The name Max Hell conjures up a warrior who vanquishes evil across multiple dimensions, but in reality, the eighteenth century Jesuit priest, astronomer and mathematician, Rudolf Maximilian Hell, had an altogether more academic life. Born in what was then the Kingdom of Hungary, but is now modern day Slovakia, Hell was the third of 22 children (That explains the surname…)
He became the Director of the Vienna Observatory in 1756, going on to produce a healthy body of work. His paper Ephemerides astronomicae ad meridianum Vindobonemsem (“Ephemerides for the Meridian of Vienna”) which set out to document the transit of Venus was controversial, and he was plagued by accusations of falsifying data, but was exonerated a century later. He died in 1792 and has since had a crater on the moon named after him – literally, Hell.
The reverse face of the coin depicts the man himself in portrait form, with a symbolic astronomical background and the dates of his birth and death inscribed on it. It looks to be a fine realisation of the man, dressed for his defining journey to the Arctic Circle, although obviously, no photographs of him exist, so how accurate it is will be open to debate. The obverse again goes with the astronomical theme, featuring a period telescope against a star filled background.
This is a 0.900 silver coin a little over ½-ounce in weight and is available in two versions. The proof variant makes up the bulk of the mintage, with 6,500 pieces, and there are 2,800 being struck to the lower brilliant uncirculated standard. The coins look to come with a booklet detailing some of the mans history and are pretty cheap compared to many other mints. The BU version sells for around €22-24, with the proof coin around €5 more. The Bank of Slovakia puts out some nice, classic coins, and is well worth keeping an eye on. Available now.