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The Coin Analyst: Modern World Coin News Round-Up

by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………

New coins from Vatican City, Ireland, and Canada are featured in this installment of the modern world coin news round-up.

Vatican City’s Sede Vacante Coins Released June 3

In an April column on Numismaster.com written after the inauguration of Pope Francis I, Patrick Heller commented that various world coins commemorating the new pontiff are not a good investment because secondary market demand for them in the future is likely to be much less than initial demand.

But those are not the Pope coins that a seasoned world coin collector would expect to have secondary market potential. In fact, there are coins that were just issued by Vatican City on June 3 marking the period after the resignation of Pope Benedict but prior to Pope Francis’ inauguration, which is called the Sede Vacante, or empty chair, that have much better potential for increase in value, and are very popular with collectors.

2013_vatican_seeSede Vacante coins have performed well in the past. The last set, which was issued in 2005, whose issuance angered some in the European Union who felt it violated rules on how many commemorative coins can be issued per year, is worth about $500 today.

A combination of widespread interest in the new Pope, the relatively small number of Sede Vacante coins issued in the past, and speculative interest have been driving pre-order prices for the new coins to very high levels.

The 2013 Sede Vacante coins include a special bimetal 2 euro commemorative, a 5 euro silver coin, and a set of 5 and 10 euro gold coins. The 2 euros have a mintage of 111,000; the silver coin has a mintage of 7,000, and the gold coins are limited to 5,000.

As I have explained before  Vatican coins tend to increase substantially over issue price in part because they have very low mintages, which are based on population under EU rules, and they are difficult to obtain directly from Vatican City’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office, which is known by its Italian acronym, UFN. The UFN has an informational web site , but the coins are not sold online.

As is the case with many modern issues, American and foreign, buyers should be careful about when they purchase since pre-order prices and prices right after issuance can run higher than prices down the road, especially for items like these that have high early demand, though that is not always true.

For the past few months, e-Bay pre-orders for the 2 euro coins have been selling for $120-200 and more, yet the coins have an issue price of 17 euros, or about $22.

Those who are interested in obtaining the coins who are not authorized UFN purchasers may want to wait and see what prices are in about a month on e-Bay or from European, especially German, dealers who carry these items.

In April the UFN started selling the annual proof and mints sets, which are probably the most widely collected Vatican coins. Most previous issues sell for strong premiums over issue prices. The new sets still use the profile of Pope Benedict, and coins that depict Pope Francis will not appear until next year.

Irish Mint to Issue JFK Coins in July

The Central Bank of Ireland  recently announced that it will be issuing a special 10 euro silver coin as well as a set containing that coin and a 20 euro one gram gold coin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to his ancestral home in Ireland.

jfk_irelandThe coins are designed by Irish artist Tom Fitzgerald and feature a striking profile of President Kennedy that is receiving rave reviews from collectors.

The silver coins have a mintage of 15,000 individually, and the sets are limited to 10,000, so the total mintage of the silver coin is 25,000.

I am trying to arrange an interview with the designer, which will hopefully appear later.

Meanwhile, the Republic of San Marino, which is the oldest republic in the world, and a longtime friend of the United States, has been forced by the European Union to cancel its planned 2 euro commemorative coin marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963.

The European Central Bank said it would not be allowed because it is not a European theme. That naturally makes one wonder why the Irish coins are permissible. In addition to the fact that the Irish coin honors President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, a member of the EU, the reason supposedly has to do with the fact that the Irish coins are non-circulating commemoratives.

However, unlike other EU countries that issue circulating 2 euro commemoratives, San Marino’s annual special 2 euro commemorative is only made for collectors and only sold in special colorful packaging, so the non-circulating argument seems specious.

