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Space Race, Cold War and New Coins
October 02, 2007

Sputnik Reality

Have you been watching the Sputnik coin orbit around the earth over the top of my Blog for the last few weeks? All that spinning overhead got my mind stirred up, so I clicked on the link to find out more. This Wednesday an orbital Sputnik coin will be released from Cook Islands. Produced by the Perth Mint, the coin honors the 50th Anniversary of the launching of the Russian satellite Sputnik. This event and what led to it is the subject of a fascinating article appearing this week on FOX News. Seems coincidence and genius both had a hand in launching mankind into space and solidifying the U.S and U.S.S.R. on a 40 plus year Cold War. Boris Chertok's new book Rockets and People, along with his interviews with the AP provide more indepth reading on the dawn of Soviet space exploration. But just as Sputnik created a huge societal stir, the Sputnik Anniversary coin is causing quite a little bit of stir among my fellow numismatists.

Often times the collectors here in Iola pooh-pooh new innovations as gimmicky and dismiss them as trendy objects destined for numismatic oblivion. This coin, however, seems to be garnering more interest from the staff. I'm not sure if it is the motion that transfixes them, the space theme, which ignites their imagination, or the history that catches their attention. In any case, they are interested and that made me curious enough to check it out.

In searching over the Perth Mint information page for the Sputnik coin several things jumped out. The first thing I noticed was that this coin is coated with a water-resistant finish, rather than being contained in a capsule. Perth Mint did this so that you can actually handle the coin and orbit Sputnik around the earth, making this one of the most interactive and yet quality contained new issues I have ever seen. It is struck in silver, one ounce with fineness of .999, but of course there are other elements there as well. The moon and earth orbital system is color and the moon overlaps the silver legend. The clear coating allows the moon to orbit without damaging the silver legend, which is good since the coin costs about $72.50. Packaging is also essential to this product, as there is an elliptical shaped case and special box displaying great graphics.

Sputnik is the first in a proposed run of five space coins in the Orbit and Beyond series. The next coin to be released will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the first Moon Walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, through NASA. This coin is to exhibit a Dynamic Imaging feature, which should also be new to numismatics.

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About the Author
Tom Michael has been Krause Publications primary market analyst on more than 80 world and United States coin catalogs produced over the last 20 years. He came to KP in 1987 with a bachelor of arts degree in history, a master of arts degree in economics and a history of coin collecting stretching back to the 1960s. He began collecting world coins as a child by asking friends and relatives to bring coins back from overseas trips, visiting flea markets and having his mother watch for foreign coins in her register at the local grocery store. Today he works with a dedicated base of over 200 contributors to provide accurate market values for the five-volume Standard Catalog of World Coins series, as well as many specialty catalogs, including Coins & Currency of the Middle East and the fifth edition of Unusual World Coins.

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