Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt, inspires new coins from Niue and Cook Islands

One of the most popular genres in modern coins over the last decade, meteorite coins also attract a very high standard of quality as well. Chief amongst them is Numiscollects ‘Meteorites’ and the Mint of Polands ‘Solar System’ ranges. Coincidentally, both have released their 2018 issues at the same time and both have chosen Vesta as there subject matter.

Vesta resides in our systems asteroid belt and with a mean diameter of 525 kilometres, it’s one of the largest objects within it. Discovered by German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on 29 March 1807, it was named after Vesta, the virgin goddess of home and hearth from Roman mythology. Vesta remains the brightest asteroid visible from Earth. In the asteroid belt only the dwarf planet Ceres is larger, and it contributes an estimated 9% of the total mass of material within the belt – slightly larger than Pallas, but significantly more massive. Rocky protoplanets of the kind that formed the terrestrial planets are rare to the point that Vesta is the only known example remaining in our system discovered to date.

Vesta has given up fragments of itself to collisions one and two billion years ago. The huge craters are clearly visible and cover much of Vesta’s southern hemisphere. Debris from these impacts has fallen to Earth as howardite–eucrite–diogenite (HED) meteorites and provided much information on the makeup of Vesta, as well as providing adornment on a thousand or so silver coins…

More information on Vesta and Ceres continues to be gathered. Between 16 July 2011 and 5 September 2012, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited around Vesta and collected much data to enhance our understanding of this fascinating body. All in all, a great choice for a coin or two.

2018 Meteorite 04: Vesta

Like the Mint of Poland effort below, Numiscollect’s Meteorites series also debuted in 2015 and this coin is also the fourth in its series. The higher-end issue of the two, this on is struck in three-ounces of fine silver and has a coloured glass inlay window in its centre. Previous entrants in the series have been Campo Del Cielo, the Moon, and Mars. Apart from the first subject, the others are shared by the smaller Niue-issued series and it’s a coincidence that Vesta has been chosen by both for their 2018 issues.

These are big 65 mm diameter affairs and are jam-packed with fine detail and an embedded meteorite fragment. Of special interest is the choice of fragment to be included. The mintage of 333 pieces is being split into three seperate runs of 111 pieces, each with its own certificate sequence. The difference lies with the type of meteorite fragment embedded. If you bought three coins from Numiscollect you would get one of each.

As on previous issues, the coloured glass inlaid window is present in the centre and exhibits a lot of detail for its size, with a different view of an asteroid from each side of the coin. Both faces are heavily detailed with a simulated rock surface present right up to the rim. Inscriptions are integrated well and look good. The antique finish is a series staple – indeed a staple of the genre, but here it’s combined with selctive colouring to great effect.

As we’ve stated before, this isn’t a budget series but remains one of the best of the astronomy-themed series on offer at the moment. Selling for around €500, it should ship early next month.

2018 Solar System 04: Vesta


The Solar System range of domed coins from the Mint of Poland first appeared in early 2015 when ‘Moon’ debuted to much interest. A very cool coin at the time, it remains one of the best of the breed – capturing perfectly the lunar surface. This was followed in 2016 with ‘Mars’ – a coin of similar concept, but one copper plated to simulate the look of the Red Planet itself. The canals and ridges on that one really evoked the Martian surface and it’s easy to overlook the care and attention that goes into these decpetively simple looking issues.

Last year saw ‘Mercury’, which was much like the Martian coin except instead of copper plating it went with an antique/gilded look. This one had a much more subtle surface detailing than the two prior coins, but was a good addition to the range. We’d expected to see Earth for 2018, but there’s a different subject on thi sone.

2018 sees ‘Vesta’ join the club. For the first time we have a repeated finish – antique, but with Vesta as the subject, anything else would have been a little out of place. Also as in past years, there’s the ubiquitous meteorite fragment embedded in a faux crater. In this case it’s a piece of NWA 4664, a 20kg achondrite mass that fell in Algeria in 2006. Set in the convex reverse face, it does give the coin some added kudos, just like all of those that carry actual celestial material.

The obverse face carries on the look with similar surface detailing and the required effigy of Queen Elizabeth II,as you’d expect of Niue-issued numismatics. Presented in a good quality wooden box, inside which is a Certificate of Authenticity, the whole makes a nice package. Mintage remains the rather odd 686 pieces.

A series we like a lot, although one we note has crept up in price over the last couple of years. At circa €190 for a one-ounce coin, it’s higher-end for sure, but a domed strike and meteorite fragment will go a long way to understanding why. This Pela-Coins distributed coin should ship from mid-July and be sold at many dealers worldwide, including a few of our sponsors.

DENOMINATION $1 New Zealand $20 CID Cook Islands
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams 93.3 grams
DIMENSIONS 38.61 mm 65.0 mm
FINISH Antique Antique
MODIFICATIONS Domed strike UHR strike, inset glass window
MINTAGE 686 333 (111 x3)
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes