The Ancient Egyptian worship of the Scarab inspires Mint XXI’s elegant turquoise-inset silver coin

Ancient Egyptian iconography is just incredibly beautiful, so tapping into that for modern numismatics is a bit of a no-brainer. While we always seem to see the distinctive architecture, it is the small items that have given us such a fascinating glimpse into this long-lived civilisation. From the rare unplundered tomb, to the countless images carved into surfaces all over the old empire, it’s amazing just how much we know about them after this much time, especially when compared to the comparatively recent Dark Age Europe.

One of the more iconic symbols of Ancient Egyptian society was the Scarab symbol. Hugely popular for an extended period of time, scarab amulets have been found all over the country. We’ve also seen them featured on modern numismatics a few times, most notably with the Mint of Polands 17.5g silver range, and a pair of three coin sets from CIT, which were particularly pretty, although having at best a tenuous link to the civilisation, being more nature focused. Into the mix comes Mint XXI.

Straight off, we’re going to say this is a beautiful piece of work. Unmistakenly Egyptian, crisply defined and with a striking piece of turquoise, it’s easily the finest Egyptian scarab design we’ve seen on a coin. The symmetrical layout and antique finish provide a perfect backdrop to the insert, a material used commonly at the tiime. Indeed, turquoise has been mined by man for around 8,000 years, and the mines in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt used by the Pharoahs are still in use today!

This is a fifty gram fine silver coin reaching out to a nice 50 mm in diameter. The obverse is a standard Niue design with an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, a shame, but packaging looks good and there’s the obligatory Certificate of Authenticity as well. The mintage is an unusual 888 pieces. A superb release, it’s easy to overlook something like this when issues like Dante get all the glory, but this is proof positive that Mint XXI have a broad talent in the modern coin market.

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SCARABAEUS

Scarabs were the most popular amulets in Ancient Egypt. They survive in large numbers and, through their inscriptions and typology, they are an important source of information for archeologists and historians of the ancient world. They also represent a significant body of ancient art.

For reasons that are not clear (although no doubt connected to the religious significance of the Egyptian god Khepri), amulets in the form of scarab beetles had become enormously popular in Ancient Egypt by the early Middle Kingdom (approx. 2000 BCE) and remained popular for the rest of the pharaonic period and beyond. During that long period the function of scarabs repeatedly changed. Primarily amulets, they were also inscribed for use as personal or administrative seals or were incorporated into jewelry. Some scarabs were apparently created for political or diplomatic purposes to commemorate or advertise royal achievements. By the early New Kingdom heart scarabs had become part of the battery of amulets protecting mummies. (Source: Wikipedia)

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $2 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 50.0 grams
DIMENSIONS 50.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, Turquoise insert
MINTAGE 888
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes