Samoan domed coin commemorates 500 years since Magellan set sail to circumnavigate the globe

One of the great endeavours of human exploration, Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition of 1519 that circumnavigated the globe for the first time. While the famous explorer died on the voyage, it’s become, perhaps unfairly, his achievement, rather than those that actually did complete the whole journey. Nevertheless, this is certainly a historical event worthy of numismatic remembrance. There have been a couple of coins over the last few years to cover the intrepid explorer. The NZ Mint did a Magellan issue as part of its Journey’s of Discovery series of 2oz antiqued coins, and the latest Rwandan Nautical Ounce has Magellan’s ship as its theme, but none are as unusual as this one from the Commonwealth Mint.

Just over a troy ounce in weight at forty grams, this one has an obverse of standard appearance. A neat design with a cartographic theme, it depicts a map of the Pacific leg of the fleets circumnavigation, with a small profile view of the ship, Nao Victoria, the carrack that served as the flagship of the five ship fleet, and on which just 18 survivors returned to Europe.

The reverse face is considerably more unusual. A very pronounced dome shape that is actually 9mm thick at its centre, has a view of the Atlantic part of the voyage, along with an image of Ferdinand himself. The coin was designed like this as a nod to the differing views on the shape of the Earth – flat or spheroid.

The whole thing should look neat when it’s done and we look forward to seeing actual images. It has a lightly antiqued finish which suits the theme well. It will come in a wooden box with a certificate of authenticity. In an especially nice touch, the coins will be struck on 20th September, the day in 1519 when the expedition set sail. Very cool. It should be available to order shortly, with shipping sometime in October.


One of the most famous explorers in history, many have heard of Ferdinand Magellan (1480 – 1521) and the first circumnavigation of the globe by sea, but far fewer know the details compared to say, the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The name of the ships is relatively unknown, as is the fact that Magellan didn’t complete his voyage around the world, being killed en route by island natives, in this case in the Philippines.

Born into a noble Portuguese family, Ferdinand Magellan became a court page in Lisbon following the early death of his parents. He became a skilled sailor and navigator at early age, taking part in the Portuguese expeditions to India and Africa. After a disagreement with the King of Portugal in 1517, Magellan successfully enlisted the support of the Spanish royalty for an expedition to reach the Moluccas in Indonesia by sailing westward. King Charles I of Spain wanted a share in the valuable spice trade which at this point in time was controlled by the Portuguese through their eastwards route around Southern Africa.

Five ships set out from Portugal on August 10, 1519 with 271 people on board, but only 18 people returned on board the Victoria on September 6, 1522. The other four ships were Trinidad (110 tons, crew 55), San Antonio (120 tons, crew 60), Concepcion (90 tons, crew 45), and Santiago (75 tons, crew 32). All were wrecked or scuttled on the voyage.

Magellan died for ego on 27 April 1521. He decided to convert the locals to Christianity and got caught up in the conflict between those that did and those that wouldn’t. The voyage of some 42,000 miles (22,000 unknown to the crew), was completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano. He is far less known than Magellan, a former mutineer who spent months in chains on the voyage, but he did complete the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 40.0 grams
MODIFICATIONS Convex reverse face, lightly antiqued
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes