By Louis Golino for CoinWeek….
It’s been a busy summer for modern coin releases from major world mints, and the fall will bring even more new coins that will be dominated by the 2015 Year of the Goat program. Here are some of the more significant new coins:
Orion takes flight
One of the most anticipated world releases of the year is the third and final coin in the Royal Australian Mint’s Southern Sky domed and colored series. The new coin, which was officially launched in Australia by former NASA astronaut Rick Hieb on August 18, depicts Orion, the largest constellation that is visible in both hemispheres. According to the mint’s web site (www.ramint.gov.au), “It represents the mythological Greek hunter with some of the sky’s brightest stars. The domed shape and magnificent color of this silver proof $5 coin set off the brilliance of Orion as if in a celestial sphere.”
In honor of National Space Week Mr. Hieb struck three Orion coins during the launch ceremony. They were not the first coins struck since the mint already shipped some orders, including one received by a collector friend of mine. It is especially interesting that the latest NASA deep space mission, which will lay the groundwork for sending astronauts to Mars, is also called Orion, and Lockheed Martin (which makes the space capsule) and the Mint are working to see if NASA can include an Orion coin in “the payload of an Orion capsule undertaking a deep space mission in the future.”
The Southern Sky series started in 2012 with the highly popular Southern Crux coin, and continued with the 2013 Pavo release, which has not been quite as much of a commercial success but is also a collector favorite. The Crux piece reached a retail value of around $500 or more than three times its issue price during the course of this year. The new coins have been selling well all over the world.
Latest Canadian bald eagle
Finally, the Royal Canadian Mint has released both a bullion and collector version of its Birds of Prey silver coin series that depicts a flying bald eagle that just caught a fish and which was designed by Canadian artist Emily Damstra. It is a powerful depiction of the popular bird with its wings spread wide.
Like the Peregrine Falcon that preceded it, the new coin has a $5 face value and mintage of 1,000,000 for the bullion example, and was also issued in a beautiful proof version with a 7500 mintage. The proof coin was released about three weeks ago, while the bullion coin was launched at the recent ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois
Perth Mint 2015 bullion coins
Probably the most important numismatic event in the launch of each year’s Lunar coin program, which are issued by an increasing number of countries, is the release in early September of the Perth Mint’s bullion and proof Lunar coins, which are dated for the coming year. At the same time the following year’s Kookaburra bullion coins are released, as are the designs of the Koala bullion coins that will be issued in the fall. The new designs were covered recently by CoinWeek.
The goat designs have received somewhat mixed reviews in the collector community, but as often is the case, I am sure the actual coins will look nicer than the artist renditions that are released before the coins come out. The proof versions of the new Perth Lunar goat coins will be launched with the popular three-coin set on September 2 at 8:00am Australian time, or twelve hours earlier in EST.
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Collectors and coin buyers can approach the bullion coins from two perspectives. If your goal is to stack silver with the new coins, you may want to consider the kilo size versions since they have lower premiums. But if you are more interested in coins that will acquire numismatic premiums that should increase as more and more people collect these series the one-ounce goat with a 300,000 worldwide mintage, and the Kookaburras with a 500,000 mintage are your best bet. All the other sizes have unlimited mintages, though in practice the actual mintage will depend on how many coins are sold until sales end.
Bear in mind that the 2015 Kookaburras, which feature the design of a laughing kook that originally graced the first coin in 1990, are intended to mark the coin’s 25th anniversary, which may give the coin some extra appeal. And the ten-ounce versions, which can usually be obtained at reasonable premiums over melt value (lower than what American silver eagles usually sell for), will for the first time feature a different finish that will be more matte than brilliant, which will make the coins more distinctive.
Britannia goes art deco; lunar designs unveiled
The Royal Mint in the United Kingdom (www.royalmint.com) made several major changes to its flagship line of Britannia bullion and proof coins in the last two years. The bullion coins are now made of the purest silver possible and no longer have limited mintages and changing designs beginning with the 2013 issues. At the same time also starting last year the proof versions do have a new design each year and as before are issued in limited mintages and various product options.
For 2013 the Mint issued a Grecian rendition of Britannia, the world’s oldest national symbol that has appeared on coins since Roman times. For 2014 coin designer, Jody Clark, produced an elegant and powerful version that is being called “art deco Britannia, standing proudly in front of a three-dimensional globe, accompanied by a lion, its tail draped protectively around her feet.” The designer explained that in her research she “found that Britannia often sat on the globe in an imperial fashion. I didn’t think that was a very modern concept, so I designed the coin so it appears as if Britannia is moving alongside the globe. Also, aesthetically I wanted a graphical shape to contrast with the figurative elements of Britannia and the lion, and the globe seemed to fit that requirement perfectly.”
The new Britannia silver proof coins are available from the Mint in a one-ounce coin, a six-piece proof set for the first time, various other smaller proof sets and most impressively, in a stunning five-ounce high relief proof coin that really does the design justice in my view. I just received one, and it immediately became one of my favorite coins. In addition, the design appears on a variety of gold proof coins which are also available from the Mint, including what must be an amazing five-ounce proof gold version.
The Royal Mint has issued many interesting new coins recently, including two sizes of an attractive design depicting Britannia leading armed forces into battle to mark the centenary of World War I. There are five-ounce silver proof and five-ounce gold proof versions, and for the budget-minded collector a half-ounce 20 British pound coin that is the second in the Mint’s 20 pound series sold at face value. I would have liked to see the design on a one-ounce-sized coin too.
Finally, on August 19 the Mint revealed the design if its line of silver and gold Lunar goat coins, which include everything from bullion and proof silver coins in one-ounce and higher sizes to various gold product options. Speaking only for myself, I was a bit underwhelmed by the goat artwork, especially compared to the terrific designs on the Britannia proof coins and the WWI anniversary pieces, but this is of course a subjective matter.
Copyright © CoinWeek – August 2014
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His article, “Proposed Design Change Takes Flight,” which deals with the CCAC’s recommendation for a new reverse for the American silver eagle, appears in the July issue of the Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA,PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.