By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
Krause Publications recently came out with its annual list of nominations for best world coins of the year, which is based on coins released in 2012, and is divided into numerous categories. Not surprisingly the Royal Canadian Mint topped the list with more nominations (eight) than any other country for the fourth year in a row. Krause uses a panel of expert judges, who vote on their preference for various categories like best silver crown, most innovative coin, most artistic, etc. In all they have eight categories of best coins.
I have compiled my own list of the best world coins issued in 2013, as I prefer to draw attention to coins issued in the past year, not those from the previous year, which many people may not remember. The list mostly reflects my own personal preferences, and of course other people will have their own choices. It is intended to stimulate debate, and I welcome any reactions or alternative suggestions in the comments section.
Overall, I used three main criteria in selecting what I believe are the best coins of 2013, and I have only selected two American coins, which I felt were the standouts from the offerings of the U.S. Mint, in large part because there are so many excellent world releases, and quite a few standouts there. The criteria were: overall design appeal based on artistic excellence and originality; coins that I feel will stand the test of time; and coins that I believe have good long-term potential for appreciation, but with the caveat that modern coins in particular should always be purchased mainly for enjoyment, not as investments.
The U.S. coins are the Buffalo reverse proof $50 gold, and the enhanced uncirculated American silver eagle from the 2013 West Point set. I feel that both coins make good use of the latest technologies the U.S. Mint is employing, and that both are distinctive enough to stand out from the large amount of coins issued by the Mint this year. It will help a lot if both are one year type coins, which will drive future values higher.This year’s five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coins had several strong designs too, and once the Mt. Rushmore coin is out, I would consider that one, but so far none are especially dazzling.
From the UK I selected the royal birth St. George slaying the dragon silver 5 pound proof coin with a mintage of 10K that sold out in a couple days, which was a major hit because of the widespread interest in the new British prince and because this was the first time in 100 years that this design appeared on a silver crown. There is a half-ounce BU version that I just received from a British colleague and friend that is nice, but the diameter is too small for such a striking design.
The Netherlands 2 euro coin for the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, an amazingly well designed bi-metallic coin that uses ribbons to create images of previous rulers of the Netherlands. The coin was issued in both circulation quality, BU quality, or what the Europeans call fleur de coin, and proof, but the intricate design of ribbons would have been even better on a larger canvass, a coin with a larger diameter than a 2 euro coin.
For the 50th anniversary of the slaying of President John F. Kennedy, who remains the most popular of postwar U.S. presidents, many countries around the world issued commemorative coins, and our own Mint has plans for a special half dollar set next year. In my view the two best coins are Ireland’s amazing JFK profile coin designed by Tom Fitzgerald and made in tribute of Kennedy’s trip to his ancestral home not long before he was assassinated, and San Marino’s elegant 5 euro silver proof coin with a special packaging normally used for their 2 euro commemoratives, which is somewhat ironic as the coin was originally supposed to be a 2 euro piece until the European Commission said they could not issue it because it would not have depicted a European theme.
From the Royal Canadian Mint it is so hard to pick because this Mint is at the forefront of numismatic design innovation, issuing all kinds of interesting pieces with multiple finishes, color, etc. However, the real standout is my view is the 4-coin set of bald eagle coins that recently concluded, whose artwork is absolutely superb. That surely has a lot to do with the fact that the coin’s artist, Claudio D’Angelo, has spent decades painting bald eagles. Plus the coins have a limited mintage of 7500, and each issue has sold out almost instantly.
The RCM has also released a large number of maple leaf-themed coins in the past year such as the new Canopy series and various Maple Leaf 25th anniversary anniversary coins. For me the best of the bunch for those on a budget who cannot afford the five ounce and kilo precious metal coins, or the dazzling fractional gold Maple Leaf set (which is actually dated 2014 anyway, and which is the first-ever to feature incused designs), my choice for best is the 2013 reverse proof piedfort Maple Leaf, the first reverse proof piedfort from the Mint. A piedfort is a double thick coin. The reverse proof technique is used very effectively to provide a different view on a familiar theme, something which the RCM is very good at.
Finally, from the French Mint, the world’s oldest, I would select the Notre Dame 850th anniversary silver 10 euro silver coin. The Mint issued numerous versions, including a 5 ounce silver one and gold coins in various sizes. I especially like the silver coins because they contain stained glass like the cathedral. For those who are really fond of Notre Dame, the Mint also issued a fantastic large silvered bronze medal with a mintage of only 850, one for each year the cathedral has existed. One side depicts the cathedral and highlights its infamous gargoyles, and the other depicts the entire stained glass window in intricate detail. The craftsmanship used to create this medal is really impressive, and you can find the medal for less than $200.So there you have it: Twelve excellent coins from 2013 that showcase the artistry and technical sophistication of the world’s mints. What coins would you choose and why?
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.