Mint 21’s Meteorite Art series wraps up with its fourth issue – Campo Del Cielo

The fourth and final issue in Mint 21’s Meteorite Art series has arrived and highlights one of the biggest meteorites ever found on this planet – Campo Del Cielo. It follows the 2015 Sikhote-Alin, 2016 Brenham, and 2017 Libyan Desert Glass issues, and this one is dated 2018. The previous three coins have been much liked for their design, but the latest issue lives up to the legacy and moves to 999 silver from the previously standard 925.

These are big coins, even for this genre. At 170 grams in weight (over five ounces), and reaching out to an expansive 60 mm diameter, only the odd kilo issue is any bigger, but those obviously carry a huge cost penalty. The series has followed a tight visual style as far as the reverse face is concerned. A deep and detailed impact crater holds a meteorite fragment, and one that isn’t sliced and diced into an artificial shape like most others in this interesting coin genre. The look is both conservative and innovative at the same time, if that makes any sense.

The obverse has always been more varied in design and Campo Del Cielo is no exception. The long straight road disappearing into the mountains evokes many an American road movie and looks excellent – enhanced by the lack of a rim or border. The Republic of Chad has its coat of arms placed to one side, although of a size that isn’t detracting. Previous coins have depicted mountain views and landscapes, so it all ties neatly together into a coherent series.

All told, a great addition for the meteorite coin collector, although at the higher end as you would expect given the specification. Even so, the €400 launch price is pretty normal for this type of coin, as the meteorite fragment alone can be quite expensive. Packaging comprises a modern-looking wooden box, which also holds a certificate of authenticity. The mintage is the same 500 pieces that the rest of the series has stuck to, and it should start to ship later next month.

CAMPO DEL CIELO

In 1576, the governor of a province in Northern Argentina commissioned the military to search for a huge mass of iron, which he had heard that Natives used for their weapons. The Natives claimed that the mass had fallen from the sky in a place they called Piguem Nonralta which the Spanish translated as Campo del Cielo (“Field of Heaven”). The expedition found a large mass of metal protruding out of the soil. They assumed it was an iron mine and brought back a few samples, which were described as being of unusual purity. The governor documented the expedition and deposited the report in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, but it was quickly forgotten and later reports on that area merely repeated the Native legends. Following the legends, in 1774 don Bartolome Francisco de Maguna rediscovered the iron mass which he called el Meson de Fierro (“the Table of Iron”). Maguna thought the mass was the tip of an iron vein. The next expedition, led by Rubin de Celis in 1783, used explosives to clear the ground around the mass and found that it was probably a single stone. Celis estimated its mass as 15 tonnes and abandoned it as worthless. He himself did not believe that the stone had fallen from the sky and assumed that it had formed by a volcanic eruption. However, he sent the samples to the Royal Society of London and published his report in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Those samples were later analyzed and found to contain 90% iron and 10% nickel and assigned to a meteoritic origin.

Later, many iron pieces were found in the area weighing from a few milligrams to 34 tonnes. A mass of about 1 tonne known as Otumpa was located in 1803. A 634 kilograms (1,398 lb) portion of this mass was taken to Buenos Aires in 1813 and later donated to the British Museum. Other large fragments are summarized in the table below. The mass called el Taco was originally 3,070 kilograms (6,770 lb), but the largest remaining fragment weighs 1,998 kilograms (4,405 lb). The largest mass of 37 tonnes was located in 1969 at a depth of 5 m using a metal detector. This stone, named El Chaco, is the second heaviest single-piece meteorite after the Hoba meteorite (Namibia) which weighs 60 tonnes. However, the total mass of the Campo del Cielo fragments found so far exceeds 60 tonnes, making it the heaviest meteorite ever recovered on Earth.

Samples of charred wood were taken from beneath the meteorite fragments and analyzed for carbon-14 composition. The results indicate the date of the fall to be around 4,200–4,700 years ago, or 2,200–2,700 years BC. (Source: Wikipedia)

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION 5,000 Francs CFA (Chad)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 170.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 60.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, meteorite inset
MINTAGE 500
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
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