Where no mints had gone before: Star Trek coins
- Published: Sep 19, 2016, 7 AM
Topical Topics column from the October edition of Coin World monthly:
In recent years it seems like virtually every movie or television series that features superheroes or other iconic characters has been the subject of a commemorative coin or series issued by a world mint.
But some of the subjects of these coins stand out from others and are of interest to more than just die-hard fans.
That is certainly the case with the original Star Trek series that began 50 years ago on Sept. 8, 1966, on NBC.
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That series, the creation of Gene Roddenberry, ran for only three seasons, ending on June 3, 1969, but it was followed by an animated version and numerous feature films and successor television series that have given the Star Trek franchise a significant place in popular culture and inspired legions of fans known as Trekkies.
Perhaps more importantly, the fictional 23rd century adventures of Star Trek also promoted interest in the U.S. space program and the study of astronomy and cosmology.
And that is undoubtedly related to the fact that the first television series ended just before the U.S. changed the course of history with the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Star Trek coins of Perth Mint, Royal Canadian Mint
Two major world mints, the Perth Mint in Australia and the Royal Canadian Mint, secured licensing rights to issue Star Trek coins from CBS, which now owns the rights to the original series. Both mints have issued a considerable number of well-designed and expertly minted coins on the Star Trek theme.
Capitalizing on several Canadian connections to the original Star Trek series, such as the fact that two actors, William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, commander of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), and chief engineer Scotty, played by James Doohan, were both born in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint launched a series of 11 silver and gold coins in May on the 50th anniversary of the first series.
Several of those coins depict the well-known Enterprise spaceship (arguably the most famous and recognizable science fiction spacecraft of all time), while others honor legendary episodes and the main characters of the series, which also included Spock and Lt. Uhura. The gold coin is in the shape of the delta shield that was worn by crew members.
In 2015 the Perth Mint launched an extensive series of colored silver coins that focused not just on the original series but also on each of the successor television series. For each series there is a coin for the respective captain and spaceship.
It is noteworthy that the most popular coins are those that depict Kirk, Spock, and the original Enterprise.
Latest Perth Mint coins
Those coins were followed in 2016 by a series of silver and gold coins specifically for the golden anniversary of the original series.
In July a set of two, colored, 1-ounce silver coins was issued, including one with an artistically compelling color portrait of actors Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in their roles as Capt. Kirk and Spock. They are shown holding a communicator and a tricorder, classic Star Trek gadgets, against a backdrop of stars, planets, and 23rd century space craft technology. The second coin shows the Enterprise flying through space at warp speed.
While the coin with Kirk and Spock, having a 5,000-coin mintage, was also sold individually, the set was limited to 1,500 units and is the only way to obtain the colorized Enterprise coin. The sets, which sold out quickly, were sold in the transporter-shaped package that was also used for the two-coin sets issued in 2015.
Then there is a 1-ounce silver bullion coin sold in capsules, like all Perth Mint bullion, that also shows the Enterprise and has a mintage of 50,000 coins. A total of 1,701 (the ship number for the Enterprise) of those coins were reserved for sale in Australia and sold in a special presentation card, so only 48,299 coins are available outside Australia. They are sold at bullion-related prices, and the carded coins also generate Australian tax revenue.
By law a portion of all Australian coins must be reserved for sale within that country.
Perth’s Makeila Ellis, who handles press inquiries for the mint, explained to Coin World: “The Star Trek bullion coin was introduced to trial a licensed bullion coin. At this point in time it is not the first in a new series but is part of our overall range of 50th anniversary products. 30,000 of the coins were sold in the first two days.”
She also noted that the two-coin colored set was “produced specifically for the First Commemorative Mint of the USA,” which received “half of the mintage of both products.” As a result, North American buyers were not able to purchase those coins directly from Perth and were directed to U.S.-based distributors for Perth coins.
Perth also released three high-relief coins that depict the Enterprise, including 1- and 5-ounce silver coins and a 1-ounce gold piece. The respective mintages are 6,000, 800, and 400, and each coin features the 50th anniversary logo.
Another exclusive issue
Ellis also said those coins are exclusive to GovMint in the United States (and also sold by Modern Coin Mart, which is owned by the same company, Asset Marketing Services). Both companies sold both ungraded and graded versions of these coins, including some that feature labels signed by Shatner.
With a mintage of just 800 coins, and some of them reserved for sale within Australia, not many of the 5-ounce coins are available.
Perth is perhaps the leading world mint when it comes to producing coins in high-relief, and these coins certainly meet the exacting standards of craftsmanship for which the mint has a well-deserved reputation.
In September, Perth issued another silver coin, this one in the shape of the delta shield, that carries a mintage limit of 5,000 coins and features the 50th anniversary-delta shield logo. It comes housed in an acrylic display case.
Science fiction and astronomy are undoubtedly topics that appeal to many coin enthusiasts, as previous Coin World articles have suggested, but over the long term, the success of the Star Trek coins will be shaped by how much crossover appeal exists between coin collectors and Star Trek fans.
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