Mint of Poland celebrates Audubons Birds with a silver coin series showcasing his beloved art

One of the most impressive and well-loved feats in natural history literature, John James Audobon’s epic Birds of America book is also one of the most sought after works in history. Even at the time of publication it was much admired. King George IV of Britain and the French monarchy were subscribers to the books. Throughout its life and right up until today, copies of the book have fetched huge sums of money. In 1839, a copy was purchased by the University of Michigan for the equivalent today of $80,000. Only 120 copies are known to exist, of which just 13 are in private hands. Despite this, it was estimated in 2010 that adjusted for inflation, five of the most expensive printed books ever sold at auction were copies of Birds of America, including a sale in 2010 that broke the previous record when it hit a staggering $11.5m.

Trying to do justice to this quite beautiful work on a 40mm piece of silver is obviously fraught with difficulty. Fortunately, the Mint of Poland has decided not to ‘go weird’ and has simply chosen to reproduce nine pieces to make up a nine-coin set. Each will weigh a mint speciality 17.5 grams, yet still come in at a very healthy 40 x 40 mm. The images are rectangular, so the extra space on the square coin is filled with an inscribed series name and remains the same for every coin.

The first coin has chosen the Flamingo as its subject and the second coin the Brown Pelican, both of which you can see actual images of just below. They’re to be released at approximately monthly intervals and the final seven coins can be seen in art form further down. Packaging consists of one of the floating latex frames with a themed insert inside. The obverse is very neat and simple. A framed proof area holds inscriptions denoting the issuer, date, composition and denomination. Issued for Cameroon, it will remain common throughout the series.

A genuine work of art, depicted very sympathetically, is about all you could ask for on a coin and these succeed well. We’ve only seen the first and second coin available for sale yet and US dealer APMEX has them both for just uinder $80 each. If you have interest in the subject matter, we can’t see a better coin depiction coming along anytime soon. Just 555 of each will be minted.



John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species.

About 1820, around the age of 35, Audubon declared his intention to paint every bird in North America. In his bird art, he mainly forsook oil paint, the medium of serious artists of the day, in favour of watercolours and pastel crayons (and occasionally pencil, charcoal, chalk, gouache, and pen and ink). As early as 1807, he developed a method of using wires and threads to hold dead birds in lifelike poses while he drew them.

It was first published as a series in sections between 1827 and 1838, in Edinburgh and London. The work consists of hand-coloured, life-size prints, made from engraved plates, measuring around 39 by 26 inches (99 by 66 cm). The principal printing technique was copperplate etching, but engraving and aquatint were also used. Watercolour was then added by hand.It includes images of six now-extinct birds: Carolina parakeet, passenger pigeon, Labrador duck, great auk, Eskimo curlew, and pinnated grouse. The plant-life backgrounds of some 50 of the bird studies were painted by Audubon’s assistant Joseph Mason and reproduced uncredited in the book.

Audubon funded the costly printing project through a pay-as-you-go subscription. From 1826 to 1829, he travelled around the UK and to Paris, lecturing on ornithology and frontier American life in an effort to entice wealthy patrons to subscribe to the series of prints. Subscribers included the French king Charles X, the British queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Lord Spencer, and, later, the Americans Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. (Source: Wikipedia)


COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 17.5 grams
DIMENSIONS 40.00 x 40.00 mm
BOX / COA Yes / Yes