Gods of Olympus 12-Coin Set
In recent years one of the key trends in modern numismatics has been the issuance by many mints of silver coins and rounds dedicated to ancient mythology. These pieces, which are usually struck in high relief with an antique finish, have primarily featured the gods and goddesses associated with ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Nordic mythology and history.
The series that put this popular concept on the numismatic map was the Perth Mint’s Gods of Olympus three-coin set that debuted in 2014 with the Zeus coin, which became an instant hit. These coins were designed by artist Thomas Vaughn and showed the ancient Greek gods in a way they had never been depicted before – in a stylized and very modern rendition – that struck a chord with many collectors.
The Gods of Olympus was followed by another three-coin series from Perth on the Goddesses of Olympus in the same modern style. Like the previous coins, each one was struck from 2 oz. of silver with an antique finish, impressive high relief, no rim and was issued in the name of the island nation of Tuvalu.
Now Perth has teamed up with MCM and GovMint to release a whole new version of the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus in the same basic coin format as the previous series but with a couple major differences that make this a unique series.
First, the new series consists of 12 different coins, which are packaged as a set in a luxurious, three-tray coin case, with a mintage of just 1,000 sets and numbered certificates of authenticity. Only the coin for Hades will be sold separately; all the others can only be obtained by purchasing the complete set.
Second, the new coins feature designs by one of the Perth Mint’s most experienced and acclaimed artists, Jennifer McKenna, which are done in a unique style that draws from classic art and ancient motifs with a modern flourish that is very different from the earlier coins.
Third, the new coins are issued as Cook Islands legal tender and feature the Raphael Maklouf effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, rather than the more recent Ian Rank-Broadley version that is on most Perth Coins.
The stunning and intricately-detailed artwork of the new Gods of Olympus coin is probably their most impressive quality. In addition, each coin has been individually antiqued to give them a unique finish with minor surface abrasions that make them look like ancient artifacts. Each coin will thus have a unique appearance.
Interview with artist
I asked artist Jennifer McKenna, who has previously designed many other coins for the mint such as many of their Star Trek coins, about her work on the series.
1.) Please tell me a little but about how you got involved with designing coins and what some of the artistic influences on your work are.
Jennifer: “I studied graphic design in Perth with a passionate focus on illustration. When the position came up, I jumped at the chance to join this remarkable industry. I enjoy a variety of influences anywhere from the traditional illustrators such as Alphonse Mucha and Norman Rockwell to the much more modern and whimsical designs of Ghibli and Pixar, with a thicket of creatives in between.”
2.) Do you typically also sculpt the coin designs you create, and did you or someone else sculpt the designs for the new Gods of Olympus series?
Jennifer: “The Perth Mint operates in a very unique way. The designers work closely with the marketing team to create coin artwork. These pieces are then interpreted by our specialist trained engraving team to create the bespoke designs we are known for.”
3.) Please tell me a little about your work designing the Gods of Olympus 13-coin series; how you would describe the style of the designs; and how long it took to do the whole set.
Jennifer: “The Gods of Olympus series was simultaneously a wonderful and challenging project to undertake. A project like this deserves a lot of time and attention. The initial concepts started development in 2014 with the collection being released in November 2017.
The nature of the antiquing process and high relief dimensions meant there was a wealth of space for more detail than standard. With that extra freedom in mind, I drew heavy influences from ancient Greek statues and the artists of the Renaissance, incorporating my own modern touches. I worked hard to bring each god and goddess their own individual story and character.”
The coins included in the new series depict on their reverses Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Poseidon, and Zeus.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is shown with very long hair sitting on a rock near water with swans on each side.
Apollo, the god of music and truth, appears in a garden playing his golden lyre instrument with the nymph Daphne in the background.
Ares, the god of war, is depicted in full body armor with a shield in hand in the midst of a battle.
Artemis, the goddess of wilderness and childbirth, is shown drawing her bow and arrow and she aims into the distance in a forest at night.
Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, appears in front of a temple surrounded by olive trees with an owl on her shoulder and a spear in her right hand and a shield with the head of Medusa in her left hand.
Demeter, the goddess of wheat and corn, is shown in a field surrounded by wheat with two chickens nearby as she holds a basket of grapes.
Hephaestus, the god of fire and crafts, appears in front of a furnace in his workshop with a hammer in hand as he prepares to hammer a sword.
Hera, goddess of marriage, mothers, and families, is shown wearing a polos crown (a cylinder-shaped headdress) and sitting on a throne at the Temple of Hera with a pomegranate in her right hand and three peacocks nearby.
Hermes, the god of religion and mythology, is depicted as he runs through the sky with an ancient Greek city in the background wearing a short robe, carrying his leather pouch and with his winged hat.
Hestia, goddess of home and architecture, appears kneeling on a hearth next to a fire in a kitchen and is surrounded by pots and pans.
Poseidon, the god of the sea, is depicted with a beard as he emerges from the sea’s waves and clutching his trident.
Zeus, the god of the sky who ruled over the other Olympian gods, also appears with a beard as he sits on his throne with an eagle in his right hand and a lightning bolt in his left hand.
Hades, the god of the underworld, is shown standing at the bottom of a staircase that is in the underworld with two skulls nearby. He is holding Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog, with a chain.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|