One of the world’s greatest explorers, or one of history’s biggest spoofers, the legacy of Marco Polo is still argued about today. His epic journal detailed travels to the Far East and are likely a mix of reality and exaggeration. Born in 1254 in the Republic of Venice, he didn’t meet his father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo until 1269 and the trio were soon off on an epic journey to Asia that lasted for 24 years. On returning to Venice to find it at war with Genoa, he was imprisoned, and it was here that he dictated his book, Livres des merveilles du monde (Book of the Marvels of the World, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo, c. 1300).
The book described China and many of its cities, including Peking, especially the culture and great wealth. It was said to be the inspiration for Christopher Columbus, and it also influenced European cartography, especially the producing of the influential Fra Mauro map. On leaving prison he headed back into the merchant world with great success, married and had three children. He died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice.
The new coin from the Italian Mint (IPZS) is very much a classically styled piece. IPZS rarely issues anything over than clean proof coins and this one is no exception. The reverse face by Silvia Petrassi depicts a portrait of Polo in front of some oriental-inspired imagery. There’s plenty packed in, with little of the coin face not used. The obverse (also by Petrassi) is better though, with a medieval-inspired, almost tapestry-like view of Polo’s travels.
All in all, one of our favourite Italian coins to come out of for some time. Struck to a proof finish in sterling 0.925 silver, it weighs 22 grams and comes in a box with a certificate of authenticity. It has a mintage of 5,000 piees and a recommended selling price of €55.00. Available to order now.