Russia celebrates Yuri Gagarin’s landmark first manned flight into space on its 60th anniversary with a 5oz coin pair

Mint XXI issued a superb celebration of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned flight into space last year that greatly impressed us. It was a design centred on a realistic portrayal of the man and the machine, Vostok-1. This was a Russian event and one that the country is unquestionably proud of, so we’ve waited impatiently for a Russian coin to mark the 60th anniversary. It’s here now.

The Central Bank of Russia doesn’t issue a huge number of five-ounce coins, so the fact this event gets a pair of them is quite significant, even if they are variations on the same design. Russia has eschewed realism for a more hopeful and symbolic celebration. The coin was designed by L.A. Evdokimova, and sculpted by A.N. Bessonov, and is focused on a winged human soaring upwards at seemingly great speed, towards a starfield with three of the major constellations highlighted, (Taurus, Leo, Sagittarius).

It’s a pretty design, especially in uncoloured form, aided by the inscribed message (‘12 АПРЕЛЯ 1961 г.’ (12 APRIL 1961) and ‘60 ЛЕТ ПЕРВОГО ПОЛЕТА ЧЕЛОВЕКА В
КОСМОС’ (THE 60th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRST HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT)), being well placed out of the way. The obverse is the usual Russian double-headed eagle, so no surprises there, but it’s always been one of the most striking standard designs out there anyway.

Two variants, both at five-ounces of sterling (0.925) silver in weight. There’s a proof version with a mintage of 1,000 pieces, and the blue-coloured effort with a mintage half that, both struck at the Saint Petersburg Mint. These would make a nice companion piece to the Mint XXI coin. Should be available now, although CBR coins aren’t the easiest to pick up. Site sponsor Munzdachs sells some Russian coins, so may be a good place to start.

THE FIRST MANNED ORBIT OF THE EARTH

Instantly becoming one of the most famous humans in history, and likely to remain so for centuries to come, Yuri Gagarin strapped himself into a crude metal capsule perched atop tons of explosive fuel, in what will go down as an epic example of human ingenuity and courage. It was from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 12, 1961 that Vostok 1 lifted off and powered its way into Earth orbit with just a solitary human being on board.

By the standards of today, when pilotless shuttles spend months in space, Gagarin’s single orbit of our Blue Planet seems a small thing, lasting just 108 minutes from take-off to touchdown, but to a species that had never left this ball of rock, it was a first step into the future. Amazingly, Gagarin didn’t land in the capsule, but bailed out around 7 km up, coming down the rest of the way by parachute.

The capsule was actually called Vostok-3a, and sat atop a Vostok-K rocket. It weighed 4,725 kg at launch, and a little over half that on rreturn. As for Gagarin, this was his only mission, being banned from further attempts after the death of another Cosmonaut. The Soviet government did not want to lose its hero. Sadly, five weeks after being given permission to fly regular aircraft, Gagarin was killed when the MiG-15 he was in, crashed.

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION 25 Rubles (Russia) 25 Rubles (Russia)
COMPOSITION 0.925 silver 0.925 silver
WEIGHT 155.5 grams (fine) 155.5 grams
DIMENSIONS 60.0 mm 60.0 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS None Colour
MINTAGE 1,000 500
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
CENTRAL BANK OF RUSSIA