By Tyler Rossi for CoinWeek …..
In 1958, the Belgian comic artist Pierre “Peyo” Culliford created Les Schtroumpfs. These lovable little blue dwarfs–more commonly known by their Dutch name, Smurfs–have since become famous across the world. Initially printed in the Belgian comics magazine Spirou and viewed as secondary characters for Peyo’s other series Johan & Pirlouit, The Smurfs quickly became the best-selling Belgian comic, eclipsing even Hergé’s Tintin.
Background of The Smurfs
The name “Schtroumpf” has a funny origin story.
One night, while eating dinner at a restaurant with a friend, Peyo meant to ask for his friend to pass the salt. But instead of saying “Passez-moi le sel” (“Give me the salt”), he said “Passez-moi le schtroumpf” (“Give me the Smurf”). This made-up word became an inside joke between the two men and was used quite often. As a result, Peyo knew just what to name his little blue creations. After several years, the Smurfs finally gained their first solo appearance in a 1959 mini-booklet known as “mini-récits”.
By the 1980s, Les Schtroumpfs had truly become a global phenomenon. In response to their skyrocketing popularity, Peyo created the B Schtroumpf magazine, a new cartoon company, and various merchandising campaigns. In fact, Smurfs comics have been translated into more than 41 languages, made into a 1980s TV series, two Franco-Belgian movies and three US feature films.
So, who are the Smurfs?
While most are blue-skinned with white outfits, their leader “Le Grand Schtroumpf”, or Papa Smurf, has a beard and wears a red outfit. They live in a small woodland village with houses made from large mushrooms. While mainly focused on their daily exploits, the Smurfs also interact occasionally with their main nemesis: an evil wizard called Gargamel and his red cat Azrael. These characters’ names are highly symbolic. Gargamel is taken from the famous 17th-century French novel Gargantua and Pantagruel, while the cat is named after the Semitic angel of death.
Quickly, Peyo created many new individual Smurf characters. For example: “Schtroumpf à Lunettes” (Brainy Smurf), “Schtroumpf Bêta” (Clumsy Smurf), “Schtroumpf Farceur” (Jokey Smurf), “Schtroumpf Coquet” (Vanity Smurf), “Schtroumpf Costaud” (Hefty Smurf), “Schtroumpf Gourmand” (Greedy Smurf), “Schtroumpf Paresseux” (Sleepy Smurf), “Schtroumpf Musicien” (Harmony Smurf) and the nihilistic “Schtroumpf Grognon” (Grouchy Smurf), with many others appearing as the comic series grew.
Monnaie de Paris Smurfs Coins
In 2020, the Monnaie De Paris began the production of a variety of Les Schtroumpfs coins. This initial offering included only 13 different coins. Now, however, in 2021, there are 34 coins in the series, ranging from colorized 34 mm “mini-medals” struck in “yellow metal” that sell for 5.50 euros to three-gram .999 fine gold coins with a face value of 200 euros.
Currently on offer at the Monnaie De Paris are six of the “mini-medals”. All are colorized and depicts Papa Smurf, Gargamel and Azrael, Chef Smurf, Hefty Smurf, Smurfette, and Brainy Smurf on the obverses. On the reverse is the mint seal surrounded by a ring of 28 stars. All of the mini-medals, which have no face value, weigh 15.8g, have mintages of 20,000 pieces, and come with a small cardboard holder with graphic images of the Smurfs.
The next product level is the “circulating quality” silver 10 Euro coin. These coins are struck from .333 fine silver, and there are currently 10 of these types available. Each depicts a Smurf on the obverse. Examples include Hefty Smurf, Tailor Smurf, Cosmonaut Smurf, and Reporter Smurf. The reverse of these coins shows the denomination encircled by a wreath, the legend (République Française), and three interlocking hexagons. These coins cost 11 euros each and come with a cardboard holder (similar to the one that accompanies the mini-medal) that has a comic book frame picture of the individual Smurf depicted on the enclosed coin.
Priced at 13 euros, the Monnaie De Paris offers 10 colorized versions of the 10 euro silver coins. While these types feature different Smurfs than the non-colorized versions, they are essentially the same. Only the main character is colorized. Each design, both colorized and non-colorized, has a mintage of 75,000 pieces.
Four 50 euro coins, the next denomination, are available for purchase from the mint for 59 euros. At 41 mm and 41 g, these four coins are slightly larger than the 10 euro types. They also have more colorization. Each coin either has two colorized Smurfs, or, in the case of Papa Smurf, a tableau of the head Smurf mixing a potion. All four of these coins have the same reverse as the 10 and 200 euro types and have a mintage of 20,000 pieces.
Lastly, the Monnaie de Paris is offering two gold pieces. Both types are the same size (20 mm & 3 g) and mintage (10,000). Their designs are also similar. The first type pictures five generic Smurfs dancing in a circle as a “symbol of their friendship and of the strong values they share within the village.” Housed in a handsome black holder with a gold-embossed version of the obverse design, this coin is priced at 200 euro.
The second type depicts three running Smurfs who collectively represent “the camaraderie, friendship, etc. that reigns in the village”. This design choice is reinforced by the French national motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, which is included in the obverse design above the running Smurfs. In contrast to the other gold piece, this second type is encased in a gold-embossed white case. Both gold coins are marketed as Brilliant Uncirculated while all other coins in this series are circulating quality.
Overall, this series is a playful and colorful homage to the work of one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th century. This is reflected in the fact that 11 of the 34 types are currently sold out on Monnaie De Paris’s website. They are, of course, available on the secondary collectors market.
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About the Author
Tyler Rossi is currently a graduate student at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management and studies Sustainable International Development and Conflict Resolution. Before graduating from American University in Washington D.C., he worked for Save the Children creating and running international development projects. Recently, Tyler returned to the US from living abroad in the Republic of North Macedonia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. Tyler is an avid numismatist and for over a decade has cultivated a deep interest in pre-modern and ancient coinage from around the world. He is a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA).