World Coins

Sede Vacante coins in progress

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 with coins.

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.

Circulating coins

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 Uncirculated finish.

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. ¦

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