Neil Armstrong goes coin hunting on the moon and finds MDM’s new 50th anniversary range

One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. With these words, astronaut Neil Armstrong opened up the next phase in human exploration by stepping from the Apollo 11 lunar lander onto the surface of the Moon. Joined 20 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin, and watched overhead by designated driver, Michael Collins, this was an event that was watched around the world with absolute admiration.

It was July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC that the lunar module Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, and six hours later Armstrong set foot on the surface. Along with Aldrin, they spent around 135 minutes walking on the lunar surface and collected a little more than 21 kg of material to return to Earth. Including their time in the module, they spent 21½ hours on the Moon.

The mission to the Moon was called Apollo 11, and started with the launch of a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, on 16 July at 13:32 UTC and was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft was constructed around three basic parts. A command module was the living and control space for the three astronauts, and was the only part that splashed back down to Earth in the Pacific Ocean on July 24 after more than eight days in space. The service module supplied the command module with power and propulsion, and the lunar module landed on the Moon surface (The Eagle has landed) and returned the two walkers back to the command module.

One of the first major events that was broadcast live around the world, the landing affirmed the United States as the victor in the Space Race against the Soviet Union, after being beaten by the Communist superpower in the race to get a man into orbit some years previously. There were just five further manned landings on the Moon, the last in 1972, and amazingly, there weren’t even any unmanned landings between 1976 and the end of 2013. Conspiracy theories abound about the truth of the landings, of course, most complete nonsense (no, they weren’t chased away by the Clangers and the Soup Dragon…), but it happened and this fantastic achievment should be commemorated. MDM are the first to do so in numismatic form, for the 50th anniversary next year.

One of MDM’s specialities is their range of Mother of Pearl insert coins. Aimed at the higher end of the market, they’ve been produced with various subjects over the last few years, many with some quite esoteric subjects like bicycles or Mississippi steamboats. A silver or gold coin, they contain a large plug of mother of pearl, each issue having a particular colour, which is carved with an image. A perfect example is the beautiful Lunar horse coin, one we think is the best lunar of that year.

This pair follow the normal pattern for these. The MoP plug depicts a scene of the Apollo 11 lunar landing site which carries on into the border in struck form. The title and denomination are inscribed in the border. Issued for the Solomon Islands, the effigy of the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, sits in the centre of the obverse in Ian Rank Broadley form.

Packaging is always decent with these and the themed box emplyed here looks well up to the task, as you’d expect of a five-ounce, limited-edition, precious metal commemorative coin. Mintages of 750 for the silver and just 25 for the gold are quite tight given the subject matter.

The 50 gram domed coin is the highlight of this new range for us. It looks to be an impressive strike when you consider that this sub-2oz silver coin spans out to a hugely impressive 80 mm in diameter. That would be large for a standard strike, but is especially ambitious for a domed coin.

Fortunately, MDM haven’t rested on the strike itself to sell this coin and have actually put together a really nice looking design. The convex reverse depicts the lunar landing site and has some selective colour applied – just enough so as to not overwhelm the art itself. A mix of proof and matte finishes creates contrast. The obverse is, if anything, even better. The lunar surface and the icioonic footprint are well realised on this concave face and the placing of the effigy and inscriptions in a small mini-coin is a superb decision.

Packaging loksto be similar to that used for the mother of pearl pair and the mintage of this Solomon Islands issued silver coin is one we suspect will be popular with coins issued for the anniversary of the moon landing – 1,969. An excellent release and a high bar for others to aim for.


MDM have not forgotten the more affordable end of the market and are offering a simpler design on a pair of standard strikes. The formats are popular ones and comprise a one-ounce silver coin and a half-gram minigold with the same artwork. Unlike the coins above, this pair is issued for Barbados instead of the Solomon Islands. Thus, instead of the Queen’s mugshot, we get the good looking national coat of arms of this Caribbean island nation.

Packaging is similar to that employed by the New Zealand Mint on its minigold Mickey mouse range. A blister pack that looks like a heavily themed credit card, hold sthe encapsulated coin and acts as a certificate of authenticity. The 1,969 mintage figure is apploed to the silver coin, but the mintage of the minigold is a more numerous 5,000.

DENOMINATION $25 Solomon Islands $200 Solomon Islands $10 Barbados $5 barbados $5 Solomon Islands
COMPOSITION 0.999 gold 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold 0.999 silver 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 155.5 grams 155.5 grams 0.5 grams 31.1 grams 50.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 65.0 mm 65.0 mm 11.0 mm 38.61 mm 80.0 mm
FINISH Proof Proof Proof Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS Mother of Pearl Mother of Pearl None None Domed, colour
MINTAGE 25 750 5,000 1,969 1,969
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Card / Yes Card / Yes Yes / Yes