If you’re going to start producing coins and compete with the high quality that permeates through the modern commemorative coin market, it’s probably best to pick a subject that isn’t populated with the best in the industry. Mint XXI, however, obviously thought that wasn’t necessary, and after a couple of excellent debut coins, they’ve released one of our favourite coins of the year to date, and in the hotly contested genre of the ancient world.
Sparta stands alongside the Romans as one of the most recognisable peoples of the ancient world. Said to have been founded by Lacedaemon, a son of Zeus, Sparta was a key combatant in the Trojan War, the Persian War, and several wars against many of their fellow Greek city-states, particularly Athens, Corinth and Thebes. Key to that were the hoplites, a heavily armed foot soldier, of which Sparta was unique in employing them as a permanent army. Armed with a 2.5 metre long ash wood spear (doru) and a short sword (xiphos) of less than 60 cm, they protected themselves with a large circular shield (hoplon or aspis) around 80 cm across and weighing up to 8 kg, and bronze armour around the chest, ankles and arms. They dominated for centuries.
The coin gets straight to the point and there’s no confusing what is being depicted here. A Spartan warrior, gilded xiphos in one hand, shield in the other, is charging what is obviously a formation of archers. In the background at the bottom, suitably highlighted with a splash of red colour, is a full on melee. Surrounding all this is a Greek style patterned border. The coin is quite stunning. Beautifully detailed, an incredibly dynamic depiction, even an impact point where an arrow has hit the coin border, this is an epic coin. It evokes the imagery of Zack Snyder’s hit movie, 300.
The obverse is simple, yet elegant. The emblem of Cameroon is realised in a very classy way, as you can see in the close-up image further down. This is the first of what will be at least three coins, and it will have a mintage capped at 500 pieces. A bit bigger than the usual at three-ounces, it’s good to see the extra weight utilised to increase the diameter rather than the thickness, thus giving us a bigger canvas to admire. Neatly boxed and with a certificate of authenticity, it should be available to pre-order shortly from distributor Top World Coins, and shipping should start in September. If you hadn’t figured it out yet, we love this one, and in a genre filled with quite incredible examples of numismatic art, that’s as fine a recommendation as we can give.