A new pope means new coins.
The historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI as leader of the
Catholic Church, and subsequently over the Vatican City, will result
in many new coins.
The first coins to be issued will mark the Sede Vacante, or
“vacant seat,” the period between one pope and the next. The Catholic
News Agency reported and an official involved in the production of the
coins confirmed the Vatican’s plans to mark the “vacant seat” period
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, effective
Feb. 28. A conclave to elect a new leader is expected sometime in mid-March.
A circulating commemorative €2 coin will mark the Sede Vacante. It
will have a mintage of 125,000 pieces, according to an official
involved in the coin’s production.
The €2 coin is the only one of the eight circulating euro
denominations that will be changed to mark the Sede Vacante, since it
is the only denomination eurozone rules permit to be changed.
When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, the Vatican issued a Sede
Vacante circulating euro collector set, angering European Commission
officials who later clarified the rules about issuing circulating euro
coins to ensure that a similar situation would not happen again.
Eurozone rules allow for countries to issue new national side
(obverse) designs with the change in national leadership, but the
Vatican’s interpretation of the rules, and subsequent release of two
new sets of designs (Sede Vacante, Pope Benedict) within about a year,
was not looked upon favorably.
New circulating coin designs, featuring the newly elected pope,
are expected no later than next year.
Although the €2 coin marking the Sede Vacante is designated as a
circulating coin, it will not actually circulate. The Vatican issues a
limited number of euro coins, generally targeted at collectors. This
practice led the European Commission to mandate that the Vatican
circulate at least some of the coins, so, since 2010, small quantities
of 50-cent coins are released yearly in Vatican City.
Vatican officials have not confirmed how the 2013 Sede Vacante
coin will be released. However, considering the way the Vatican’s €2
coins have been released in the past, it is likely that the Sede
Vacante €2 coin will be offered in special packaging with a Brilliant
In addition, the Vatican will issue a Sede Vacante silver €5 coin
(mintage of 10,000 pieces) and a Sede Vacante gold €10 coin (mintage
of 5,000 pieces).
Images of and further details about any of the Sede Vacante coins
are not yet available.
The €2 coin will become the first of two commemorative coins of
that denomination to be released this year. The other coin, scheduled
for release late in the year, does not make reference to Pope Benedict
XVI and apparently does not require design modification. The second €2
coin commemorates the 28th World Youth Day, scheduled for Rio de Janeiro.
However, an official related to coinage production confirms that
collector coins planned for release later this year that were to show
Pope Benedict XVI or a reference to him will instead show or refer to
the new pontiff. The themes on the reverses will remain unchanged.
2013 program details
Details about the 2013 program were distributed during the World
Money Fair in Berlin in early February.
The Vatican plans to release a coin card containing a BU example
of the 50-cent coin, as well as a BU set of all eight euro denominations.
One of two Proof sets contains a silver €20 coin celebrating the
birth bicentennial of composer Giuseppe Verdi, while the other set
will contain a gold €50 coin commemorating the birth bicentennial of
composer Richard Wagner.
Commemorative coins planned for 2013 include two silver pieces, a
€5 coin marking the 46th World Day of Peace and a €10 issue
celebrating the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Three gold commemorative coins are planned, including two coins
from the Popes of the Renaissance series — a €20 coin honoring Pope
Julius II and a €50 coin for Leo X. A gold €100 coin is also
scheduled, to depict the Sistine Madonna from Michelangelo’s famous work.
For the silver €20 and gold €50 coins available only in Proof
sets, as well as the two coins in the Popes of the Renaissance series,
designers will need to replace the BENEDICTVS XVI reference with the
new leader’s name. The World Day of Peace, World Day of Prayer and
Sistine Madonna coins will also require a new portrait and updated legends.
There is no word yet as to how the change in ruler will affect or
possibly delay the release of the coin program. Officials from the
Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office, as customary, did not
respond to multiple inquiries about the new pope and new coins.
The Vatican City is not an official part of the eurozone, the 17
nations where euro coins and paper money circulate, but because it has
long had a monetary agreement with Italy to use the Italian currency,
when Italy adopted the euro, so did Vatican City. Monaco and San
Marino have similar agreements, and all three small nations issue
commemorative euro coins directed at collectors. These coins are often
extremely limited in mintage (because of a eurozone formula that bases
mintages on population) and popularly collected. ■