Technology allows amazing relief with less metal
- Published: Nov 18, 2016, 4 AM
Coin collectors have long been drawn to high relief coins because of their increased three-dimensionality, bringing designs to life in a way that lower relief coins do not.
High relief issues tend to be associated with modern coins, especially commemorative issues produced by world mints, and with medals.
But in fact the coins of ancient Greece and Rome also often had impressive reliefs. That is why when President Theodore Roosevelt tasked sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens with starting a renaissance in American coinage, he wanted the coins to be as impressive as those ancient issues. And the 1907 Saint-Gaudens, Extremely High Relief gold double eagle pattern was the best example of that approach.
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However, striking coins in high (and especially, extremely high) relief using modern technologies has been very challenging, and it has involved certain inherent limitations such as smaller planchets.
In February 2016 at the World Money Fair in Berlin, Coin Invest Trust, a company based in Liechtenstein that creates concepts for world coins that are then struck by the German mint, B.H. Mayer, unveiled an entirely new approach to high relief coins that overcomes previous barriers to producing these issues.
CIT unveils Smartminting
Called smartminting, Coin Invest Trust says this approach “pushes the boundaries, facilitates new specifications, and sets new standards” for commemorative coins. It is used to produce high relief coins with two to four times the usual relief, with greater definition in the details of the design, and with increased three-dimensionality.
It is also a game changer because it does not require that high relief coins have smaller diameters than regular relief issues, and the process makes it possible to produce coins of normal relief with much less metal than before.
Smartminting has been used on a number of coins from Coin Invest Trust released in 2016 to achieve four main goals.
First, it allows somewhat higher relief coins to be struck with standard weight planchets, whereas prior to the introduction of this technology, high relief coins had to be issued on planchets about half the normal diameter.
This issue came up recently with the American Liberty silver medals. The U.S. Mint said it could not issue them in both high relief and on the same size planchets as those for American Eagle silver dollars, two features that had been recommended by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
Second, the new technique makes it possible to produce coins with extraordinarily high relief with only slightly increased coin weights.
Third, it enables the issuance of coins with much larger than usual diameters “on standard weight coins while maintaining relief height.”
Fourth, coins with greatly reduced weights can be struck with standard relief height.
Coin Invest Trust’s Great Tea Race silver coins in 2016 are good examples of these different achievements.
The Great Tea Race of 1866 was an effort by two clipper ships to see which one could bring tea crops from China more quickly to Great Britain.
All four .999 fine silver coins have a diameter of 38.61 millimeters, which is normally the size of a 1-ounce piece. One piece is an 8-gram regular relief $2 coin; another is a 15-gram (half-ounce) $2 coin; a third piece is a 1-ounce high relief $10 issue; and the heaviest piece is a 2-ounce ultra-high relief $20 coin.
Big Gold Minting
Beginning with the gold coins issued to mark the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote (to leave the European Union) on June 23, Coin Invest Trust launched a new way to make gold coins called Big Gold Minting, which makes it possible to produce gold coins that have large diameters and great detail but use much less gold than traditional minting would require.
For example, the Brexit gold 10th-ounce coin has a diameter of 26 millimeters, which is one-third greater than the normal diameter, 22.5 millimeters, for a gold coin of that weight.
More recently Coin Invest Trust launched a line of gold coins in weights from a half gram to 1 ounce to mark the 80th birthday of Pope Francis; these coins make even greater use of Big Gold Minting technology.
The thin gold coins have diameters much larger than is normal for their respective weights.
For example, the 1-ounce version has a diameter of 65 millimeters, which is almost 200 percent greater than normal 1-ounce gold coins. Similarly, the half-ounce version is 50 millimeters in diameter, and the quarter-ounce coin is 35 millimeters in diameter, or 15 percent larger than the 32.7-millimeter diameter of a American Eagle 1-ounce gold bullion coin.
Given how expensive gold is, and that Big Gold Minting enables coins with such impressive diameters to be made with so much less metal, this really could be a game changer for commemorative gold coins. Minting gold coins of impressive sizes and much more affordable than in the past, accessible to more people, would create the possibility of substantially expanding the market.
However, much will depend on the premium added to those coins. For example, the Brexit gold 10th-ounce coin sells for approximately $300, which is twice the cost of a tenth-ounce bullion coin.
Collectors and dealers have responded very well to the various Coin Invest Trust pieces using smartminting released since February, which include high relief coins such as the Saker Falcon half-gram gold and 1-ounce silver coins for Mongolia and many others.
Brian Tully, president of Choice Mint, said, “CIT has always been a leader in pushing boundaries in the modern numismatic world, and smartminting is no exception.” He said this technology was used on several of his company’s coins such as the forthcoming King Arthur series and that “the detail we were able to capture on the coin surface is incredible.”
At the American Numismatic Association World Fair of Money held in August, Coin Invest Trust launched another group of coins that use smartminting, including a 5-ounce silver coin for the Denali mountain range in Alaska, which provides a bird’s eye view of all the topographic detail of those mountains and has an impressive 65-millimeter diameter, and others.
Many of these pieces sold out quickly, often in pre-release, and they are distributed through a network around the world.
Coin Invest Trust coins, especially the Tiffany Art series, have won numerous awards, and they tend to appreciate, or at least hold their value, more than most modern world issues.
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