It’s 400 years since the historic Mayflower voyage and the two countries celebrate together with numismatic sets

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.

US GOLD OBVERSEUS GOLD REVERSE

OBVERSE: Depicts a Wampanoag family from the border of the design as the Mayflower arrives from foreign shores. A young boy steps on the border, representing the intersection of the Wampanoag people in their Patuxet homeland and the Mayflower passengers. Inscriptions are “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “PATUXET,” and “$10.”

REVERSE: Depicts portraits of a Pilgrim man and woman, representing the beginnings of a transition from a monarchy to democracy. The dual portraits symbolize a democratic organization, with their resolute expressions focused on a self-determined future. A pair of mayflower blossoms flank the design. Inscriptions are “1620,” “PLYMOUTH,” “2020,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “AU 24K ¼ OZ.” and “UNITED STATES of AMERICA.”

UK GOLD REVERSEUK GOLD OBVERSE

OBVERSE: All U.K. currency features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, designed by Jody Clark.

REVERSE: The coin depicts the Mayflower bursting out of the frame as it sails through the rough seas. This dramatic interpretation of the ship on its journey to the New World represents the determination of the passengers and crew to find a new way of life.

THE MAYFLOWER

Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from England to the New World in 1620. After a grueling 10 weeks at sea, the Mayflower, with 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, reached America, dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.

The Puritans believed that the Church of England was beyond redemption due its Roman Catholic past, which forced them to pray in private. In 1608, they left England for Holland, where they could worship freely. After remaining there until 1620, a number of the Puritans purchased boats to cross the Atlantic for America, which they considered a “new Promised Land,” and where they established Plymouth Colony.

The Pilgrims had originally hoped to reach America in early October using two ships, but delays and complications meant they could use only one, the Mayflower. Arriving in November, they had to survive unprepared through a harsh winter. As a result, only half of the original Pilgrims survived the first winter at Plymouth. Without the help of local Indigenous peoples to teach them food gathering and other survival skills, all of the colonists may have perished. The following winter, they celebrated the colony’s first fall harvest along with the Indigenous people, which became the first Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims created and signed the Mayflower Compact while on the ship. The Compact was an agreement made among the passengers before going ashore to establish a rudimentary form of democracy, in which each member would contribute to the safety and welfare of the planned settlement. As one of the earliest pilgrim vessels, the ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States. Celebrations for the 400th Anniversary of the landing have been planned during 2020 in the U.S., England and the Netherlands; however, the coronavirus pandemic has put some of those plans on hold.(Wikipedia)

MINTS DESCRIPTION

The reverse of the U.K. coins and the U.S. coin and medal contained in the sets were designed by Chris Costello, who used multiple stylistic elements to tie them together. These include the choice of font and North Star on the U.K. coin, which connects to the image of the sun in the U.S. coin, symbolizing a new day. That symbolism is also a reference to the Wampanoag people who inhabited the region, and were known as the “People of the Dawn.”

“I am extremely proud of these coins and medals,” said United States Mint Director David J. Ryder. “These designs are yet another chapter in the long history of the United States Mint’s commitment to producing stunning medallic art. This set is a tangible representation of our longstanding friendship and alliance with Britain.”

Clare Maclennan, Director of Commemorative coins for The Royal Mint, said: “We are delighted to have created two unique sets which commemorate such a pivotal moment in our combined history. Chris Costello has beautifully retold the Mayflower story through numismatic art, while also highlighting important themes which continue to resonate with us in the U.K. and U.S. today.”

US MEDAL OBVERSEUS MEDAL REVERSE

OBVERSE: Features a Mayflower family bracing against the cold and windy weather, foreshadowing their coming hardships, while the ship is anchored in the harbor. A pair of mayflower blossoms flank the design. Inscriptions are “A CIVIL BODY POLITICK,” “1620-2020,” and “MAYFLOWER COMPACT.”

REVERSE: Depicts a Wampanoag man and woman employing a planting technique used to grow several crops that were staples for the Wampanoag people. This method helped keep the soil healthy, maintaining the resources for annual plantings and successful harvests. The inscription “SUSTAINERS OF LIFE” recalls not only this sustainable planting technique, but also the critical skills the Wampanoag people afforded the Pilgrims by teaching them how to successfully plant and harvest the land. The additional inscription is “PEOPLE OF THE DAWN.”

UK SILVER REVERSEUK SILVER OBVERSE

OBVERSE: All U.K. currency features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, designed by Jody Clark.

REVERSE: The coin depicts the Mayflower bursting out of the frame as it sails through the rough seas. This dramatic interpretation of the ship on its journey to the New World represents the determination of the passengers and crew to find a new way of life.

Bold Precious Metals
SPECIFICATION
ITEM US MEDAL UK SILVER US COIN UK GOLD
DENOMINATION None £2 UKP $10 USD £25 UKP
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold 0.9999 gold
WEIGHT 31.103 grams 31.21 grams 7.78 grams 7.78 grams
DIMENSIONS 40.60 mm 38.61 mm 22.0 mm 22.0 mm
FINISH Proof Proof Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS None None None None
MINTAGE TBC TBC TBC TBC
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