A few of the European independent coin producers have long-term series in their portfolio and Dutch producer Numiscollect is no exception. One of the most popular formats of choice is the fractional sterling silver one, as used by CIT for its perennial Mountains and Flora, World of Hunting and World of Wonder series. This series, which looks at famous stories in the bible, is one such beast.
Biblical Stories debuted in 2011 with a pair of 15.5g (½oz) coins, released packaged singly, and to date is still going strong with twelve designs now available. The release schedule is variable, although at least one coin has launched every year. The last couple of years has seen two-annual releases, and it’s likely that will be the norm moving forward. The silver used has a fineness of 0.925 (92.5%), often called sterling silver. For the 2017 coin the silver was changed to fine 0.999 and we expect that to continue.
Each coin is clean-struck, full of detail, and depicting one of the iconic scenes from the most popular book in history, the Bible. The only modification to the reverse face, one that has become a signature feature of the range, is a small area with coloured enamel applied. Each release is full of multiple design elements, especially the more recent ones, and one of these, different in every case, is chosen to be highlighted. There’s no set colour being used, with each release highlighted in the most logical colour – yellow for a sun, blue for water etc. In no case is the colour heavily or inappropriately applied, the choices are sympathetic to the overall look without overpowering it. There are some excellent designs in this series, Noahs Ark and Jonah being fine examples.
The series shares a common obverse design, that of the issuing state the Republic of Palau, one widely used in modern commemorative numismatics. Numiscollect have gone further than just using a straight emblem however. The design is basically a coin within a coin. This sits above an open book, no doubt the Bible, itself set in the centre of radiating lines meant to represent light. The series title ‘BIBLICAL STORIES’ is inscribed around the rim at the bottom. A true common obverse, the date is on the reverse face, so this one has no need to change every coin.
Packaging extends to a coin box inside a coloured outer shipper. A Certificate of Authenticity is enclosed. At the time of writing, these coins are selling around the €65-75 Euro mark. The mintage of each coin is fixed at 1,000 units. There have been some variant releases which you can read about further down, but these occur within the 1,000 mintage limit and are not in addition to. At twelve coins and counting, this clearly popular range will surely have further entrants to come and as usual, we’ll keep this guide updated to reflect them.
The Tower of Babel is an etiological myth in the Book of Genesis of the Tanakh (Old Testament) meant to explain the origin of different languages. According to the story, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar. There they agreed to build a city and a tower “tall enough to reach heaven”; seeing this, God confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other and scattered them around the world.
The Tower of Babel has been associated with known structures according to some modern scholars, notably the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Marduk by Nabopolassar, king of Babylonia (c. 610 BCE). The Great Ziggurat of Babylon was 91 metres (300 ft) in height. Alexander the Great ordered it demolished circa 331 BCE in preparation for a reconstruction that his death forestalled.
DESIGN: Depicts the Tower of Babel under construction but almost complete. To the right is a Babylonian, to the left some ancient scripts (cunieform, hieroglyphic, greek etc.), meant to represent the original function of the tower.
ENAMEL: At the top of the reverse face is a cloud in light blue. A limited number in two-coin sets had a white cloud.
Jonah is the son of Amittai, and he appears in 2 Kings as a prophet from Gath-Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth. He is therein described as being active during the reign of the second King Jeroboam (c.786–746 BC), and as predicting that Jeroboam will recover certain lost territories.
Jonah is the central character in the Book of Jonah. Commanded by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me,” Jonah instead seeks to flee from “the presence of the Lord” by going to Jaffa, identified as Joppa or Joppe, and sailing to Tarshish, which, geographically, is in the opposite direction. A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing that it is no ordinary storm, cast lots and discover that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits this and states that if he is thrown overboard, the storm will cease. The sailors try to dump as much cargo as possible before giving up, but feel forced to throw him overboard, at which point the sea calms. The sailors then offer sacrifices to God. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish in whose belly he spends three days and three nights. While in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to spew Jonah out.
God again commands Jonah to visit Nineveh and prophesy to its inhabitants. This time he goes and enters the city, crying, “In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown.” After Jonah has walked across Nineveh, the people of Nineveh begin to believe his word and proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation which decrees fasting, sackcloth, prayer, and repentance. God sees their repentant hearts and spares the city at that time. The entire city is humbled and broken with the people (and even the animals) in sackcloth and ashes. Even the king comes off his throne to repent.
