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Coins mark start of WWI

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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By Kerry Rodgers

Presumably 99.99 percent of World Coin News readers know this year marks the centenary of the outbreak of The War That Will End War, as H.G. Wells described it in 1914.

WWIICoins

Reverses of the Solomon Islands’ WWI $10 proofs. One depicts the departure of the first Australian troops; the other their defense by HMAS Sydney. (Images courtesy Downies.)

Exactly when the war began is moot. The date depends on an individual’s point of view. As good a date as any is the declaration of war by the Austria-Hungary Empire on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Since late last year the first coins marking the centenary have begun to appear. No doubt collectors can look forward to this first trickle of issues becoming a veritable flood over the next four years.

To the best of this writer’s knowledge the first cab off the rank came from the Solomon Islands late last year. It consisted of two 40 millimeter, 25 grams, .925 fine silver colorized proof $10s. Both have mintages of 5,000. Both feature Australian themes.

One recalls the embarkation of the first Australian troops to go overseas. These were largely volunteers who had rushed to join-up the moment Mother England declared war on Aug. 4, 1914. Their convoy was headed for Egypt.

The second salutes the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney, an escort of that first convoy. Its defeat of the German raider SMS Emden on Nov. 9 off Cocos Islands has left an indelible mark on Australian history.

A similar Sydney/Emden image has been used on a partially-colorized gold $100 proof of Niue Island. This 38.61 mm 1 oz, .9999 fine gold coin has a mintage of 150. Each coin is individually edge-numbered.

Britain’s Royal Mint was fast out of the blocks with its first commemorative: a BU £2 struck on a 28.240 mm bimetallic, 12 grams flan. The outer rim is nickel brass and the inner core cupronickel.

The reverse design by John Bergdahl recalls the iconic WWI recruiting poster – a portrayal of Field Marshall Lord Kitchener by Alfred Leete. This featured originally on the cover of magazine London Opinion in September 1914. It was subsequently used with permission by the British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and became the most famous image to emerge from Britain in WWI.

The 28.40 mm £2 coin is also available as a 12 grams sterling silver proof with a gold-plated outer ring, a similarly plated 24 grams sterling silver proof piedfort, and a 15.97 grams, .916 fine (22 carat) gold proof with a red gold ring about a yellow gold core. Mintages are 5,000, 2,500 and 750 respectively.

The Honorable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, the Honorable Shelley Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Ian E. Bennett, President, RCM and Mark O’Neill, President, Canadian Museum of History, unveil Canada’s first coin commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of WWI. (Image courtesy RCM.)

The Honorable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, the Honorable Shelley Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Ian E. Bennett, President, RCM and Mark O’Neill, President, Canadian Museum of History, unveil Canada’s first coin commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of WWI. (Image courtesy RCM.)

From the very beginning of the war the Canadian Prime Minister was unequivocal: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain…” Consequently, it is appropriate that the Royal Canadian Mint was hard behind the Royal Mint in releasing its first WWI coin in January 2014. The .9999 fine silver dollar is the first in a series documenting Canada’s commitment to King and Empire, a commitment that would change the course of Canadian history forever.

In just over two months from Aug. 4 the country raised a volunteer Canadian Expeditionary Force. This saw the Canadian Army suddenly expand from just over 3,000 men to 32,000. They would see action all too early in 1915.

As with the Solomon Islands $10, the first Canadian silver dollar (36.07 mm, 23.17 grams) depicts the departure of these first troops. However, the design by Nova Scotia artist Bonnie Ross is far more poignant. It shows a couple’s last emotional embrace before a recruit boards his train to Valcartier Camp, Quebec.

The coin was officially unveiled at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Jan. 13. It comes in BU and proof versions, both with mintages of 40,000. It also comes selectively gilded as part of Canada’s 2014 silver proof set with a mintage of 25,000.

In February the RCM released its second WWI issue, a silver $10 (34 mm, 15.87 grams). This coin commemorates The Mobilization of Our Nation. The design by Maskul Lasserre evokes a soldier’s view of a Canadian Expeditionary Force comrade-in-arms walking ahead on the gangway of the first troop ship out of Canada bound for the Killing Fields of Europe.

 

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