive public consultation there would be no change in the composition of polymer used for future bank notes. The new polymer £20 note and future print runs of £5 and £10 notes will continue to be made from polymer manufactured using trace amounts of chemicals, typically less than 0.05%, ultimately derived from animal products. Animal-rights groups, including vegans, protested the use of the product in the new polymer notes and were out in force in front of the Bank of England offices for the release of the new £10 note.

France: Year of the Dog features prominently on latest Lunar Year gold and silver coins

The Monnaie de Paris have launched their new Lunar New Year coins which celebrate the year of the Dog. This is the first in a 12-year-long series which concludes in 2029. According to the Lunar or Chinese zodiac, each year is assigned to an animal according to the 12-year cycle. Years of the Dog include 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, and 2030. As with the western zodiac, persons born within that year are said to possess certain personality traits or have pre-destined luck in romance, fortune, and other aspects which bring happiness—or grief.

The sign of the Dog emphasises the importance of the self in those who are born under its sign. They are intelligent people who hold much of their thought process deep inside, and are not always known for being able to share these thoughts freely with others. Those born under the sign of the Dog are said to live very rich inner lives, underlining the more personal aspects of basic human life. They often get lost in thought, appreciate the options that they encounter every single day, and can often entertain themselves for hours on end with their own amusements and thoughts.

Coin Update sponsor APMEX carries most of the world’s Year of the Dog issues, as well as other thematic silver rounds and bars.

Hover to zoom.

The 2018-dated coins are issued in pure gold and silver and come in three sizes and denominations. The obverse side appropriately depicts a Chow Chow, a traditional dog breed originally from northern China, where it is referred to as “Songshi Quan,” which simply means “puffy-lion dog.” The dog is surrounded by a motif of Chinese inspiration and graphic pattern. The Chow Chow is shown emerging from the middle of the coin through a temple door. The words ANNÉE DU CHIEN (Year of the Dog) are placed along the upper perimeter above the primary design. The traditional character for the word “dog,” placed onto the Chow image, is the work of a master of Chinese calligraphy.

On the reverse are the 12 animals and years that make up the Chinese zodiac cycle represented on a traditional screen alongside a temple door (the same one by which the dog “crossed” onto the obverse side). The denomination and initials of RF are included as well as the text CALENDRIER CHINOIS (Chinese Calendar). All coins in this series share the same designs across all options. The €20 silver piece is struck utilising a special high-relief technique that highlights the intricately detailed design in a relief 10 times greater than that of an ordinary strike.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€10 .999 silver  31.10 g 37 mm Proof  5,000
€20 .999 silver 22 g 37 mm Proof  5,000
€50 .9999 gold 7.78 g 22 mm Proof 500

The Monnaie de Paris are now accepting orders. The coins are all available as separate purchases and are minted in limited quantities. For more information on these and other coins offered by the Monnaie de Paris, please visit their website.  ⤵️

Edge of the €20 silver coin.

The Lunar New Year begins on the 16th February 2018 and will be the Year of the Dog. If you are born under the Year of the Dog, your strong inner lifestyle will be balanced by a relatively restrained outer lifestyle. You are more prone to live a serious and careful existence. A Dog is someone who will get the job done, but rarely goes beyond the scope of what is asked of them. This is because, to them, there are more important things to do than spending their time trying to impress others. Dogs would rather enjoy what they choose to do than sacrifice their freedom for a little monetary gain. Thus, someone born under the Year of the Dog is a person in charge of their own path and destiny. While they encounter resistance from time to time, they will generally hold true to the morals and the lifestyle that seems best suited to them.

Switzerland: Famed St. Bernard hero “Barry” honoured on new gold coin

In the background, the Great St. Bernard Pass at the Italy-Switzerland border. (Background image by Hans Hillewaert)

The Swiss Federal Mint have launched (14th September) a new gold coin which pays homage to the famed mountain dogs from St. Bernard (who are a familiar sight in many parts of the Alpine nation), as well as remembering the service of one particular dog—Barry.

In the 11th century, Canons Regular of Saint Augustine founded a hospice as a refuge for travellers and pilgrims on the 2,469-metre-high (8,100 feet) Great Saint Bernard Pass. Large mountain dogs have been kept at the hospice since the mid-17th century to guard and protect those staying there. The first visual evidence of the presence of mountain dogs dates back to 1695, and the first written document is a hospice memo from the year 1707. The dogs were rapidly adopted as companions and, above all, as rescue dogs for travellers who lost their way in the snow and mist. The dogs from the Great Saint Bernard Pass saved the lives of a great number of people. The reputation of the Saint Bernard dogs grew throughout Europe in the 19th century thanks to chronicles published in many languages and reports passed on by word of mouth from the soldiers who had crossed the pass with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800.

One particular dog—the legendary Saint Bernard Barry—lived at the hospice from 1800 to 1812. The famous dog apparently saved the lives of more than 40 people, and over the years, numerous folktales were linked to his story. The tales have contributed greatly to the reputation of Saint Bernard dogs, in addition to Barry’s own legend.


