The first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays provides inspiration for Mint XXI’s ‘First Folio’ silver coin

An author who has had more words written about them than they ever wrote, William Shakespeare is an absolute behemoth in the literary world, so we’ll waste little time regurgitating his legacy. He was actually very well respected in his own lifetime, and just seven years after his death in 1616, John Heminges and Henry Condell, both actors in The King’s Men (the acting company Shakespeare wrote for), compiled and published 36 of his works in an edition now called the First Folio, but then called “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies”.

Collecting his known works, excepting a few (Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Edward III, and the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won.), 18 of which are not known to have been printed previously. Some 235 copies, out of perhaps 750 originally printed, remain, often with different typographical errors, as the folio was corrected as it was printed. An extremely valuable book today, copies have sold for almost $10 million at auction.

The coin exhibits all the things we’ve come to expect from this producer. The design is intricate, packed to the rim, and both coin faces have themed artwork. The reverse face is the star, filled with characters from his various plays, and right in the centre, is the man himself, seated, and with an open tome in front of him. This face is completely devoid of inscriptions, and we couldn’t be happier about the lack of intrusion.

The obverse carries that classic portrait of the writer, sporting just about the dodgiest hairstyle we’ve ever seen, and wearing a ruff. The issuing details, and composition are inscribed here, and the serial number is engraved on the edge. A very nice release, it brings this producer’s Dante coins to mind, and those were quite sublime. Available to order now, this five-ounce coin has a mintage of 333 pieces, and comes boxed with a small book of quotes from the original folio.


Born on April 26th 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, William Shakespeare produced a body of work including 38 plays and 154 sonnets, the former having been translated into every major living language. Respected in his own time, it fell to the Victorians to catapult his star into the sky and there it has remained, becoming one of the world’s most studied and admired playwrights.

His early plays were mainly comedies and histories like The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus, with his first recorded works being Richard III and Henry VI. Classics such as Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet are just a few of the works that have placed Shakespeare at the very top of his world.

DENOMINATION 5000 Francs CFA (Cameroon)
COMPOSITION 155.5 g of 0.999 silver
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, colour