Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Royal Canadian Mint Release New Playing Card Rectangular Silver Coin - The Ten Of Spades

Released on April 15th from the Royal Canadian Mint, the Ten of Spades silver coin is the 4th in the current series of coins dedicated to Playing Card money used in "New France" in the 17th and 18th centuries. Previous releases in the series of coins struck to the mint's highest standards in proof have been the 2008 Jack of Hearts, 2008 Queen of Spades and 2009 King of Hearts.

Canada 2009 $15 Ten Of Spades Silver Proof

The coins have been inspired by real-life playing card money used by colonials who arrived in Canada from France in the 17th century. Originally named "New France", the Canada of the late 1600's was an isolated and harsh place. It took months of travel to reach the homeland, travel that was made all the more difficult by the icy Canadian winters. On top of that the treacherous Atlantic Ocean was claiming countless sailing ships, and by 1685 the country faced huge shortages in everything including currency.

In a bid to keep the economy moving, the governor began issuing playing cards as promissory notes. Although seen as a desperate act, the system worked well enough and was used to pay everyone from soldiers to civil servants, merchants and tradesmen. The cards were offered as a promise that they could be "cashed-in" once a new shipment of coins arrived from France. To symbolise the various denominations issued the cards were sometimes cut in halves or quarters, or had their corners removed. The practice continued until 1729 when plain card stock replaced the playing cards and was circulated like regular banknotes until the British conquered Canada in 1759.

As the playing cards were generally destroyed after being cashed in to avoid counterfeiting, there is only one known deck of playing card money left in existence. From this deck these historically important silver coins were modeled, using designs made by Henri Beau, iconographic researcher at Library and Archives Canada. As noted in the image above the corners of the ten of spades have been clipped and documentation tells us that this meant the card symbolised 40 livres (Livre was one of a number of French currencies used from the middle ages).

Each of these official legal tender $15 ten of spades silver coins is struck to exacting proof standards from 31.56 grams of 92.5% sterling silver on a rectangular flan measuring 49.80mm x 28.60mm. Enhancing the coin design is the addition of colour, showing the ten spade symbols in their traditional black. The edge of the coin has been selectively gold-plated for further enhancement and appeal. On the obverse is the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, along with the country and year of issue. Framing the central image is an intricate weaving pattern also taken from historical card designs. Each coin is presented in an official Royal Canadian Mint jewel case with numbered certificate of authenticity confirming the mintage of only 25,000 pieces.

Offered as an historical memento to the popularity of card games in colonial times, as well as the innovative steps a government was willing to take in order to help a growing economy thousands of miles away from it's homeland, the 2009 $15 Ten of Spades Silver Proof is a welcome addition to this already popular "playing cards in silver" series. Euro Collections International has stocks of these fabulous silver proof coins available to order now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Silver Coin Series From Austrian Mint - "Tales and Legends of Austria"

On April 15, 2009 the Austrian Mint released the first in a new series of silver coins entitled "Tales and Legends of Austria". The series, a sub series of the "Austria and Her People" coin program, will see six different silver collector coins issued over 3 years in both Proof and Brilliant Uncirculated quality, making 12 coins released in total. There will also be a circulation issue of each coin available at face value through various Austrian banks.

Austria 2009 10€ The Basilisk Of Vienna Silver Proof

The first release in this compelling program is dedicated to the Legend of the Basilisk of Vienna. The tale, dating back to the early 13th century, tells of an apprentice baker who finds a hideous Basilisk in a well. A group of unwitting workers had uncovered the beast, who had been hibernating for several centuries under the baker's shop. The Basilisk is an obscure creature that those who don't play Dungeons and Dragons or watch Harry Potter movies may not know about. Basically it is described as being part snake, part cockerel and part toad, giving off a poisonous gas that kills all who breath it in. The most chilling aspect of the Basilisk, however, is that one look in it's eye can render a man dead by petrification.

