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 matter. 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 matter, 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 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. As I said earlier, one of our all time favourites.
Tutankhamun (also known as Tutankhamen and `King Tut’, r. c.1336-c.1327 BCE) is the most famous and instantly recognizable Pharaoh in the modern world. His golden sarcophagus is now a symbol almost synonymous with Egypt. His name means `living image of [the god] Amun’. He was born in the year 11 of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten, r. 1353-1336 BCE) c. 1345 BCE and died, some claim mysteriously, in c.1327 BCE at the age of 17 or 18.
He became the celebrity pharaoh he is today in 1922 CE when the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his almost-intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. While it was initially thought that Tutankhamun was a minor ruler, whose reign was of little consequence, opinion has changed as further evidence has come to light. Today Tutankhamun is recognized as an important pharaoh who returned order to a land left in chaos by his father’s political-religious reforms and who would no doubt have made further impressive contributions to Egypt’s history if not for his early death. (Mark, J. J. (2014, April 01). Tutankhamun. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Tutankhamun/)
Horus is the name of a sky god in ancient Egyptian mythology which designates primarily two deities: Horus the Elder (or Horus the Great), the last born of the first five original gods, and Horus the Younger, the son of Osiris and Isis. According to the historian Jimmy Dunn, “Horus is the most important of the avian deities” who takes on so many forms and is depicted so differently in various inscriptions that “it is nearly impossible to distinguish the ‘true’ Horus. Horus is mostly a general term for a great number of falcon deities”. While this is certainly true, the name ‘Horus’ will usually be found to designate either the older god of the first five or the son of Isis and Osiris who defeated his uncle Set and restored order to the land.
The name Horus is the Latin version of the Egyptian Hor which means “the Distant One”, a reference to his role as a sky god. The elder Horus, brother of Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys, is known as Horus the Great in English or Harwer and Haroeris in Egyptian. The son of Osiris and Isis is known as Horus the Child (Hor pa khered) who was transformed into the Greek god Harpocrates after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 331 BCE. ‘Harpocrates’ also means ‘Horus the Child’ but the deity differed from the Egyptian Horus. Harpocrates was the Greek god of silence and confidentiality, the keeper of secrets, whose statuary regularly depicts him as a winged child with his finger to his lips.
Horus the Younger, on the other hand, was a powerful sky god associated with the sun, primarily, but also the moon. He was the protector of the royalty of Egypt, avenger of wrongs, defender of order, uniter of the two lands and, based on his battles with Set, a god of war regularly invoked by Egyptian rulers before battle and praised afterwards. In time, he became combined with the sun god Ra to form a new deity, Ra-Harahkhte, god of the sun who sailed across the sky during the day and was depicted as a falcon-headed man wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt with the sun disk on it. His symbols are the Eye of Horus (one of the most famous Egyptian symbols) and the falcon.
Mark, J. J. (2016, March 16). Horus. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Horus/