Italian Excellence series of silver coins celebrates the ultra-iconic Vespa scooter with a trio of variants

Two-wheeled transport doesn’t get more iconic than the Italian brand, Vespa. Along with their competitor Lambretta, this company pioneered the popularity of this once cheap and cheerful mode of transport after the Second World War ended. While Lambretta has fallen by the wayside, even if it has revived recently as a shadow of its former self, Vespa has continued to this day as an icon of the modern urban world.

As a staple of Italian culture, it has fallen to the Italian Mint (IPZS) to celebrate the brand through its Italian Excellence series. Each coin is struck in sterling 0.925 silver to what the IPZS refers to as a ‘special-uncirculated’ finish. With a weight of 18 grams, these contain just over half-ounce of fine silver. The reverse design has a front and side view of one of these unusual motorcycles, with some popular visual elements of the brand filling out the background field. This is cleanly struck and common to the set.

Yes, there are more than one, although the basic design by Maria Carmela Colaneri, is identical. The young couple standing by their Vespa is common to the three variations on offer, which differ only in the colour of the scooter body. As an Italian issue, it’s no surprise that the three colours chosen are those present on this Mediterranean nations flag – green, white, and red. Mintages do vary, however. There are 7,000 each of the red and white versions, and just 3,000 of the green.

Packaging is heavily themed and looks beautifully done. A book-style box with an inner coloured to match the coin hue, would make this a great gift item for the legions of Vespa fans around the world. The coins are pretty affordable at €40.00 each, but a set of all three is also available for only €100.00. This is strictly limited to 1,000 sets and comes in a bigger version of the box used to house the individual coins. All are available from 12th April. Like their earlier Fiat 500 issue, we think this is a fine celebration of Italian transport.

VESPA SCOOTERS by Piaggio

Vespa (meaning ‘Wasp’ in Italian) is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by since 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera.  Evolving from a single model motor scooter manufactured after the end of the Second World War, it is one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio. From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.

Piaggio filed a patent for the Vespa scooter design in April 1946. The application documents referred to a “model of a practical nature” for a “motorcycle with rationally placed parts and elements with a frame combining with mudguards and engine-cowling covering all working parts”, of which “the whole constitutes a rational, comfortable motorcycle offering protection from mud and dust without jeopardizing requirements of appearance and elegance”. The patent was approved the following December.

Piaggio sold some 2,500 Vespas in 1947, over 10,000 in 1948, 20,000 in 1949, and over 60,000 in 1950. The biggest sales promo ever was Hollywood. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales. Vespa’s largest market by all measures globally is still Italy, but as a result of the Mod subculture that developed in the 1960s, the United Kingdom is still Vespa’s second largest global market—and at one point in the 1960s, its largest. The appeal of the Vespa to the style-conscious mods was the weather protection. Their counterparts, the rockers rode classic British motorcycles such as Triumph Bonneville and BSAs, and needed to wear leathers against the elements. Mods would modify their Vespas, adding lights, mascots, accessories, various racks and crash bars. A new lifestyle evolved in the UK, with thousands attending scooter rallies.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

OBVERSE: a boy and a girl on a modern model of the Vespa in three different colours ; in the background, the Coliseum. The composition is dominated by the inscription “REPUBBLICA ITALIANA”; below, the name of the designer “COLANERI”.

REVERSE: graphic composition of profile and front views of the Vespa with Piaggio elements and stylistic features. Above, the value “5 EURO”, the name “VESPA” in the characteristic italics of the logo of the most famous scooter in the world; on the right, “R” identifying the Mint of Rome; below, on the right, the year of the coin’s issue 2019”.

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SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION €5 Euro
COMPOSITION 0.925 silver
WEIGHT 18.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 32.0 mm
FINISH Special uncirculated
MODIFICATIONS Selective colour
MINTAGE 7,000
BOX / COA Yes / Yes
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