Beautiful numismatic classic, the German New Guinea Mark, is reproduced in proof form by the Commonwealth Mint

We’re seeing a bit of a renaissance of late with many mints delving into the numismatic past for inspiration. Such giants as the Royal Mint and the Monnaie de Paris, along with others like the East India Company, have all cherry picked fine classics of old for modern reinterpretation to various degrees, and now the Commonwealth Mint has joined with a release based on what is considered one of the most beautiful coins of all time.

Issued between 1894 and 1911 the German New Guinea Mark was legal tender in the colony until fully replaced by the German Mark – itself supplanted four years later by the Australian Pound after the colony was captured in the First World War. The finest version was undoubtedly the 10 and 20 Mark gold coins issued from 1895. Depicting a bird of paradise with outstretched plumage, resting on a forest tree branch, it’s a stunning piece, which you can see in the image of an 1895 original piece further down.

The Commonwealth Mint has had an easy job reproducing that gorgeous reverse, thankfully resisting the temptation to tinker with the original design in any way. The obverse, however, is completely new – not surprising given it isn’t a German colony any more. The original piece had a palm wreath, tied together at the bottom by a bow, around which were inscribed the obligatory issue details.

I’d argue the case that the Commonwealth Mint’s new obverse is actually better than the original. The Papua New Guinea national coat of arms is beautiful, featuring a more formalised bird of paradise which is perched on a spear and a kundu drum. It’s been in use since June 1971, so celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (although the coin is dated 2020). It was designed by Australian artist Hal Holman, who actually served as a commando in the New Guinea campaign in the Second World War. The rest of the obverse is a nice and brief set of issue inscriptions.

There are two versions of the modern coin in the range. The first is a one ounce 0.999 silver proof with a 400 mintage. The second is a quarter ounce 0.9999 gold coin, also with a 400 mintage. As you’d expect with low mintages like these, prices are a little above the average for them, but given that original gold coins will leave you little, if any change from $50,000 USD, I guess its worth it.

Part of the reason is that all 400 of each format are being graded and only the coins that are graded 70 (the maximum) will actually go on sale. The chances of all 400 of each coming back with a 70 grade are extremely small, so it will be a rare beast indeed. A strange way to do things, but one many will find appealing. The coin should start shipping in the next couple of weeks and can be bought from Melbourne Coins. A really pretty coin and a great opportunity to pick up a bona fide classic.

DENOMINATION 10 Kina (Papua New Guinea) 100 Kina (Papua New Guinea)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold
WEIGHT 31.103 grams 7.78 grams
DIMENSIONS 38.6 mm 22.0 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MINTAGE 400 400
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes Yes / Yes