Take a peek at Uranus with a new niobium planet coin in Palau’s Solar System series

A popular series that debuted in 2003, the Austrian Mint’s Niobium coins have been an annual fixture on the numismatic calendar ever since. Interest in most coin series tends to fade away over time, but this one seems to be as popular as ever, but even so, imitators are few and far between. Canada has dabbled, and Luxembourg has had a castles series running since 2009 that’s still ongoing, both we believe with the help of their Austrian counterparts. Last year, Pela Coins released the first in the Solar System series for the Pacific Island nation of Palau. Very similar in concept and execution to the Austrian coins, it depicted the mighty planet Saturn in all its glory.

Niobium is a pretty common metal, the 34th most popular in the Earths crust, but unlike silver, which has been used for millenia, niobium was only discovered and correctly identified in the first half of the 19th century. It has some interesting properties that obviously caught the eye of the Austrian Mint. Niobium can take a colour via the formation of a thin anodised oxide layer. How that layer diffracts light determines what colour is seen, a while it can’t take on detail like a printed image, it’s striking enough. Recent years have seen two colours on the same coin, but this new Solar System range concentrates on a single colour.

Last years Saturn coin was yellow, this years Uranus coin is a light blue. That colour change is the only difference between the obverses of the two issues to date, and that will likely remain the case. A complex weave of planetary orbits laid over a planetary map covers the whole face, effortlessly moving from niobium to silver and back again. Interestingly, and despite its downgrading to dwarf-planet status, Pluto is included on this face, perhaps indicating this will be a nine coin series – maybe even ten if the Sun gets its own entrant. The shield emblem of Palau, the date and the denomination are present here as well.

The reverse carries a large representation of this fascinating ice giant, the rings and some of its 27 satellites also depicted. The coin and series title are inscribed in the silver ring. Collectors with a liking for the Austrian Mint series will find this one equally compelling. They have a rich and unique colour to them that ink can’t match.

Packaging is also very Austrian Mint-like. One of their small red boxes holds the coin and certificate. The mintage of 3,000 is dwarfed by the 65,000 Austrian coins released every year, and these are struck to a higher proof standard. They have a total weight just shy of ½oz, of whicha round 60% is in the silver ring. A pretty cool coin that should be shipping around the end of this month and is well worth a look.


Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both have bulk chemical compositions which differ from that of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. For this reason, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as “ice giants” to distinguish them from the gas giants. Uranus’s atmosphere is similar to Jupiter’s and Saturn’s in its primary composition of hydrogen and helium, but it contains more “ices” such as water, ammonia, and methane, along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System, with a minimum temperature of 49 K (−224 °C; −371 °F), and has a complex, layered cloud structure with water thought to make up the lowest clouds and methane the uppermost layer of clouds. The interior of Uranus is mainly composed of ices and rock.

Like the other giant planets, Uranus has a ring system, a magnetosphere, and numerous moons. The Uranian system has a unique configuration among those of the planets because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its solar orbit. Its north and south poles, therefore, lie where most other planets have their equators. In 1986, images from Voyager 2 showed Uranus as an almost featureless planet in visible light, without the cloud bands or storms associated with the other giant planets. Observations from Earth have shown seasonal change and increased weather activity as Uranus approached its equinox in 2007. Wind speeds can reach 250 metres per second (900 km/h; 560 mph).

Uranus is the only planet whose name is derived directly from a figure from Greek mythology, from the Latinised version of the Greek god of the sky Ouranos.

Like the classical planets, Uranus is visible to the naked eye, but it was never recognised as a planet by ancient observers because of its dimness and slow orbit. Sir William Herschel announced its discovery on 13 March 1781, expanding the known boundaries of the Solar System for the first time in history and making Uranus the first planet discovered with a telescope. (source: Wikipedia)

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver / niobium
WEIGHT 15.0 grams (8.3 g silver / 6.7 g niobium)
MODIFICATIONS Blue niobium pill
BOX / COA Yes / Yes