The legend continues that a meeting is called in the town as it is decided that the only way to defeat the Basilisk is to use a mirror to show the beast it's own reflection. At first there are no volunteers to go down in the well to take on the creature, until the baker's apprentice raises his hand. Turns out he and the baker's daughter are very much in love, but the baker would never allow a lowly apprentice to marry his daughter. The apprentice agrees to challenge the Basilisk in return for the hand of the daughter - and the baker reluctantly agrees. The boy then ventures down to the well and confronts the Basilisk with it's own reflection, causing it's immediate petrification. The boy returns to marry the baker's daughter and the townspeople fill the well with stones and earth to stop any toxic fumes from escaping.

Known for their expert craftsmanship in designing stunningly detailed coin images the sculptors at the Austrian Mint have not disappointed with this latest release. Shown on the reverse is an image taken from the tale, where the baker's apprentice confronts the Basilisk with a mirror and the creature sees it's own reflection for the first time. The apprentice can be seen peeking over the top of the mirror while townspeople timidly watch over the lip of the well. At the bottom is the title "Der Basilisk" (The Basilisk). The attention to detail in the stone walls of the well and the Basilisk reptilian skin are first rate. The obverse takes the detail even further, with a beautifully recreated depiction of modern Schoenlaterngasse (Lovely Lantern Lane where the baker's shop is located at No. 7), still retaining it's medieval appearance. The fine detail of the cobblestones, the windows and doors of the charming buildings is breathtaking to behold. At the top is the denomination of 10 euros, while to the bottom is the inscription for "Austrian Republic".

The coins have been struck from 16 grams of 92.5% sterling silver on a 32mm flan. The 2009 10€ Basilisk Proof issue has a maximum mintage of 40,000 and is presented in an attractive, official Austrian Mint jewel case. The 2009 10€ Basilisk Brilliant Uncirculated edition is capped at 30,000 and comes in a full-colour coin card with a depiction of the fearsome Basilisk on the cover.

Euro Collections has both proof and BU issues available now to order from our website. Given the theme of this series and the public interest in fantasy tales and legends from days of old this will no doubt be a popular release that will grow with each subsequent issue. In October the Austrian Mint will release the 2nd silver coin in the series, this time focused on the story of the imprisonment of Richard the Lionheart in the castle of Dürnstein on the Danube river, and the search for him by his loyal minstrel Blondel.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Royal Canadian Mint Releases 2009 'Age of the Dinosaurs' Issue - Tyrannosaurus Rex

The Royal Canadian Mint has released the latest in their unique and popular series of silver coins entitled "Age of the Dinosaurs". For 2009 the RCM has chosen the most famous of all dwellers of the Cretaceous period, the King of the Dinosaurs himself, the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Canada 2009 $4 Tyrannosaurus Rex Silver Proof

The Tyrannosaurus Rex (Tyrant Lizard King) lived predominately in the west of North America for the last 3 million years of the Cretaceous Period of history (around 65-145 million years ago). More commonly known as T-Rex, the Tyrannosaurus has become a fixture of popular culture over the years, made even more popular due to the Jurassic Park series of movies (this is despite no evidence of T-Rex existing as far back as the Jurassic Period (165-145 million years ago)). The Tyrannosaurus Rex was a bi-pedal carnivore growing to around 13 metres in length, making it one of the largest land predators in history.

The first fossilised skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was discovered in 1902 by fossil hunter Barnum Brown - and was given its name by paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1905. Since then, some 30 specimens of T-Rex have been identified by fossil discovery, with some being found in nearly complete condition. The large number of fossil discoveries has allowed scientists to accumulate significant amounts of research into the workings of the T-Rex.

The “Age of the Dinosaurs” series of coins from the Royal Canadian Mint began in 2007 with the silver proof issue commemorating the duck-billed species known as Parasaurolophus. The idea was to honor a group of 4 dinosaurs that made their home in the western North American region that is now encompassed by the state of Alberta. This first coin was embraced with keen interest and excitement from collectors around the world and so it was no surprise when the 2008 Triceratops issue was released that it was snapped up with speed. Next year, the mint finishes the series with an issue dedicated to the Dromaeosaurus.