DESIGN: Depicts Jonah being disgorged from the belly of a whale/sea creature and onto land. A ship sits on the sea on the horizon. Icons to the left are a fish and some stormy waves.
ENAMEL: To the left of the reverse face is a fish in dark blue.
The Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, were, in the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.
According to Matthew, the only one of the four Canonical gospels to mention the Magi, they came “from the east” to worship the “king of the Jews”. Although the account does not mention the number of Magi, the three gifts has led to the widespread assumption that there were three men. In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number twelve. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to Psalms 72:11, “May all kings fall down before him”.
DESIGN: Depicts Jesus being held by Mary and surrounded by the three magi of legend. To the left are small icons representing the three gifts, to the right, three men on camels. In the background is the moon with a shooting star going across it.
ENAMEL: At the top of the reverse face is a shooting star in yellow-gold.
Noah’s Ark is the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative (Genesis chapters 6–9) by which the Patriarch Noah saves himself, his family, and a remnant of all the world’s animals when God decides to destroy the world because of mankind’s evil deeds. God gives Noah detailed instructions for building the ark: it is to be of gopher wood, smeared inside and out with pitch, with three decks and internal compartments; it will be 300 cubits long, 50 wide, and 30 high (450 × 75 × 45 ft or 137 × 22.9 × 13.7 m); it will have a roof “finished to a cubit upward”, and an entrance on the side. It had three internal divisions (which are not actually called “decks”, although presumably this is what is intended).
It is made of “gopher” wood, a word which does not appear elsewhere in the entire Bible, and is divided into qinnim, a word which always refers to birds’ nests elsewhere, leading some scholars to amend this to qanim (reeds), the material used for the boat of Atrahasis, the Babylonian flood-hero. God instructs Noah to kapar (smear) the ark with koper (pitch): in Hebrew the first of these words is a verb formed from the second and, like “gopher”, it is a word found nowhere else in the Bible.
Noah is instructed to take on board his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives. He is also to take two of every living thing, and seven pairs of every clean creature and of every bird, together with sufficient food.
DESIGN: Depicts Noah releasing a dove to find land to the left of the coin face. The rest is filled with an image of the ark unloading its cargo of animals as the waters recede.
ENAMEL: At the top of the reverse face are a pair of raindrops highlighted in blue.
Cain is a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel is a shepherd. Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his brother, after God has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices brought by Abel. Accordingly, Abel was the first human to ever die. Cain is mentioned as Adam and Eve’s first child; thus, Cain, according to Scripture, was the first human ever born.
DESIGN: Depicts Cain lumping Abel around the head with a club.
ENAMEL: The club being held by Cain is highlighted in brown.
The Genesis creation narrative is the creation myth of both Judaism and Christianity. It is made up of two stories, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. In the first (Genesis 1:1–2:3) Elohim, the Hebrew generic word for God, creates the heavens and the earth in six days, starting with light on the first day and ending with mankind on the sixth, then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh. In the second story God, now referred to by the personal name Yahweh, creates Adam, the first man, from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden, where he is given dominion over the animals. Eve, the first woman, is created from Adam’s side as a companion.
A common hypothesis among modern scholars is that the first major comprehensive draft of the Pentateuch (the series of five books which begins with Genesis and ends with Deuteronomy) was composed in the late 7th or the 6th century BCE (the Jahwist source) and that this was later expanded by other authors (the Priestly source) into a work very like the one we have today. The two sources can be identified in the creation narrative: Genesis 1:1–2:3 is Priestly and Genesis 2:4–2:24 is Jahwistic. Borrowing themes from Mesopotamian mythology, but adapting them to Israel’s belief in one God, the combined narrative is a critique of the Mesopotamian theology of creation: Genesis affirms monotheism and denies polytheism. Robert Alter described the combined narrative as “compelling in its archetypal character, its adaptation of myth to monotheistic ends”.
DESIGN: Depicts a flying dove between a pair of hands, between which are radiating lines. Around this central motif are small icons detailing elements of the creation myth.
ENAMEL: The fyling dove in the coins centre is highlighted in white.