This is the fourth part of a feature by Rita Laws exploring the
growth in popularity in 5-ounce silver coins during the past four decades.
After years of medals and coins struck in silver sizes approaching
the 5-ounce size, 1986 was the monumental year for the first 5-ounce
coin to debut, and three nations issued coins of this size that year.
1986: the first 5-ounce coin
The success of large silver medals, bullion coins and the huge
Panamanian 20-balboa coin created the perfect atmosphere for the
emergence of the 5-ounce coin in 1986. That year, three nations
simultaneously each issued the “World’s First 5 Ounce Silver Coin”:
China, St. Helena and Ascension, and Western Samoa, though the coins’
rarity and availability today varies.
The Chinese Proof .999 fine 5-ounce silver 50-yuan coin, which
commemorates the 120th anniversary of the birth of Sun-Yat-Sen, is
rare for two reasons. It has a very low mintage of just 3,000 pieces,
and pristine examples are very tough to find.
When examples are offered for sale, they are often found with
polyvinyl chloride contamination from the original soft vinyl
packaging. This green goo that stubbornly clings to metallic surfaces
is the likely explanation for the gamut of prices this coin lists for,
from several hundred dollars to over $1,000.
The St. Helena and Ascension Proof 1986 £25 coin is made from .999
fine silver. The weight, fineness and size are listed on the
certificate of authenticity, but not on the coin. The coin’s reverse
shows Napoleon gazing out to sea at the HMS Northumberland, the ship
that took him to exile on St. Helena Island. He resided on this remote
island from 1815 to 1821. This coin is scarce because only 15,000 were
minted by the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom.
A bit of controversy attends this coin. The certificate of
authenticity claims the weight as 155.5 grams, or exactly 5 ounces,
but the Standard Catalog of World Coins by Chester Krause and
Clifford Mishler gives it a weight of 155 grams or 4.9839 troy ounces.
And the third nation in the three-way tie for world’s first 5-ounce
coin is from Western Samoa (now called Samoa). Like the other two, its
coin is a Proof .999 fine silver issue. Created by the Singapore Mint
for Samoa, the mintage for this $25 coin is 25,000 pieces. This is
more than the other two coins put together and makes this coin pretty
easy to find.
The theme is the Kon Tiki Expedition, a trans-Pacific journey from
Peru to French Polynesia that Thor Heyerdahl undertook in 1947. He was
hoping to give credence to the theory that Polynesians had early
American origins. DNA studies concluded in 2011 that Heyerdahl’s
theory may have been correct.
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anticipation: Breaking down the gold 1916 centennial coins
giant silver coin of the 1970s paved the way
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