What makes these coins particularly special and appealing to collectors is their unique design and appearance, and that fact that two coins are exactly the same! Each $4 Canadian coin is struck from 99.99% fine silver on a 34.00mm flan. Designed by Canadian artist Kerri Burnett, each coin is applied with a selective finish that gives the look of real stone against the striking skeletal image of the dinosaur. Because this finish process creates variations in tone and colour, no two issues are ever the same, making this series especially unique and appealing to collectors.
Each 2009 $4 Tyrannosaurus Silver Proof coin is presented in an official Royal Canadian Mint case with a numbered certificate confirming the limited mintage of only 20,000 coins. Euro Collections International currently has stocks of this captivating tribute to the Granddaddy of all Dinosaurs available to purchase through our website – with extremely limited numbers of the 2008 Triceratops Silver coin also available.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Austrian Silver/Niobium Coin Released For Year Of Astronomy

The Austrian Mint has continued their uniquely popular 25 euro silver and niobium coin series in 2009 with this issue paying tribute to the International Year of Astronomy and the 400th Anniversary of the Galileo telescope.

Austria 2009 25€ Year Of Astronomy Silver Niobium Brilliant Uncirculated Coin

Issued in March of this year, this stunning release continues a tradition of well crafted silver and niobium bi-metallic coins going back to 2003. Each year the Austrian Mint has released a new coin to join the collection, with themes ranging from Transportation and Television, to Satellite Technology and the Fascination of Light. As each year passes and more collectors discover this unique series of coins the demand for them gets stronger - with the 2008 Fascination of Light coin out selling all previous issues combined! We expect even bigger things for the 2009 release given that it once again showcases the fine craftsmanship of the Austrian Mint sculptors, as well as focusing on the universally beloved theme of Astronomy and space in general - together with a well-fitting anniversary.

In 1609, Galileo was one of the first to build what is now called the terrestrial telescope, or spyglass, magnifying objects on the ground as well as in the sky. Galileo went on to make many contributions to the science of space and to plotting the Astronomical map, and has gone down in history as the Father of Astronomy. The International Year of Astronomy celebrates the incredibly significant event of Galileo first pointing his telescope to the skies, as well as all the advancements in telescope technology over those 400 years. Thanks to those initial discoveries we are now able to see further into the Universe than ever before, discovering new planets, witnessing the birth of stars, and visiting both the planets in our own solar system as well as our sun, up close and personal, receiving incredible insight into our world, the world around us, and how it all came to be.

The use of Niobium in these captivating issues from Austria is inspired. Niobium is a rare transition metal found in the minerals pyrochlore and columbite. It is used in a wide range of industries and due to it's help in improving the strength of iron, it's temperature stability and it's superconducting properties, Niobium is used in everything from gas pipes to jet and rocket engines. It has applications in such diverse areas as electronics, nuclear industries, optics and jewelry. The particular facet of interest in using Niobium in numismatics is the ability to change the color of the niobium core. This can be done in several ways, one of which is by sending an electric current through the niobium while it is underwater - this way is often used for jewelry applications. For this numismatic application, the Austrian Mint uses a heat treating and oxidizing method, producing a stunning array of colours throughout the years with none more impressive than this latest release.

The obverse of this 25 euro coin shows a depiction of the "dark side" of the moon over the brilliant yellow niobium core. In the silver outer ring are images of the Earth with the sun beaming out opposite, as well as a space satellite. The inscription on this side read "Back of the Moon" on the niobium core, and "Austrian Republic" on the silver ring. The denomination of 25 euros is also on this side.

The reverse pays tribute to the 400th anniversary of the development of Galileo's telescope. A portrait of this great man is shown to the left, while to the right is a reproduction of one of Galileo's own drawings of the moon's surface as viewed through his telescope. Shown below the drawing are images of both Galileo's and Newton's telescopes, while at the top of the coin is the sun beaming once again, with a modern telescopic satellite and an image of Jupiter. To the far right in a depiction of the Kremsmuenster observatory in Austria.

The coin was expertly sculptured by mint engraver Herbert Waehner, and features an outer ring consisting of 9 grams of 90% silver surrounding 7.15 grams of 99.8% pure niobium core on a 34mm flan. Each coin is sealed in a protective capsule and housed in official Austrian Mint packaging with a numbered Certificate of Authenticity confirming the mintage of 65,000 coins released worldwide.

Euro Collections International currently has stocks available of this beautiful tribute coin on our website. For more information visit our Austria 2009 25€ Year Of Astronomy Silver and Niobium page.