While we often see new and unusual subjects on modern bullion coins, we don’t often see something different in the format sense. In 2016, Scottsdale Mint debuted the first of its new Egyptian Relics series. These were quite unlike anything else on the legal tender market. Available initially only in a five-ounce format, they keep a diameter similar to a standard one ounce coin, choosing to employ all the extra weight on increasing the thickness.
There’s nothing unusual in that, of course, but instead of a standard bound edge, either smooth or reeded, Scottsdale have chosen to replicate the look of a piece of chiselled stone. It’s a small thing, but an inspired idea that works perfectly with the subject. Looking at the first coin depicting Tutankhamun, you can almost see it as being a piece of chipped off hieroglyphic adorned facade. The use of an antique finish aids in the effect. There’s no high-relief here – theses are still bullion coins after all – but again, that fits the theme as most Egyptian imagery was incused into a stone face.
Quickly following the five-ounce debut was a two-ounce coin that worked surprisingly well, and a gorgeous gold coin. The latter one eschewed the chiselled edge, but remained unbound to give that ancient feel, much like the Monnaie de Paris’s superb Clovis series. In 2018, Scottsdale expanded the theme to include the legendary Terracotta Army. While the format is less relevant to the Chinese site than it is to the Ancient Egyptian civilisation, it works just as well, helped along by the change from the small cardboard boxes to the very cool hessian-style bags (yes, these bullion coins come packaged).
These are one of our favourite bullion coin series of all time. It helps that I love the subject, but the implementation is absolutely first class and constitutes one of those rare examples of a format change done for the right reasons rather than just for the sake of it. The coins are still being released, with another Terracotta Army issue due in 2020. As a sidenote, the Terracotta Army coin didn’t release in 2019, and was essentially missed from the mints schedule last year. To get back on track, they produced a limited run of just 1,500 pieces of that design, so definitely one to keep an eye out for.
Mintages as a whole are pretty tight, with none exceeding 30,000 pieces. The Egyptian Relics series is issued for the Republic of Chad, an African state, so at least on the same continent as the theme. The Terracotta Army coins are issued for Fiji. Both ranges carry the respective national emblems, Fiji having dumped the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II after its constitutional problems a few years ago. It’s great to see a bullion coin have this much care and attention expended on it, and so successfully. These are true bullion coins, with some very low premiums, yet also having plenty of potential as semi-numismatics.