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Coins that Commemorate Events that Never Happened

May 28, 2018 0 Comments

A fascinating story has been in the media this month, and it raises some interesting questions about commemorative coins. Everyone hopes and prays for peace in the world, and especially these days on the Korean peninsula. So when President Trump announced his plans for a historic summit with Kim Jong-un, The US Mint was quick to produce a commemorative coin to mark the event. Since these things take time to create and produce, they started right away. When President Trump cancelled the trip, a decision was made to go ahead with the coins, which will be available in July and August. The plan is for three coins, and the first and second are already announced.  The first coin features the profile heads of both leaders, and the words PEACE TALKS – in both English and Korean. The second coin also includes a commemoration of the successful release of three American citizens held hostage in North Korea – an event that has definitely already happened. The third design is yet to be revealed.

Now many opponents of the President have made jokes about this, but from a collector’s viewpoint, these coins are interesting, whether or not the Peace Talks happen. It might even be that the fact that they don’t end up  increasing the future value of these coins – just as errors in minting do for circulation coins. There is even a precedent for this kind of event, if we go back into coin history.

In 310 AD there was a failed coup against the Roman Emperor Constantine I. The leader of the coup was Maximian, who was forced to commit suicide after his failure. In London, which was at that time part of the Roman Empire, a coin was minted, with the words ADVENTUS AUGUSTUS on it. Augustus means ‘the prince of youth’, and it was a title that Constantine had given himself. ‘Adventus Augustus’ means ‘the arrival of Augustus’, but there is a problem – as far as is known, Constantine never came to London to celebrate surviving the coup, so this coin does indeed commemorate an event that never happened.

For a more recent example, there is a very rare gold commemorative coin of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. It shows a magnificent palace in Moscow – but the palace was only a model, and even though the corner stone was laid in 1773, the palace was never completed.  This coin was sold at auction in early 2018, by the German coin seller Künker.

As well, the Federal Trade Commission requires copies of coins to be marked with the word ‘COPY’ – but not if the coin never existed. So counterfeit coins, such as a German coin marked ‘1887 20 Mark Wilhelm II’ may be designer to fool an inexperienced collector, but the nearest actual coin is the ‘1887 10 Mark Wilhelm I’, so these coins are ‘copies’ of something that never existed, and don’t have to be marked, ‘Copy’.

So those laughing right now at the Trump Peace Talks that may never happen, might consider that events that never happen could perhaps add to a coin’s value. That Roman coin sold for $117,000 in 2014. Perhaps the same thing will happen with the Trump Korean Summit coins one day – even if it never happens.

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