By CoinWeek .....
2016 may go down as one of the most captivating years for coin design in recent memory as Mints large and small combined to produce hundreds of designs for circulating and non-circulating coins.
In a highly competitive vote, France’s one-ounce .999 gold Queen Matilda 200 euro coin has been named CoinWeek’s Best Coin Design of 2016, narrowly beating out an extraordinary field of finalists struck at more than a dozen of the world’s leading mints.
CoinWeek’s Best Coin Design winners were selected following two rounds of voting: a preliminary round, where CoinWeek’s editors selected 24 finalists out of more than 300 coins from around the world, and a final round of voting where CoinWeek's editors and senior writers voted on the top designs of 2016. The top five coins were then awarded with one gold medal, two silver medals and two bronze medals, respectively.
In January 2017, the manufacturer of each of the winning designs will be presented with a plaque from CoinWeek.
GOLD MEDAL – Women of France: Queen Matilda 200 Euro Gold Coin – Monnaie De Paris
The Queen Matilda 200 Euro gold coin is the second design of the Monnaie de Paris’ Women of France series released in 2016, and the second coin design issued in the series overall.
The Women of France follows the Monnaie de Paris’ successful and artistically striking France: From Clovis to the Republic, 1500 years of French History series (2011-2015). Both feature gold and silver coins struck using a method that evokes the look of medieval hammered coins.
For our Gold Award, CoinWeek’s editors and writers selected the 200-euro denomination, which is struck on 31.104 grams of .999 gold and measures 37 mm. The Matilda design is also available in a quarter-ounce 50 euro coin and a 22.2 gram 10 euro silver coin. The mintage on the 200-euro denomination is 500.
The coin’s obverse, features a Victorian-era portrait of Matilda, a French woman of noble birth, who became the Queen Consort of England after her marriage to William the Conqueror (formerly, William the Bastard). Accentuating the portrait is a field filled with tiny scrollwork, which is emblematic of period decorative textile artwork.
The textile theme carries over the coin’s reverse, which features a striking design adapted from the Bayeaux Tapestry, depicting three Norman knights on horseback. Above them, a celestial visitor: Haley’s Comet.
The Bayeaux Tapestry is an important piece of Norman artwork that miraculously survives to this day. Legend implicates Queen Matilda and her ladies-in-waiting were responsible for the production of the 230-foot long narrative embroidery. Scholarly research carried out in recent years points in a different direction, however.
CoinWeek feels that this design expertly balances modern mint techniques with an appropriate reverence for the period it depicts. The intricate use of texture and the heavily stylized artwork does not take away from what is essentially a simple and clean design. “With this design, the Monnaie de Paris continues their fine tradition of making high end modern coins emblematic of French history for the aspirational collector,” said CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan.
The Queen Matilda 200-euro 1 ounce gold coin is available for purchase through APMEX: http://www.apmex.com/product/96793/2016-1-oz-proof-gold-200-women-of-france-queen-matilda
The 10-euro 1 silver Queen Matilda coin can also be purchased for $69 in an NGC PF69 holder through ModernCoinMart.
SILVER MEDAL – Wildlife in Our Sights: The Fox 100 Euro Gold Coin – Austrian Mint
Austria's 100-euro gold “Fox” is the fourth gold coin in the Austrian Mint’s “Wildlife in Our Sights” program. The series of gold coins pays homage to a variety of species of animals native to Austria. This year’s design marks the fourth in the series and honors the European red fox, a member of the canine family that inhabits much of the Northern Hemisphere.
Retired Chief Engraver of the Austrian Mint Thomas Pesendorfer and expert engraver Herbert Wähner designed both sides of the coin. When CoinWeek visited the Austrian Mint in February, we were given the opportunity to peer into the finishing stages of the coin’s design. In this CoinWeek video, you can watch Wähner hard at work, applying fine detail to the fox featured on the coin’s obverse.
His technique illustrated an impressive marriage between traditional hand engraving and digital design.
It is the opinion of CoinWeek, that the resulting coin was the best design of an impressive year for the Vienna-based mint. In total, four 2016 Austrian Mint coins appeared in CoinWeek’s Top 10 tally.
Last year, the Austrian Mint’s Capercaille was CoinWeek’s consensus pick for Best Design of 2015.
As for this year’s Silver winner, the coin’s obverse depicts a Fox sitting in a patch of wild grass. Filigree scroll ornaments wrap around the rim at the bottom of the design, while the legend REPUBLIK OSTERREICH is inscribed along the top. The reverse features a family of foxes in a serene wooden scene. Detail fills the canvas and is completely unimpeded by text.
The Fox can be purchased directly from the Austrian Mint at:
SILVER MEDAL – American Platinum Eagle $100 Proof – United States Mint
When it comes to international coin design competitions, the United States Mint, the most successful numismatic coin producing mint in the world, is typically at a structural disadvantage.
