One of the really neat aspects of owning and operating a coin shop is that, over the years, you have a tendency to accumulate a lot of interesting coins that wind up forgotten on a shelf or in a box somewhere. So from time to time, when searching for some totally different item, you re-discover these beauties and enjoy them all over again!
FOUR 1998 SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE proof silver coins bear different reverses: a hummingbird, a butterfly, a peacock and a coral reef. The obverse depicts the country’s coat of arms. Actual Size: 38.6mm
During a recent move to larger quarters, I came across a couple coin issues that were part of a four-coin series released by the island nation of St. Thomas and Príncipe. What fascinated me was that these colorful pieces were produced with holographic images 15 years ago, using a technology considered cutting-edge at the time. To my knowledge, these are four of the first non-circulating, legal-tender coins produced featuring holographic reverses.
Officially, the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, consists of two landmasses that are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. The two main islands—St. Thomas and Príncipe—located approximately 150 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon, are archipelagos. The larger of the two, St. Thomas, is situated just north of the equator. It was named in honor of the saint by Portuguese explorers who arrived there on St. Thomas’ feast day. It is the second-smallest African country, with a population of approximately 170,000 (only larger than Seychelles), and the smallest Portuguese-speaking country.
The government is attempting to improve the nation’s tourist industry infrastructure. Also, it is expected that significant petroleum revenues will be forthcoming from offshore production in the near future. Since the 19th century, the economy has been based on agriculture, with cocoa accounting for 95 percent of its exports, and the remaining 5 percent made up of copra, palm kernels and coffee. (São Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa by 1908.)
In 1997 the government authorized the issuance of four proof silver coins, each bearing a different reverse: a peacock, a hummingbird, a coral reef and a butterfly. The coins are listed, respectively, in Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of World Coins as KM-79, -80, -81 and -82. The common obverse features the country’s coat of arms, the 1,000-dobra denomination and the legend REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DE S. TOMÉ E PRÍNCIPE. They were struck from 1 ounce of .999 fine silver. The 38.6mm coins are limited to a total mintage of 10,000 pieces of each design. Although not easy to find, these colorful specimens will richly reward collectors who assemble this set.
Dan Lewis is a regular contributor to The Numismatist. This article ran in the July 2012 issue of the magazine and is reprinted here their kind permission. To learn more about The Numismatist and Colorado Spring's Money Museum please visit www.money.org.