By Chris Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
Two limited-edition spherical silver $5 coins with blue enamel depicting the Earth struck for Barbados by Münzen und Prägungen (MDM) this year are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. With mintages of 999 each, one of the spherical “Blue Marble” coins has its continents rendered in antiqued silver finish, while the landmasses are plated in 24k rose gold on the other.
Both coins measure 50 mm in diameter and contain three troy ounces of .999 fine silver. The coin with an antiqued silver finish weighs 93.3 grams, those plated with gold a gram less. The spherical coins are hollow with “Cut-Outs” according to MDM’s website.
Translucent blue enamel colors the world’s seven seas and large inland bodies of water, applied by hand according to MDM’s website. Barbados’ coat of arms, which would normally appear on the obverse of Barbadian coins, appears in place of Antarctica within a “gilded circle” and was applied by water transfer printing. Two numerals of the date appear on either side of the coat of arms and the denomination and “3 OUNCES”, and its silver fineness “AG .999” curve below. “BARBADOS” appears above.
2021 is the second year of the series. The seven continents appeared in silver, without the antiqued finish, last year. The antiqued finish, along with a darker blue enamel, is meant to represent “the world at night.”
MDM is a German-based coin wholesaler headquartered in Braunschweig.
The coins are legal tender in Barbados, though anyone spending them at face value is unlikely. The coins’ bullion value stands at more than $78 at the time of writing in mid-April, 2021. Five Barbadian dollars were worth roughly $2.50 USD at the time of writing.
MDM published a recommended retail price of $349 or 299 euros and the coins were sold through a number of retailers including Modern Coin Mart, GovMint.com, and Bullion Exchange. A Certificate of Authenticity and display case were included.
2021-dated examples began appearing on eBay with prices multiple times their suggested retail price. Bids exceeding $600 have been recorded on a number of listings, and many “buy it now” options exceeding $1,000. Three examples with the antiqued silver finish have sold for $800 since January 2021. Stocks of the coins purchased by many retailers have sold out, as has MDM. Small mintages and a unique design appear to be driving the secondary market for these coins.
In 2020, the Blue Marble coins sold out quickly; MDM’s website for the 2021 issue recommended “fast action” to retailers interested in the coins.
Spherical coins were introduced in 2015, when the Mint of Poland introduced its own take on the globe with a seven-dollar coin for the island of Niue, based on a map hand-drawn in 1638 by William Janszoon Blaeu, Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula. The coin was intended to honor the New Seven Wonders of the World and was introduced at the technical forum at the World’s Money Fair in Berlin on January 29, 2015. Seven Swarovski crystals mark the location of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” selected in an international contest in 2007. The .999 fine silver coins were struck using a six-part die setup and four collar dies and its mintage was capped at 1,007.
Other spherical coins have appeared since the mid-2010s. Samoa in 2020 authorized a basketball-shaped spherical silver coin, the same year that the U.S. Mint commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame with its first concave coins. 2,020 of Samoa’s spherical basketball coins were struck. In 2008 and 2014, fantasy spherical Somalian coins were struck as part of a series demonstrating unusual three-dimensional shapes for coins; since they were not officially recognized as coins by the Somali government, they were not the first-ever spherical coins.
The “Blue Marble” coins are not MDM’s first spherical offering. In 2019, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, MDM released a spherical coin textured like the lunar surface, with an astronaut’s bootprint on its face. MDM also offers coins with multilayered strikes, 4-in-1 three-dimensional globe-shaped coins, and coins struck from a number of different metals with different colors and finishes.
Earth is not the only planet to appear as a spherical Barbadian coin this year. Another $5 coin with a red antiqued finish “realised with a red colour spray” containing an ounce of .999 fine silver was struck in 2021 and released by MDM’s subsidiary World Coin Association. Like the Blue Marble coins of 2020-2021, the Barbadian coat of arms was applied via Water Transfer Printing. The coins measure 33 mm in diameter and weigh 31.1 grams. Its mintage is restricted to 1,999 pieces and the coins are packaged in a small box with two clear windows.
Collectors interested in adding the spherical Blue Marble coins to their collections may have to lay out quite a bit more than the retail price suggested by MDM. Some of the higher “buy it now” prices on eBay may not be realized, but completed auctions suggest that the suggested retail price underestimated demand.