Few coins have seen as much popularity as the Southern and Northern Sky Series from the Royal Australian Mint. Combining stunning innovation and excellent quality, these innovative coins were all very quick sell-outs from the Mint. With the final coin in the series just released, it could be time to review and see what you may want to add to your collection!
Innovation has played an increasingly important role in modern world commemorative coinage of recent years. Numerous world Mints continue to issue a wide array of coins that are non-traditional in their shape or design. This has included everything from cylindrical coins, cubed coins, and even globe-shaped coins. Special features such as holographic or glow-in-the-dark designs have also grown in popularity.
Despite all of these exciting new additions to the numismatic world, no approach has been nearly as well-received by collectors as the innovation of domed, or curved, coins, in which one side of the coin is concave and the other is convex. Although domed coins are no longer novel since at least two dozen such pieces have been issued so far, these coins do continue to garner huge popularity. The reason is not just the appealing shape itself, but also the way that it effectively represents certain themes. This is particularly true for coins representing the massive dome of the night sky!
Curved coins began with 2009 French astronomy coins issued in gold and silver, but the approach was taken to a new level in 2012 when the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) released the first coin of a new Southern Sky coin series. Commemorating the constellation Crux, this 1-oz. silver proof coin depicted this group of stars against a vivid blue sky, becoming the world’s first colorized domed coin.
This coin has become a runaway hit, reaching a retail premium approaching ten times its original issue price in Proof 70-graded examples and a little less for raw coins. This is something that is very rarely seen with modern world coins.
The design on the reverse of the coin uses silver stars aligned to form a cross against a blue sky background. Its success is due to a few aspects:
Not surprisingly, the Southern Crux coin has been honored with several international coin design awards.
Striking coins in the concave/convex shape is not an easy undertaking, and the RAM is a world leader in this approach. That is why when the U.S. Mint began working on the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin series of three curved coins, officials there consulted with the RAM on the requirements for such coins and recreated the Southern Crux piece as part of the development process. In fact, the legislation that created the baseball coins required that they be similar to the French and Australian coins.
The 2012 1 oz. Silver Southern Sky Crux coins were followed in 2013 by the green and light blue-colored Pavo coin, and in 2014 by the Orion issue, which features an orange and purple sky. Each of the Southern Sky coins had a mintage of 10,000 coins and was immediately popular. Every one of these sold out at the Royal Australian Mint within days of their release.
Because all three of the Southern Sky issues were so successful, selling out quickly at the Mint and at coin dealers, the RAM decided to do a follow-on series. Dubbed the Northern Sky coin series, it would also be composed of three coins depicting star constellations of the Northern Sky, which nicely complements the Southern Sky series.
The first coin in the second series, Cassiopeia, was announced at the August 2015 American Numismatic Association’s World Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL. This is a world-renown venue where world Mints typically showcase their upcoming releases.
The 2016 Cassiopeia issue was released in December 2015, but this time the mintage was cut in half to 5,000, which made the coin even more appealing to collectors. That is a very small mintage for a coin with such high worldwide demand, and it sold out while still on pre-order! The coin shows the Cassiopeia constellation superimposed on a colored star chart with a pine forest in silver in the lower part of the design, which provides a nice contrast with the colored sky.
In June of this year, the RAM surprised collectors by announcing that the second Northern Sky release for the Ursa Major constellation was coming in July. Like Cassiopeia, it small mintage sold out while still a pre-order! The design of this 2016 1 oz. Silver Ursa Major coin shows the constellation against a purple, pink, and orange background with a mountain range in the foreground.
Finally, the third coin in the series which commemorates the Cygnus constellation, was recently released by the RAM. It sold out within a day of its release, clearly showing the interest in the RAM constellation series is still strong! The 2016 1 oz. Silver Cygnus coin shows the swan-shaped constellation of stars, with beautiful light green and dark blue coloring. This 2016 1 oz. Silver Cygnus coin will soon be available at MCM.
With no sign that interest in curved coins is abating, these two complementary series have strong long-term potential. These imaginative coins will be considered by most collectors as one overall series going forward. That is especially true when coupled with the popularity of coins that depict space and astronomy themes, which has been well demonstrated by the strong performance of such coins over the years.
More than anything, these innovative issues are prized for their stunning attractiveness, their simple but highly effective designs, and the fact that they are the first major world coins to depict star constellations. Browse ModernCoinMart's inventory to add these coins to your collection!
The Crux constellation is found in the brightest part of the Milky Way and is easily distinguishable by its cross-shaped pattern and its four main stars.
The Pavo constellation, most visible in August and typically called “Peacock” constellation, was first discovered in 1598 by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius. It is one of 12 constellations discovered by Pancius.
The Orion constellation is located at the celestial equator and is visible in most of the world. It was named for a hunter from Greek mythology.
The Cassiopeia constellation, named for a queen from Greek mythology who was known for her vanity, is one of the most recognizable star constellations. It can be seen year-round in the Northern Hemisphere and in the northern parts of the Southern Hemisphere during the spring.
The Ursa Major constellation is Latin for “the larger/greater she-bear.” Typically known as “Great Bear,” it is one of the most famous star constellations and is the third largest of the 88 modern ones. It has featured prominently in astronomy, navigation, and folklore since it was discovered in the 2nd century A.D. by Ptolemy.
The Cygnus constellation, which is Latin for “Swan,” is brilliant constellation that lies on the plane of the Milky Way. It contains one of the brightest stars in the Northern Sky, Deneb, and its roots lie as far back as Greek mythology.
||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.|