The Titanic hit an iceberg 110 years ago, and CIT and the Mint of Poland issue very different coins to mark the event

Probably the most famous shipwreck in history, the tragic tale of Titanic’s maiden voyage has become the stuff of legend, featuring in countless movies, TV series, and books, as well as starring in the usual smattering of conspiracy theories that inevitably do the rounds when incidents like this occur. Setting sail from Portsmouth on 10 April 1912, on her way to New York, she was at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean just five days later.

Displacing 52,310 tons, the 269.1 metre long passenger liner was the largest ship afloat at her launch, and the very definition of luxury travel. Capable of 24 knots at full speed, she was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, and was the second of three sister ships built for the White Star Line. When she left Portsmouth, she had on board some 2,224 passengers and crew, including some of the wealthiest people of the time.

She stopped at Cherbourg in France, and Queenstown in Ireland, before heading west, but at 11:40pm on the 14th April, around 375 miles south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg while travelling at speed. She was designed to stay afloat if four of her sixteen watertight compartments had been compromised. The iceberg ripped open five. About 160 minutes later, she broke apart and sank. A little over 700 people were rescued, sometimes from lifeboats that were not even full…

Now a byword for disaster, and still the biggest peacetime loss of life from a cruise liner, the aftermath of the sinking saw a wholesale revision of maritime safety law. In 1985, the wreck was discovered at the staggering depth of 3,784 metres, mostly in two large pieces. Some items have been recovered, but she remains a memorial to the more than 1500 people that died that day.

The Titanic has featured on many coins over the years, from kilo-sized, to the small, even including a piece of coal from the wreck, in one 2012 example. With interest in the disaster as high as ever, we still get to enjoy some interesting new coins, often employing cutting-edge minting techniques. Industry favourites CIT and the Mint of Poland have both released new coins for 2022, but have taken wildly different routes to the end product.

CIT SILVER – Cook Islands

CIT have chosen a classic look for their coin design, one common across the range. Depicting the Titanic in dangerous, ice-infested waters, it has a viewpoint hinting at the sheer size of this stylish vessel, and just how threatening the icebergs are. The ship, and only the ship, is coloured, beautifully so, and done with obvious restraint. At core, it’s a relatively simple design, but those are often the ones that work the best. Even the inscribed ‘TITANIC’ helps fill a place that isn’t bothered by its presence.

The obverse is filled with custom touches. There’s a map of the fateful route taken by the Titanic, including a mark where it went down, with the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II in the middle of it. Below that is a blueprint elevation and plan view of the ship. In the centre of the plan sits a small piece of coal, taken from a lump recovered from the wreck in 2000. Around the edge is an inscribed run of text, detailing the owner of the ship, and its specifications. There’s plenty to see here.

Two versions are on offer in silver, one an ounce in weight, the other three ounces. Both have similar presentation, and the difference in size is much smaller than the tripling in weight would suggest, so buyers of either version will get a great coin.

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE
$5 CID (Cook Islands) 31.1g of 0.999 silver 38.61 mm Proof w/colour 1,912
$20 CID (Cook Islands) 93.3g of 0.999 silver 45.0 mm Proof w/colour 500

CIT COPPER – Cook Islands

Now, I’m going to straight up say that this variant, the cheapest one, is my favourite. Struck in fifty grams of copper, it has a superb, almost period-style look, that suits the design beautifully. You could imagine a larger version attached as a wall plaque in the main atrium of the ship – almost art-deco, as it is.

It’s a very simple look, eschewing colour for a clean, antiqued finish. The coal is gone, to be expected at this price point, but it has a chunky heft to it. With copper having a lower density, the same weight occupies more volume than silver, and especially gold, We had one of these in hand over the weekend, and it certainly lives up to the images here. For us, another fine example of why copper is perfect for allowing the budget constrained the opportunity to buy high-end numismatics at a reasonable price. We hope it continues.

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE
$1 CID (Cook Islands) 50 g of copper 38.61 mm Antique 5,000

CIT GOLD 1oz – Cook Islands

There are two gold versions in the range, the larger of which, at one-ounce, also incorporates the small piece of coal on the obverse face. Colouring on this one is very subtle, just some black, and does suit the design very well. As we’ve said many times over the years, colour on gold is difficult to pull off well, and we prefer them not slapped with multiple hues that clash with the metal’s strong natural appearance. The monochrome addition to this coin, has no such problems, and it’s an elegant piece.

As you’d expect from CIT, there’s also a tiny little minigold, half-gram version, that appears to do an extraordinary job of reproducing the same artwork, but on an 11 mm canvas. The quality of minigold coins from CIT has made impressive leaps over the last decade, and this is a classic example. The obverse is just an effigy of QEII, however, and the coal is gone, both for practical considerations, no doubt. A terrific little release for the minigold collector.

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE
$250 CID (Cook Islands) 31.1 g of 0.9999 gold 33.0 mm Proof w/colour 110
$5 CID (Cook Islands) 0.5g of 0.9999 gold 11.0 mm Proof 5,000

CIT PACKAGING

Each of the coins, except for the minigold which is simply sold encapsulated, comes in a ‘floating’ latex-skin frame for easy display. The four versions come with a different insert design, of which you can see two of them above. The certificate of authenticity is printed on the back-side of it.

MINT OF POLAND – Niue Island

Late last year, the Mint of Poland issued an odd coin marking the exploratory voyages of the Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, which had a style almost identical to this one. Looking like two coins, one slotted through the other at right angles, and then adorned with ‘stuff’ we noted that it was quite unusual, but also very gimmicky. The new Titanic release is more of the same. We have inset diamonds, colour, and multiple finishes (antique, laser-frosting, microprinting), but the most obvious addition is a miniature representation of the ship in the process of sinking, done with a 3D insert.

There’s a lot packed into this one, as it effectively has four faces to work with. There are decorative elements from the lavish interior of the ship, the wreck, a ridiculous nod to the James Cameron movie, and backgrounds for the sinking ship model. I think this will be a very divisive design, with some liking the innovative approach, and others disliking the design. Sadly, I’m in the latter group, finding little to like here, especially the cartoonish ship.

It will all be very well produced, of course, and it looks well presented. The Magellan coin topped out at a mintage of just 333 pieces, but Titanic is far higher at 700, so obviously the mint is confident the concept is popular.

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE
$5 NZD (Niue Island) 62.2g of 0.999 silver 50.00 mm Antique w/colour 700
MINT OF POLAND