BY LEVON A. SARYAN
A new one-ounce silver coin commemorating Noah’s Ark and Mt. Ararat, issued by the Republic of Armenia, was announced on July 4 by the London coin marketing firm CoinInvestDirect.
The attractively designed coin depicts Noah’s Ark floating upon the waters with the twin peaks of Ararat in the background, and a dove bearing an olive branch. The reference is to the great deluge that engulfed the world as described in the book of Genesis (Chapters7-8). The coat-of-arms of Armenia is depicted on the obverse.
The coin has a nominal value of 500 dram (equivalent to about $1.40 US or 1 Euro) and is dated 2011. Each coin contains one troy ounce (31.1 grams) of 999 fine (essentially pure) silver, and is about 38.6 mm in diameter.
According to a press release from coininvestdirect.com, the Noah’s Ark coin is produced by a private mint in Germany. The coin obverse carries the hallmark LEV of the Leipziger Edelmetall Verarbeitung (Leipzig Precious Metals Factory). LEV and CoinInvestDirect certify that the metal used to mint the coin has met standards established by the London Bullion Market Association.
The new coin is available in wholesale quantities of 20 and 500 coins. Orders for the latter quantity are supplied with a sturdy and convenient wooden storage box. According to CoinInvestDirect, other sizes of the new bullion coin are planned to be released in the near future. Coins in ¼ and ½ ounce sizes will be available at the end of 2011, and large coins (5 oz., 10 oz., 1 kg, and 5 kg) will be available in 2012.
Unlike other limited issue commemorative coins that have been issued by Armenia since declaring independence in 1991, the Noah’s Ark coin is being produced and marketed as a bullion investment. Thus, it is intended to compete with the United States Silver Eagle, the Canadian Maple Leaf, the Austrian Philharmonic and other popular silver bullion coins marketed worldwide.
Recent economic turmoil affecting the United States and Europe has fueled an upward spurt in the market value of gold and silver. In the past two years, silver has surged about 3-fold, from about $14 to about $40 per ounce, as investors and speculators attempt to profit from the uncertain economic and political climate. Precious metal coins have thus become popular vehicles for those who wish to shelter assets from the vagaries of the stock and bond markets.
The Central Bank of Armenia has the sole authority to authorize coinage on behalf of the Armenian government. Modern Armenian coins are struck mostly by mints affiliated with various European governments, under contract with the Central Bank. Within Armenia, new commemorative releases are typically available for sale at the “Numismatist” salon of the Central Bank headquarters in Yerevan.
In a departure from the usual arrangement, the Noah’s Ark coin will apparently be available only from distributors in Europe. I contacted a collector in Yerevan who informed me that the Noah’s Ark coin will not be sold in Armenia. “These coins are not available in Armenia,” he told me, “because they are just investment coins, and there is no mechanism to sell and purchase these coins from the Central Bank.”
A few additional comments about the new coin are in order. Unlike the great majority of coins issued by Armenia to date, the Noah’s Ark coin carries the hallmark of the manufacturing mint. Also, unlike most others new issues, this coin does not appear to be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. If this coin is in fact officially sanctioned by the Central Bank of Armenia, its image and technical specifications should eventually be registered on the bank’s website. As of mid-August, this had not occurred.
Examples of the Noah’s Ark coin are presently available from internet dealers in Germany and other European countries. The cost for individual examples varies between $50 and $65 each, plus shipping.
Dr. Saryan has been researching Armenian coins for more than 30 years.