Editor's note: The following is the first of a multi-part Coin
World series about the prominence of space-themed collector coins
from all over the world prepared by Louis Golino for the October
2015 monthly edition.
The two most important attributes of a modern coin for the typical
collector are the coin’s theme and design. A collector who finds those
aspects of a coin compelling and complementary is likely to want the coin.
Of the myriad themes depicted on modern world issues, astronomy and
space are certainly among the most popular.
Exactly why so many coin collectors have an interest in astronomy is
unclear, but it could have something to do with the fact that many
people started collecting coins when they were children. Children are
often fascinated by space travel, the solar system, and the planets,
especially if they were young when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon in
1969, or at the time of John Glenn’s space orbit in 1962.
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Many coins with space-related themes have been issued over the years
by world mints, but certain issues have been especially popular with
collectors and helped shape interest in this segment of numismatics.
Many of them have also been strong performers on the secondary market
and are some of the most innovative modern coins ever minted.
French astronomy coins
In 2009 the Paris Mint in France issued silver and gold coins to
commemorate the International Year of Astronomy.
Four coins were issued: a silver €10 coin, a silver €50 coin, a gold
€50 piece and a gold €200 coin with a blue center. The obverse depicts
an astronaut’s boot print on the moon, while the reverse shows the
planets and some stars.
Because the date coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Apollo
11 moon landing, many people see it as a coin commemorating that
event, which it does, but it was primarily issued to honor the
International Year of Astronomy that was marked in 2009.
All of these coins have since become collector favorites even among
those who do not collect French coins. And a key reason is that these
small silver and gold coins were shaped like the moon, convex on the
reverse representing the lunar surface, with a concave obverse showing
the bowl of the sky, an intriguing shape for a coin.
Dome-shaped coins have since become more common, but the 2009 French
issues were the first major modern world issues to be minted in this
unusual shape. And collectors found it compelling less because of the
novelty of the shape, and more because the shape was suited to the
subject matter. That is the same reason the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame
coins from the U.S. Mint were a hit.
In 2009 the Congo issued a coin honoring the 50th anniversary of the
lunar probe Luna III, which landed on the moon in 1959. The coin also
commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It
depicts the moon’s surface, though not with precise detail, and also
includes a small chip from the moon.
It was available for less than $100 when issued but today sells for
well over $500, garnering about $700 in a recent eBay auction. It is
not precisely clear why it has done so well, but the high value of the
coin is another testament to the popularity of coins that depict space themes.
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