By Dan Lewis | Wed, 25 Feb 2009
ONE OF THE benefits enjoyed by the issuers of non-circulating, legal-tender coins (NCLTs) is the lack of restrictions on coining materials. I have seen coins in base metals, silver, gold, palladium and platinum, as well as crystal, plastic, acrylic, ceramic and wood. One of the more fascinating pieces I have handled has to be Gibraltar’s Millennium titanium crown. Gibraltar is located on the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain and overlooking the
Strait of Gibraltar, the channel that connects the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Across the strait which in some places is no more than 8 miles wide is Morocco. The Rock of Gibraltar is one of two promontories flanking the strait that are referred to as the “Pillars of Hercules.” Because of its strategic location, Gibraltar has come to symbolize an impregnable stronghold.
Since 1830, Gibraltar has been under British control, a claim that historically has been disputed by Spain. Residents overwhelmingly reasserted their desire to remain a British overseas territory in a 1967 referendum, in which 99.64 percent of the population voted to retain the status quo. National Day (September 10) celebrates the anniversary of this referendum. In 2002 another referendum rejected “shared sovereignty” with Spain.
Gibraltar occupies a land mass of only 2.6 square miles and has about 28,000 residents. Revenues are generated primarily by tourism, shipping and banking.
The official currency is the Gibraltar pound. In 1999, in anticipation of the 2000 Millennium celebration, the government of Gibraltar authorized London-based Pobjoy Mint to strike a legal-tender £5 coin to mark the passage from the 20th to 21st century. What made this order unique was the choice to produce the world’s first titanium coin.
A silver-colored element, titanium is lightweight, strong, lustrous and corrosion resistant. It has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal —as strong as some steels—yet it is 45-percent lighter. Although titanium was discovered in 1791, this was its first use in the world of numismatics.
The reverse design depicts the passage of time in the form of four symbolic time-keeping devices: a sundial, digital clock face, candle and traditional clock face. The obverse features a portrait of a mature Queen Elizabeth II. The coin measures 36.1mm in diameter, but weighs a mere 10 grams, about a third the weight of a
similar-sized coin struck in coppernickel or silver.
The Gibraltar Millennium £5 is listed in Krause’s Standard Catalog of World Coins as KM-797a, with a total mintage of 25,000 pieces. Although the issue sold out long ago at the Pobjoy Mint, examples with the original, mint-issued presentation case and
certificate of authenticity still can be found on the Internet, with prices ranging up to $100.