For starters, the U.S. Mint is limited to the number of commemorative coin products that it can issue in any given year by Congress. In 2016, the United States Mint issued two official commemorative coin programs: one honoring Mark Twain and another honoring the National Park Service. The Royal Canadian Mint, by comparison, issued more than 250 different collectible coins during the same time frame.
The design of American coinage is also highly restrictive. Not only does the United States Congress set the parameters of what motifs, themes, denominations and inscriptions must appear on any given coin struck at the United States Mint, but the designs must go through a lengthy bureaucratic process before being sent to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval.
One might argue the benefits of such a process and such production limits, but it's hard to refute the clear evidence that the impact of this process mutes the potential for innovation that might arise if the Mint were allowed to experiment and be creative with its annual numismatic portfolio.
Having said that, the U.S. Mint does create a world-class product in terms of quality. Nearly every collector coin that leaves the U.S. Mint’s distribution facility is perfect or within an acceptable margin of being perfect. The quality of the planchets and dies used to strike coins is top notch. And on the occasion that a U.S. Mint product is coupled with an excellent design, the results are quite striking.
Such is the case with the 2016 American Platinum Eagle $100 Proof coin, a coin that CoinWeek Ancients writer Mike Markowitz calls “dynamic and lively” and designed “in the best traditions of classical numismatics”.
John Mercanti’s close-up portrayal of the Statue of Liberty returns and is joined by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Paul C. Balan’s majestic depiction of Liberty and the American bald eagle. The design was sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.
Enthusiastic collector response to the design resulted in the coin’s immediate sell-out. Despite having an issue price of $1,350 USD, the coin’s 10,000 mintage sold out in under an hour.
PCGS-certified PR70 Platinum Eagles are currently available for as little as $1,895 at apmex.com.
BRONZE MEDAL – Gaol Bird Convict Love Token $1 Copper Coin – Royal Australian Mint
Populated by more than 200 aboriginal tribes dating back at least 40,000 years before European colonization, Australia was eventually overtaken by the British, who were still smarting after the loss of most of their North American territory following the American Revolutionary War.
The Australian continent was a dangerous yet valuable asset for the Empire. It began to colonize the land in earnest, sending ships, uniformed military and thousands of convicts who would be used to secure and keep the land out of the hands of other European powers.
The convicts came from all walks of life. Some were criminals in the traditional sense; some were political prisoners (Scottish Martyrs, Swing Rioters, and Yorkshire Rebels); others were simply petty criminals, people displaced by the industrial revolution and caught stealing low value items such as food, small amounts of money, or clothing.
Putting a human face on the experiences of these expatriated Britons is a series of Convict Love Token copper one dollar coins struck by the Royal Australian Mint. Each coin is fashioned using a primitive engraving style that recalls the hand-carved tokens of the period. For many, creating these tiny pieces of folk art was a way to maintain an emotional attachment to family and home.
Out of all of the more than 300 coins we looked at, the Gaol Bird design was the personal favorite of more than one of CoinWeek's editors. It features an incuse chained bird (a “jail bird”) adapted from an original work by convict-artist Thomas Tilley. The bird is carved into a planed down basin and resembles a style of coin artwork that became immensely popular in the United States in the 1910s when “hobo nickels” came to fore.
The obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley’s likeness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II against a horizontally-run granular surface. The composition of the coin and the metal are a perfect match and demonstrates that great coin design does not have to be overly technical or elaborate; it must have a reason to be and emotional gravity.
A great online resource to learn more about Convict Love Tokens can be found on the National Museum of Australia’s website.
The coin can be purchased directly from the Royal Australian Mint at:
The current retail price is $24.95 Australian dollars.
BRONZE MEDAL – Flora in Art: Contemporary Age 20-Euro Gold Coin – Italian Mint
The 2016 marks the close of Italy’s Flora in Art, or Flora Nell Arte 20-euro gold coin series. The six-coin series debuted in 2011 and, with the exception of the 2012 and 2015 issues, all bear the art of designer Annalisa Masini. For the 2016 issue, the frescoes of Ettore de Maria Bergler (1850-1938) serve as the inspiration.
On the obverse is the likeness of Floralia, a female figure painted by Bergler on fresco and now exhibited at the Villa Igiea Palermo. It is a delicately rendered likeness that dominates the obverse of this 21 mm gold coin.
The reverse depicts a highly detailed figure holding an ornate floral garland. This whimsical design is another Bergler interpretation of Floralia. The graceful lines of the female figure and the swooping curves of the floral garland recall the very best in European coinage at the turn of the 20th century and draw inspiration from the distinctively continental style of Art Nouveaux.
In selecting this design, CoinWeek’s writers and editors recognize the continued high-quality work of the Italian Mint.
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