Latest Canadian Releases

The Royal Canadian Mint  on June 4 launched its latest cornucopia of new coins. There is a new niobium and silver coin depicting a mother and baby ice fishing; a silver coin with a hologram that features a Native American dream catcher, which is believed to bring good fortune to those who display them; a new half ounce silver Maple Leaf and a very unusual and artistic Maple Leaf commemorative that features 100 small leafs; new allegorical female coins depicting the Canadian Lady Liberty in bronze, silver, and gold; new coins in the half ounce and one ounce O’ Canada series; new coins honoring the War of 812; and many others.

rcm_alegory_2013To me the standout is the allegorical female coin, specifically the silver version, with a mintage of 8,500. The coin portrays a modern-day version of Canada’s Lady Liberty. Collectors of American, French, and British coins are familiar with allegorical depictions of Lady Liberty, which are very popular themes on coins. The new Canadian coin is a fitting tribute to this theme and to the national values and identity of Canada.

Collectors will be pleased to learn that the Mint has changed its household order limit from two to one, which appears to be a response to both frustrated collectors, who missed out on new coins, and comments in this column and elsewhere in the numismatic media about this issue.

It is also worth noting that the RCM released a new annual report on May 2, which notes a big increase in revenue and profits at the Mint. For 2012 the Mint earned $2.6 billion CAD in revenue and $40.7 million in pre-tax profits. Collectible numismatic coins included 136 different releases, with 60 of them achieving sellouts and numismatic revenue was up 56% to $145.1 million. For 2013 the Mint plans to issue 200 different collector coins.

Some people, including your columnist, periodically argue that the Mint may be issuing too many different coins, but the strategy appears so far to be paying off financially for the Mint.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin WorldNumismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. 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 ANAPCGSNGC, 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.

Louis Golino
Louis Golino
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern U.S. and world coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern numismatic issues and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to Coin World, where he wrote a bimonthly feature and weekly blog, and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart. He previously served as a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and as a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s when he began writing op-ed articles and news analyses.

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  1. Hi Louis,

    Thanks for the update on the Kennedy coins. I am a fan of the Kennedy half dollar and am planning to try to get my hands on the Irish silver commemorative. Hopefully the silver coins won’t all be swallowed up right when they’re released! It is a shame about what happened to the San Marino coin. I would probably have bought that one too.

    In the case of the RCM, I fear they’ve fallen into the same trap that the Perth Mint did during the “dragon-mania” period. Perth coins were very hot for a couple of years but demand has since cooled down for them, and I think the RCM’s current strategy is likely to backfire and lead to a fall in demand the same way.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Capt. You can pre-order the Irish coins from Royal Scandinavian Mint now and you won’t be charged until they are ready to ship. That is not intended as an endorsement of the company.

    I think you may be right on the Canadian coins, but keep in mind that they are targeting their vast range of coins at many different types of collectors, from those who can only afford non-precious metal coins all the way up to those with the means to buy kilo-sized precious metal items.

  3. Thanks for all your great columns Louis! 1st time commenting. I had to thank you about giving all of your readers a head’s up on the Irish Kennedy coins! I had to go to rsmint.com & order immediately. I have been collecting Kennedy coins lately and got 2 very nice Pf 65 & Pf 66 PCGS 1964 Kennedy’s from auction on greatcollections.com. I would recommend them to any coin collector ( sorry don’t mean to advertise-just a happy customer).

    • Thanks so much, coinhooked. There is really something compelling about the JFK profile on the Irish coins. I have never seen him depicted that way and am curious to find out what inspired the artist. Enjoy!

      • Hi Louis,

        If you happen to get some kind of interview with Irish Kennedy coins artist, I hope you will share with your readers. I agree the front on view of Kennedy’s face is very unique and should appeal to Kennedy coin collectors. Thanks again for your very informative articles and your insight on coins!

  4. Thanks again for your kind words, CH. I will definitely have the interview published here, if it works out. The Irish coin should be released in about three weeks, though it will probably take a little longer to reach our shores.

  5. Hi, thank you for the JFK update – I have pre-ordered mine with the Central Bank of Ireland tel: 00353 124 83 605
    Can I direct your readers to the price differences being offered by Royal Scan., Mint and the Irish Central Bank?
    RSM will invoice 61.59 euro plus 18 euro delivery for one silver 10 Euro delivered to your address. And you have to request the lower post fee otherwise delivery is 35 euro!
    The Central Bank Ireland will provide exact same item delivered worldwide for total fee of 59.60 euro.
    That’s more or less a 20 euro saving!
    20 Euro’s!!!!!


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