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.
Sede 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.
The 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.
To 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 World, Numismatic 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 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.