A big part of early modern US history, the voyage of the Mayflower is one of a select group of nation defining events that are universally considered worthy of numismatic commemoration. The plucky tale of a group of colonists setting sail across the harsh North Atlantic in a rickety boat, isn’t actually that far from the truth. The Mayflower was heavily laden and not exactly the most sea-worthy of vessels, having been built for trade between European ports rather than a long transatlantic crossing. She had even been sold for scrapping some four years previous. It was quite incredible that she landed with the same number of passengers and crew as she left Europe with, one person having died on the crossing, but a baby being born.
The Pilgrims were not to be so lucky on arrival, finding they were not as prepared as they believed. By the time they finally got off the ship and started to build a settlement, half were dead of cold and disease. The ship returned to Britain in early 1621, making the return journey in half the time, thanks to the winds. The sub-200 ton, approx 30m long sailing vessel was probably broken up sometime in the few years after her return, as, in the words of Del from Trotters Independent Breakers, she was “a bit cream-crackered…” (cue most of the world wondering what on earth I’m talking about… 😉 ).
Both the British Royal Mint and the United States Mint have prepared a pair of coins/medals to mark the 400th anniversary. The former has its bi-metallic looking £2 range that we revealed back in January, and the US Mint has a ¼ oz gold coin and a 1oz silver medal. In a rare collaboration, all of the coins were designed by a single artist, in this case, Chris Costello. The UK coin is a single design in gold and silver, but it’s our favourite of all five scenes. A stylised Mayflower under full sail is beautifully rendered and it’s great to see the design finally given a chance to shine on a single coloured canvas. We’re really not great fans of the £2 coin with its outer ring made of a different metal. Understandable on a circulating coin for security reasons, but we’re rarely seen a need to transfer that look onto the precious metal commemoratives. One look at this example just cements that belief, as these are way nicer, in our opinion.
The US gold coin is of an artistic style that is clearly US Mint. The scene of the Mayflower’s arrival on one face, and the double bust depiction of a pair of Pilgrims on the other, is something we’ve seen employed on other US issues. That isn’t to say they aren’t good, they certainly are. The silver medal is similarly done, with a scene from the Pilgrims perspective on one face, and one featuring the Wampanoag natives on the other. It’s great that the US pair have four different Mayflower scenes on show, compared to only one on the British coin, even if we do like that one the most. You might think differently, of course, making the difference in approach favour the US side of things even more.
Both mints have the coins in these sets available individually, although not in this form in the case of the Royal Mint selection. What we particularly like is that they are also available as a pair of sets, taking the gold from each mint to make one, and the silver from each mint to make another. A wonderful touch, cementing a shared history going back centuries. No news on the presentation, price or mintage yet, but this should be shipping later in the year and is one to watch out for.