By Louis Golino, special for CoinWeek …..
Fortuna Redux Revisited
Last year perhaps the most unusual and innovative world coin ever issued was made by the Mint of Poland (founded in 1766) for the island nation of Niue. It is the six-ounce silver, 24 K selectively-gilded Fortuna Redux coin, the world’s first cylinder-shaped silver coin with amazingly intricate detail all over it. The coin is a tribute to the Roman god Mercury, the god of tradesmen and travelers, abundance, commerce, financial gain, etc., who was often depicted on Roman coins. He was believed to bring good luck in business and commerce. Roman depictions of Mercury were often accompanied by the inscription FORTUNA REDUX, which meant welcome home from a business meeting or a trip, according to a representative of First Coin Company, which is the main distributor for this remarkable coin in the U.S. and around the world.
First Coin sold more of the 2,500 mintage of these coins than any other company, and the coin sold out worldwide quickly. The company is also an authorized distributor of coins from two dozen other world mints.
The Fortuna coin, which was designed by Polish artist Urszula Walerzak, was all the rage at last year’s Berlin World Fair of Money, but the high price of the coin made it beyond the reach of many collectors and may also have helped depress secondary market values, which are now about $100 below issue price.
But reactions from collectors who own the coin have been very positive. I remember last year when some buyers received their coins they posted videos of them on coin blog sites because they were so excited and wanted to show it off.
The Polish Mint has issued a new, 2014-dated version of the coin that has been minted and which will be available in April. This time the coin is made of three ounces of silver instead of six, the mintage has been lowered to 2,014, and perhaps most importantly, the issue price is about $300 less than the 2013 version, or approximately $425 instead of $750, depending on where purchased. That will make the coin accessible to more collectors than last year’s coin was.
The coin was made using advanced computer and laser technologies plus handcrafted finishes and is a triumph of modern coin minting techniques and of numismatic art. It combines classic themes and symbols in a very modern way.
Elephants are a popular theme on coins and have been attractively depicted on coins issued for Somalia by a mint in Germany for years. Now, the country of Benin has launched a Reverse Proof series on nature protection, and the first coin in the series is a beautifully rendered elephant. The coin has a limited mintage of 5,000 and is selling well in Europe. As the first in a new series with solid artwork, I think the coin will increase in value. Like Somalia’s elephants, it is being issued in more than one version with a gilded coin already minted. It is now available from some U.S. dealers.
Vatican Proof Set
The annual release each spring of the new Vatican Proof and uncirculated sets is always an important event for collectors of European coins. These sets are issued in small numbers, especially the proof version, and are made to very high standards of quality by the Italian Mint. This year’s sets are especially noteworthy because they are the first to depict the profile of Pope Francis, perhaps the world’s most popular man. Last year the Vatican issued some silver commemoratives that depicted the new pope, but these are the first regular issue coins with his image. Initial prices for the new sets in Europe have been running higher than usual due to both the depiction of Pope Francis and a reduction in the mintage.
Canadian Birds of Prey and Bison Series
The Royal Canadian Mint has begun two successor series to popular series that ended last year.
First, there is a Birds of Prey silver coin series that is being issued in both bullion and numismatic versions, beginning with the Peregrine falcon coin that has already been issued in both forms. The series is similar to the wildlife bullion series, and will also have a mintage of one million coins each as that series did, but this time a more limited mintage will also be made of Proof versions of the coins with 20,000 to be issued of two designs per year over a two-year period.
The second series is a set of coins depicting bison, which are the largest land animals in North America, and the series is a successor to the very successful bald eagle series of four Proof coins issued last year. If any animal is as popular among North American collectors as bald eagles, it is bison, also known as buffaloes. In fact, bison are the subject of an excellent new book by Q. David Bowers that has just been published by Whitman (Buffalo Coins: America’s Favorite), which I will be discussing soon in another article.
The coins in the new series will have a mintage of only 7,500 like the bald eagle coins did, and they are selling out very quickly, as last year’s coins did as well. The second coin was issued recently and used a design that first appeared on a platinum coin last year. I think it is a good idea to reuse solid designs – especially when it means making them more accessible than the original version because they are made of a less expensive metal.
There are also some great coins out of France recently that depict a classic French numismatic symbol, the rooster, in a more modern and stylized form than on the old coins. A bullion version in silver in both 100 and 10 euro sizes is sold at face value in France, and a Proof version of the smaller coin is also sold individually and in the new 2014 Proof set.
The rooster coins are the latest series in a line that began with a modernized Sower and continued with modernized Hercules coins. Gold versions of the coin were also issued and sold at face value in France.
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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 insightful retrospective on the American Silver Eagle is the cover feature of the February 2014 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.