2015 has been a stellar year for coin design, both for the United States Mint and for mints abroad. Domestically, collectors swooned over the $100 High Relief gold coin that the U.S. Mint released on June 30. The coin sold quite well and has developed a stable aftermarket in both original government packaging and in certified holders. The United States Mint also released the usual spate of circulating commemorative quarters, dollars, and first spouse coins – not to mention special releases like the reverse proof dime and dollar coins.
Overseas and to America’s north and south, coins of all shapes, sizes, motifs and denominations poured forth in a endless river of collectible coin products. Want a coin with a chip of volcanic rock? Or perhaps a spheroid coin with mounted Swarovski crystals? Or, maybe something more traditional is to your taste: a hoverboard-shaped coin commemorating Back to the Future?
Despite all the fanfare, fan service, and fantastic designs, a few coin designs truly stand out. To celebrate them, CoinWeek has compiled its list of Best Coin Designs of 2015.
GOLD MEDAL – Wildlife in Our Sights: Capercaillie 100 Euro Gold Coin – Austrian Mint
Austria’s 100-euro Gold “Capercaillie” was CoinWeek’s unanimous pick for Best Coin Design of 2015. The third gold coin in the Austrian Mint’s “Wildlife in Our Sights” program, the CoinWeek Best Coin Design winner celebrates Austria’s native woodland grouse by transforming the coin’s 30mm design space into an artist’s canvas, portraying the bird in its natural environment, while maintaining Austria’s signature design aesthetic. The coin’s obverse and reverse are genuine “flip sides of the same coin”. The regal gait of the Capercaillie is captured on both the obverse and reverse with the bird facing in opposite directions on each side. Pine cones, trees, and other woodland motifs elegantly frame the nature scene. On the obverse, a wispy filigree hugs the bottom right corner, framing the bird under the moniker of the REPUBLIC ÖSTERREICH. The coin’s obverse was designed by master engraver Thomas Pesendorfer. The reverse design is the work of Helmut Andexlinger.
The 100-euro Gold “Capercaillie” coin was released on October 28, 2015 and is available in the United States through CoinWeek sponsor APMEX.
SILVER MEDAL – Libertad 1 Ounce Silver Coin – Reverse Proof – Mexican Mint
The Libertad is an interesting coin for a number of reasons that reach beyond Liberty’s outstretched arms on the coin’s obverse. First issued in 1982, the Libertad is the first major world silver bullion coin. Its motif evokes the complexity and pageantry of modern Mexican history. From a purely artistic standpoint, the coin’s reverse portrait of Winged Liberty against a backdrop of the Mexican landscape is one of the great successes coming from the Oldest Mint in North America. But then again, you’d expect no less from the Mint that brought you the Caballito Peso.
The 2015 Reverse Proof version was the result of a two-year effort on the part of the Mexican Mint and U.S. rare & bullion coin dealer APMEX. For APMEX, the Mexican Mint produced 500 elegantly-packaged, two-coin Libertad sets. An additional 1,000 coins were struck as part of a special Bank of Mexico 90th Anniversary three-coin Libertad set – but that set was not a commercial release, distributed instead to bank employees. The obverse of the reverse proof accentuates the coin’s already impressive design, presenting Mexico’s iconic statue and myriad historic Coats of Arms in highly-polished sculptural relief.
It’s a coin you definitely want to hold onto for the long term, if you can manage to get your hands on one.
CoinWeek writer Louis Golino discussed collecting 2015 Libertad coins in the November 16 edition of The Coin Analyst. While on our YouTube channel, we also have a Cool Coins! segment from the 2015 U.S. Mexican Numismatic Convention where Mexican coin expert Pat Stovall discusses the elusive Bank of Mexico 90th Anniversary three-coin Libertad set.
SILVER MEDAL – French Excellence – Manufacture de Sèvres – Paris Mint
CoinWeek unboxed the silver 10-euro version and found the coin to be a fantastic celebration of French artisanship and the Monnaie de Paris’ state-of-the-art minting techniques. Were it not for the fact that the coin was that much more impressive in gold, the 10-euro French Excellence – Manufacture de Sèvres might have made our Best of 2015 list. In gold, the coin is remarkable. A clear callback to the gilded age of the French aristocracy, this 200-euro dish-shaped gold coin features a porcelain center. On that center is a handprinted portrait of Marie Antoinette – rendered in hand block style that evokes the French toile du jouy. The sloping gold dish is ornamented in filigree on the obverse, and vegetal, animal, and architectural figures on the reverse. We can’t think of a better use for one ounce of gold!
The complete line of French Excellence – Manufacture de Sèvres coins in silver and gold can be bought online directly from the Paris Mint.
BRONZE MEDAL – Seven New Wonders of the World $7 Silver Coin – Polish Mint (Niue)
$7 might seem like an odd denomination, but there’s nothing standard about this Swarovski-crystal embedded silver spheroid coin struck for island nation of Niue by the Polish Mint. Weighing seven ounces, this coin breaks all of the rules and calls into question what exactly is a coin. We’ve waited all year to see if we’d find one of these encapsulated in a third party holder, but so far no dice. On the secondary market, the coin has performed well. Pieces continue to bring $800 or more, with some selling for more than $1,100.
ModernCoinMart is currently offering examples on a pre-order basis for $895.
If you’d like to learn more about the Niue Seven New Wonders of the World coin, the Polish Mint explored the myriad issues involved in creating this showpiece in a promotional video that we included in our CoinWeek Coin Profile of the piece. You can read what we had to say then and watch the video by clicking this link.
BRONZE MEDAL – Diwali: Festival of Lights $200 Gold Coin – Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint releases nearly as many coins each year as there are calendar days. For Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, the Royal Canadian Mint produced a limited edition one-ounce gold $200 coin. The coin’s obverse features Queen Elizabeth II (natch) but the coin’s reverse is a mesmerizing tapestry of Deepawali, diyas, vegetal motifs, and the Devanagari symbol Om.
The Royal Canadian Mint sold out of the coin quickly, after producing just 275 examples. Each coin came housed in a unique wooden box, which itself is a work of art. A video of the coin in motion can be viewed here.
About CoinWeek’s Best Coin Design Program
2015 marks the debut of the CoinWeek Best Coin Design Program. This year, CoinWeek’s Editors reviewed more than 500 coins struck by the United States and World Mints in the year 2015. From that number, CoinWeek awards a Gold Award to the year’s best coin design, as selected by the Editors. Silver Awards are awarded to two runner-up coin designs. While Bronze Awards are awarded to two second-runner-up coin designs. To ensure that your favorite coins are considered for next year’s Award, email us at email@example.com.
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