by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ……
2012 has been an amazing year for modern world coins with lots of interesting new issues and low mintage coin sell-outs.
Here are a couple of the more significant new and forthcoming world coin issues:
1.) Latvia Tribute coin
In late May the Bank of Latvia announced that it was striking a special tribute 5 Lati coin to mark the 90th anniversary of the first independent Latvian coinage. The original coin was produced between 1929 and 1932 and was in circulation during World War II. It has long been a favorite with world crown coin collectors, and was a symbol of Latvian independence from the former USSR.
I tracked down a nice example of the original coin on e-Bay that only cost me around $40, and it is a beautiful piece with about three-quarters of an ounce of silver.
A lot of collectors quickly expressed interest in how to obtain the tribute coin when it was announced in May.
To find out more I contacted Ola Borgejordet, owner of Royal Scandinavian Mint , who contacted the Bank of Latvia.
Here is the answer that he received from the Bank of Latvia, which he kindly passed along to me:
“Regarding the information published on the internet, it is slightly misleading as it was only a sample coin that was struck on 28 May, and the coin is not likely to be issued until the first days of November. The maximum mintage of the coin is set to 10,000 pieces. I am not able to advise the prices as they have not been adopted yet.”
Mr. Borgejordet sells Latvian coins at his web shop, and he told me he will try to track down some of these coins when they become available.
2.) Monaco issues 2 euro for 500th anniversary of sovereignty
Last year when I did an in-depth, two-part interview with Mr. Borgejordet on world coins and the market for them, I asked him about the coveted 2 euro coins issued by the tiny country of Monaco.
This is what he said about why Monaco coins are so expensive and hard to find: “Regarding Monaco, the answer is because they only ever mint a tenth of what the demand would require. A better question is “Why does Monaco always issue so few coins, and why are they more expensive than they should be even in the secondary market?” Monaco is allowed to issue coins under the French euro quota (1/500th of the coins minted by France), and its coins are always minted by the French Mint.”
“When the coins are delivered to the Monegasque authorities, its distribution is usually through a mixture of local coin dealers and a coin/stamp expo in Monaco where you are allowed to buy one item per ticket. The theory is that there are never enough coins available for interested visitors to the coin/stamp expo, and that there is some speculation going on because of the limited distribution channels. Who benefits from this and why it is allowed to continue, I don’t know. I do know that they received strong criticism from the EU Commission after they only minted 20,000 of the Grace Kelly €2 coins, and a lot of people couldn’t get them through advertised channels.”
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of its independence Monaco issued a special 2 euro coin in July in both proof and uncirculated finishes.
The proof coin has a mintage limited to 10,000 pieces, which as far as I know is the lowest mintage proof 2 euro Monaco has issued. As Mr. Borgejordet explained, the way Monaco coins are distributed makes it hard to track them down and drives up prices.
In 2010 and 2011 Monaco issued proof 2 euros that quickly rose on the secondary marketplace before the coins were even available, but prices settled down after their release. The 2010 coin had a 25,000 mintage, and the 2011 coin, which marked the marriage of Prince Albert II to an American woman, Charlene Whittstock, had a mintage of 59,820.
Time will tell if the same will happen with the new coin. But so far it has risen steadily over the past couple of weeks. It was initially available for about $200, and it is now bringing around $650.
That must seem like a lot of money to most people for a bi-metallic coin. But remember that the new coin has a much lower mintage than the coins issued in the previous two years and it uses an appealing design that has never appeared before. Moreover, the new piece has a lower mintage than the 2 euro coin issued in 2007 to honor Princess Grace Kelly, the famous American actress who married Prince Rainer III in the 1950's, which had a 20,000 mintage.
The Kelley coin is today worth about $2,000 and was initially available for about 110 euros, but dealers snapped up most of the coins, which quickly started rising in price. In addition, Princess Kelly was a beloved figure to people all over the world, and that has clearly played a role in the astronomic rise in the coin’s value in five years.
I do not expect the sovereignty coin to reach that level, but I do think the low mintage and attractive design that is unique to that coin and the large number of collectors and speculators in Monaco coinage should keep prices for this coin high and perhaps even over $1,000 eventually.
3.) Lunar snake coins coming soon
The 2012 Lunar dragon coins from the Perth Mint in Australia continue to draw interest, and colored versions of the one ounce dragon are being issued in connection with major coin shows in Australia. The blue dragon will be released in mid-August for those who still have dragon fever.
On September 3 the latest coin in the Lunar II series, the 2013 snake, will be released, and buyers are expected to quickly snap up 300,000 one ounce silver bullion coins and 30,000 one ounce gold coins. The bullion coins will also be issued in a variety of other sizes from half-ounce to a kilo.
Lunar snakes were last issued in 2001.
At this point it is not clear what other versions will be released, but I would expect there to be a three-coin silver proof set, a four-coin type set, possibly a high-relief version, and others.
The designs for the one ounce silver and gold bullion snakes, which Perth has not yet officially released, were made available by an online contributor named Bullion Barron, who runs several precious metal and lunar coin-related web sites. On Silver Lunar Bullion Barron posted leaked images of the 2013 snakes on July 17. However, at the request of the Perth Mint the images were removed on July 18.
It will be interesting to see if the 2013 snakes elicit as much interest and fever as the 2012 dragons did. Based on some early reactions to the leaked images, it appears that many collectors are more taken with the silver coin design.
The bullion versions will be available from bullion dealers all over the world, while the special collector sets and versions with limited mintages will be sold by Perth and its network of authorized distributors such as Downies, Talisman Coins, and other companies.
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.