A seminal moment in the American-Soviet “Space Race,” when Soviet
astronaut Yuri Gagarin slipped out of the earth’s atmosphere and
became the first man in space, is celebrated on new commemorative
coins from Kazakhstan and San Marino.
With his orbit into space during the Vostok I mission, Gagarin
made history April 12, 1961, but American Alan Shepard was not far
behind, becoming the first American into space with his trip on the
Mercury spaceship called Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961.
New circulating and commemorative coins from Kazakhstan honor
Gagarin’s flight, while a new collector coin from San Marino honors
the accomplishments of both men.
The National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan on March 29
released a circulating 50-tenge coin and a noncirculating 500-tenge
coin marking Gagarin’s historic adventure, the latest coins in a Space
series that began in 2006.
Both versions of the 2011 coin share a reverse design.
An image of the helmeted cosmonaut faces toward the left, with an
image of the Vostok-K rocket next to him. The dual dates 1961-2011
also appear, with the Vostok 3KA orbital capsule above in a circular
orbit heading toward a field of stars.
Russian and Kazak legends appear about the outer ring, separated
by Gagarin’s signature.
Gagarin reportedly spent 108 minutes in one orbit around the earth
before falling to earth, separating from the orbital vessel and
parachuting to the ground.
The flight launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, in what is now the
Republic of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan was one of the Soviet Socialist
republics until the end of the Cold War.
All the coins in the Space series share common obverses.
They show a composition representing man’s unity with the
universe. The face value (either 50 or 500 tenge) appears with the
inscription “Republic of Kazakhstan” shown in English and Kazakh.
The silver-tantalum 500-tenge version also bears inscriptions
detailing the metal types, purity and weight.
The Proof 500-tenge coin is a ringed-bimetallic piece, with an
outer ring made of .925 fine silver and an inner core composed of
tantalum, a rare, hard, blue-gray metal highly resistant to corrosion
and highly conductive of heat and electricity. Tantalum is a critical
metal used in space programs.
The silver portion weighs 16.7 grams and the tantalum part weighs
24 grams, for a total weight of 40.7 grams.
The coin measures 38.61 millimeters in diameter and has a mintage
limit of 5,000 pieces.
The Uncirculated 50-tenge coin (with a face value of 34 cents
U.S.) is composed of white German silver, according to the National
Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
It measures 31 millimeters in diameter, weighs 11.17 grams and has
a mintage limited to 50,000 pieces.
Collectors will have to search the secondary market as no world
coin distributor has yet confirmed carrying the coins of Kazakhstan.
Shepard, Gagarin on coin
San Marino’s first €5 coin for 2011 celebrates the Soviet and
American space triumphs of 1961.
According to Shepard’s 1998 obituary at CNN.com, “His 15-minute, 302-mile flight on
May 5, 1961, may now seem a mere footnote in the lengthening history
of the American space program. But it was a major accomplishment and
came at a time when doubts abounded.”
The United States had hoped to be the first to launch a man into
space, but lost that battle. In the shadow of Soviet success, a
successful Shepard flight was even more important to exhibit that
America could keep up in the contentious race. Shepard’s flight was
successful though it was a suborbital flight rather than an orbital mission.
The Proof .925 fine silver coin, released March 8, depicts both
men on the reverse, in a design by Valeria De Seta.
A close-up composition of the two men and Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA
spacecraft and Shepard’s Mercury capsule called Freedom 7 appear in
the foreground, with Earth in the background.
The names gagarin and shepard are inscribed around the earth,
separated by the denomination. The dual dates 1961-2011 appear below.
The artist’s name v.de seta and the R Mint mark for the Italian Mint
(where the coin was struck) also appear on the reverse.
The obverse shows Guata Castle, which is perched atop Mount Titano
in Borgo Maggiore, the second-largest city in San Marino. The fortress
appears against a backdrop of the earth, with legends republica di san
marino surrounding it. The artist’s name a. masini (for designer
Annalisa Masini) also appears.
The coin weighs 18 grams, measures 32 millimeters in diameter and
has a mintage limit of 48,000 pieces.
It retails for €41 plus €5.50 shipping from the Azienda Autonoma
Di Stato Filatelica & Numismatica, the state agency of philatelics
To order the coin from the AASFN, telephone the agency at (011)
378 0549 882365, email it at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its
website, found at www.aasfn.sm. ■