By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
Pope Francis I is currently on a tour of Southeast Asia, and a few nations are commemorating his travels with limited-edition coins. This includes Sri Lanka, where the pope adorns a 500-rupee silver piece, and the Philippines, where a special four-coin set will be released two at a time over the course of the year.
(The Central Bank of the Philippines also recently issued three circulating commemorative coins, which you can read about here.)
On Wednesday, January 14, The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officially announced the sale of limited-edition 50- and 500-piso coins to commemorate Pope Francis I’s “state and pastoral” visit to the Philippines. At a press conference for the announcement, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo gave details of the commemorative coin and program.
The coins are legal tender in the Philippines, with face values of P50 and P500. The BSP is charging P100 and P1,000, respectively, for each coin.
The 50-piso is made of a nickel brass alloy consisting of 70-80% copper, 20-25% zinc and 1-5% nickel. The 500-piso is made of nordic gold with gold plating. Nordic gold is an alloy of 89% copper, 5% aluminum, 5% zinc and 1% tin, originally developed by the Swedish Mint for its 1991 10-kronor piece.
The obverse of each coin features a different portrait of Pope Francis. The P50 has a smiling pope without glasses, while the P500 features a waving Francis with glasses. A smaller, less detailed portrait hovers over his right shoulder in both instances, though the denomination “50 PISO” obscures much of the secondary portrait on the P50 coin.
REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS runs along the upper left edge of each obverse, and the pope’s signature is directly under his portrait.
The year 2015 is in different locations on each coin: the 50-piso includes it in the exergue under the pope’s signature, while the 500-piso has it on the right edge.
Where the date is on the P500 is where the inscription POPE FRANCIS is on the P50 obverse. The P500 has the inscription HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS between the pope’s portrait and his signature.
BSP’s mint mark is visible to Pope Francis’ left on the P50, and to the right of his hand on the P500.
Each reverse is identical. The main design includes the BSP seal and the branded logo of the papal visit, which is an abstract rendering of one person embracing another and the Holy Cross. Behind these motifs are the English words “Mercy and Compassion” in small lettering. The date JANUARY 15-19, 2015 is on the lower right edge of the coin, and the English phrase PAPAL VISIT | PHILIPPINES is on the upper left.
The coins come in a special box and are issued under a licensing agreement with the Vatican.
Order forms are available to download from the BSP’s website: www.bsp.gov.ph. Once completed, email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org. Customers then receive an email telling them where and when they can pick up their coin. Pope Francis I commemoratives are not available over the counter at the BSP.
Reserve forms can be submitted until June 2015.
The other two coins in the series, a P1,000 silver and a P10,000 gold version, will be available in May.
This is the fourth time the Central Bank has released coins celebrating the pope’s visit to the predominantly Roman Catholic island nation. Papal coins were issued commemorating Pope Paul VI’s visit in 1970, and Pope John Paul II’s two trips in 1981 and 1995.
The program also marks a change for the P500 commemorative, where Pope Francis replaces Benigno Aquino, Jr., the late Philippine politician, on the obverse.
At the time of writing, 1 Philippine Peso (PHP) trades for approx. $0.02 (USD).
Sri Lanka has also released a commemorative in honor of the pope’s visit to the country. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka, headquartered in Colombo, the nation’s commercial capital and largest city, has issued a 500-rupee silver coin to commemorate the tour.
The obverse features a front portrait of the pope, surrounded by 33 honeysuckle flowers designed in a traditional Sinhalese style.
Around the edge are the inscriptions PAPAL VISIT SRI LANKA and 13-15 JANUARY 2015, with “January” written in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
The reverse features the official logo of the visit. It consists of the Sri Lanka cross surrounded by the pope’s mitre hat, with the “Apostle of Sri Lanka”, Joseph Vaz, standing in the middle and holding the cross. The overall design is meant to resemble a lotus bud.
Under the logo is the face value of 500 rupees.
The word “rupees” is also given in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
An ancient Sri Lankan leafy scroll motif–liya wela–encircles the design. The liya wela is made of 40 Nā flowers, 120 Nā buds, 120 Nā leaves and 120 dots in a circle.
The Nā tree, or Ceylon Ironwood (so named for its density and weight), is the national tree of Sri Lanka. It is native to the wet, tropical areas of Sri Lanka, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines.
One coin each was presented to both Pope Francis and the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, in a special ceremony held on Tuesday, January 13.
At the time of writing, one Sri Lankan rupee (LKR) trades for almost $0.01 (USD).