World Coins

Poland addresses painful plane crash with two new coins

Poland commemorates the victims of the 2010 airplane disaster at Smolensk with two 2020 coins, including this silver 10-zloty coin.

Images courtesy of the National Bank of Poland.

Poland has a history of addressing painful topics with its official commemorative coins, and two new coins continue that tradition.

The National Bank of Poland’s new Proof .925 fine silver 10-zloty coin and a Proof .900 fine gold 100-zloty coin mark the 10th anniversary of the Smolensk airplane crash, which killed 96 people in Russia.

A tragic event times two

The nation was sending a delegation of dignitaries, including then president of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczynski; the first lady, Maria Kaczynska; and the last president of the Republic of Poland in exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, to Katyn on April 10, 2010.

They intended to pay tribute to the victims of the Katyn massacre, where citizens of the Second Republic of Poland were murdered by a shot in the back of the head from Soviet soldiers in 1940.

The presidential delegation included major political leaders, commanders of all branches of the Polish Armed Forces, heads of state institutions, including NBP President Sławomir Skrzypek, representatives of ministries and of veterans’ and social organizations, as well as clergy and others.

At 8:41 a.m. Polish time, the presidential plane crashed when attempting to land at the Smolensk North Airport.

According to the NBP, “We do not yet have full information on the causes of the disaster. The plane wreck was not handed over to Polish investigators by the Russian authorities. It is not possible to interrogate the Russians from the control tower, and any attempts to reach the truth are thwarted by Russian propaganda versions of the tragedy.”

Independent review of the wreck has found no evidence of foul play, but the late president’s brother is among those suggesting it was a result of a politically motivated attack, and not pilot and crew error in bad weather, the official cause.

Design details

The shared obverse of both coins includes the respective face value, an image of the eagle established as the state emblem of the Republic of Poland, the inscription RZECZPOSPOLITA POLSKA, and year of issue.

In addition, they show a part of Wawel Cathedral, an inscription translating to “The bodies are asleep — the souls are awake” from the canopy over the exit from the Royal Tombs at Wawel, with the image of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw in the background.

On the reverse of the silver coin, a personification of Poland as a woman embraces what appears to be a piece of wreckage bearing the symbol of the Polish Air Force, which in its central part forms a cross. At the top are the names of the people who died in the Smolensk crash.

The silver coin weighs 31.1 grams, measures 32 millimeters in diameter, and has a mintage limited to 14,000 pieces.

The reverse of the gold coin depicts the late presidential couple, Maria and Lech Kaczynski, and a reproduction of their signatures.

The coin weighs 8 grams, measures 21 millimeters in diameter, and has a mintage limited to 1,500 pieces.

Collectors who want either coin must search the secondary market as the coins have no official distribution channels in the United States.

The 2020 coins are the second group from Poland to mark the tragedy; coins were also issued for the first anniversary, in 2011.

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