Next year, 2018, is the Year of the Dog! Mints worldwide are releasing special coins for the occasion—France’s gold and silver coins are already available. Click here to read more.


Switzerland’s Natural History Museum in Bern is devoting a special exhibition to the stuffed, original Barry and his story, and the Barry Foundation in Martigny attests to the continued existence of the original Saint Bernard dogs. In memory of this brave dog, a 50-franc gold coin was authorised by the Swiss Treasury and National Bank.

Hover to zoom.

The coin is designed by the graphic artist and illustrator Maya Delaquis, from Gwat, who has lectured in book illustration and animal drawing for nine years at the Bern School of Design. Her design includes a charming depiction of Barry on the obverse which would melt the heart of any dog lover. Together with his trusty cask of brandy just under his chin (traditionally worn around the neck), the text BARRY completes the design.

The reverse includes the issuing authority CONFEDERATIO HELVETICA, the year of issue 2017, and the denomination of 50 FR in a circular pattern.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
50 francs .900 Gold  11.29 g 25 mm Proof  4,500

The coin is available from the 14th September and is encapsulated in a presentation case with a numbered certificate of authenticity. For additional information on this and other coins offered by the Swiss Federal Mint, please visit their website.

Finland: Nature takes centre stage on latest €2 circulation and silver collector coins

The Mint of Finland have announced (18th September) that a new €2 coin will be released in limited quantities next month. The design centres around the extraordinary scenes of Finnish nature. The coin is part of Finland’s national celebration of their centenary of independence, which was declared in December 1917.

The design of the coin is inspired by a photograph which was the winning submission in the “Blue and White” special category in Finland’s Nature Photograph of the Year competition. The winning photo depicts a crow, which to many symbolises the modern Finnish character—an outwardly common, but intelligent bird that reacts flexibly to new situations. Per the rules of the competition’s special category, the winning photograph (shown below) was compiled from two shots:

Kari Auvinen’s composite photograph of a supermoon above Harmaja (a lighthouse-island outside Helsinki) and a crow. (© 2017 Kari Auvinen. Hover to zoom.)

Obverse design for the commemorative €2 Proof and Uncirculated coins.

Obverse design for the silver collector €10 and €20 Proof coins.

The winning photograph, which is included on the national side of the €2 and the obverses of the €10 and€20 coins, is the work of nature photographer Kari Auvinen, and depicts the full moon over Harmaja and a crow gazing down on the world from its perch.

Reverse design for the commemorative €2 Proof and Uncirculated coins.

Reverse design for the silver collector €10 and €20 Proof coins.

The commemorative €2 coin’s reverse is identical to that of ordinary circulation coins. The Finnish Nature silver Proof collector coins, released on the 18th September in nominal values of €10 and €20, share a simple reverse design depicting the surface of the moon, the legend 2017 SUOMI FINLAND, and the denomination.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Maximum Mintage
€2 Bi-metallic 8.5 g 25.7 mm Uncirculated 489,000
€2 Bi-metallic 8.5 g 25.7 mm Proof 11,000
€10 .925 silver 10 g 28.5 mm Proof 9,900
€10 .925 silver 10 g 28.5 mm Proof 100
€20 .925 silver 25.5 g 38.6 mm Proof 4,900
€20 .925 silver 25.5 g 38.6 mm Proof 100

The special coin will be officially launched at the Nature Photograph of the Year gala held at the Finlandia Hall on the 21st October 2017. The packaging for the €2 Proof version includes a certificate of authenticity that indicates the coin’s technical specifications and tells its story.

The maximum mintages of the Proof-quality €10 and€20 silver Finnish Nature commemorative coin are 10,000 and 5,000, respectively. In each case, 100 coins of that mintage will be serially numbered on the reverse. In the case of the €10, the numbered coins will be mixed into the mintage at random. With the €20, the numbered coins will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The latter will be packaged in a protective clear capsule set in a glass IITTALA-brand case. Please visit the Mint of Finland’s website for additional information on these and other coins on offer.

NZ Mint. Disney Posters

Three Little Pigs Fine Silver Coin

LATEST RELEASE

Announcing the release of another unique, Disney Poster rectangular silver coin – this time featuring Three Little Pigs from 1932 which won an Academy Award® for Best Cartoon.

The Three Little Pigs 1oz Fine Silver Coin

 

Disney Posters
The Three Little Pigs — 1oz Silver Coin

This 1oz silver coin features a replica image of the 1930s poster for the Silly Symphony cartoon, Three Little Pigs. The design cleverly includes colour and engraving to best effect.

The coin is presented in a clever perspex case, designed to frame the coin and allow for easy display. The Certificate of Authenticity also sits within the outer box and both items have been designed to complement the coin design. This makes it a great purchase for any Disney fan or coin collector.

With a limited worldwide mintage of 10,000 coins, make sure you place your order soon!