Landlocked Rwanda issues its third Nautical Ounce bullion coin celebrating naval exploration

Long a staple of the bullion coin calendar, although having plenty of competition these days, the Rwandan African Ounce has been joined by a couple of siblings in recent years. The geometric ‘stained-glass’ style lunars are certainly different, but the Nautical Ounce is the more attractive and interesting of the two. Launching in 2017, the series now welcomes its third entrant into port.

The theme is simple enough. Famous ships from history have always been a popular subject in the numismatic world, although a strange choice for a coin issued by Rwanda, a completely land-locked country. The choice of subjects to date should give you a great idea of where the series is going. In 2017, it was the Santa Maria, a ship used by Christopher Columbus in his voyage of discovery to North America. This was followed last year by Captain James Cook’s Endeavour, and now in 2019, the Victoria, the first vessel to circumnavigate the world.

You can see from the design that this emanates from the same producer creating the African Ounce. The border, series logo and background design are constant, and it’s just the ship artwork that varies, although the style is clearly from the same pen. We like these. The subject makes a neat change from the norm in bullion circles, and they are well realised with a good quality strike.

Three versions as usual – all 1oz in weight. The unlimited mintage silver coin will no doubt be of most interest. Just because that mintage is unbound, don’t expect to see hundreds of thousands of these doing the rounds. A silver proof variant with a 1,000 mintage will be the coin of choice for the collector, and sitting on top of the selection is a bullion gold coin with the microscopic mintage of just 100 pieces. Given the hefty price being charged for the gold, it’s disappointing there isn’t a proof finish. Overall, a very nice addition to the market and available to order now from dealers worldwide.


One of the most famous explorers in history, many have heard of Ferdinand Magellan and the first circumnavigation of the globe by sea, but far fewer know the details compared to say, the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The name of the ships is relatively unknown, as is the fact that Magellan didn’t complete his voyage around the world, being killed en route by island natives, in this case in the Philippines.

Five ships set out from Portugal on August 10, 1519 with 271 people on board, but only 18 people returned on board the Victoria on September 6, 1522. The other four ships were Trinidad (110 tons, crew 55), San Antonio (120 tons, crew 60), Concepcion (90 tons, crew 45), and Santiago (75 tons, crew 32). All were wrecked or scuttled on the voyage.

Magellan died for ego. He decided to convert the locals to Christianity and got caught up in the conflict between those that did and tose that wouldn’t. The voyage of some 42,000 miles (22,000 unknown to the crew), was completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano. He is far less known than Magellan, a former mutineer who spent months in chains on the voyage, but he did complete the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.

The Victoria was a Spanish carrack built at a shipyard in Ondarroa. A carrack is a 3 or 4 masted ocean-going cargo vessel developed in Portugal. This hugely influential ship design remained state of the art until replaced by the Galleon in the 17th century. Replicas of the Victoria exist in Europe and in Chile, the latter of which was built to commemrte the bicentennial celebartions of the founding of the country.

DENOMINATION 50 Francs (Rwanda) 100 Francs (Rwanda)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 gold
WEIGHT 31.1 grams 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 40.0 mm 40.0 mm
FINISH Uncirculated or Proof Uncirculated
MODIFICATIONS None High-relief
MINTAGE Unltd (BU) / 1,000 (Proof) 100
BOX & COA No / No (BU) Yes (proof) Yes / Yes