Just days before Canada Day came word that an out-of-this-world piece of Canadian memorabilia was sold out.
The prize 2018 $20 fine silver coin issued by the Royal Canadian Mint was designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and it contains a fragment of a real meteorite.
“One hundred and fifty years of research, education and discovery by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) is an engaging story to share with Canadians,” said Sandra Hanington, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint.
“It is only fitting that RASC’s many scientific achievements be recognized on a vividly coloured coin, which breaks barriers of its own by featuring a shard of a real meteorite.”
Designing this coin to capture the essence of the sesquicentennial milestone of the RASC and incorporating the extraterrestrial mineral on a surface area just 38 mm in diameter was no simple feat. But Vancouver-based artist Alexandra Lefort was up for the task.
Lefort acknowledges the RASC’s big part in designing the coin. “I felt that this project was a perfect match for me, bringing together two of my passions, space and art.” Her passion also extends to outreach, developing people’s interest in everything related to space, and advancing astronomy knowledge.
She’s well qualified for the job and has a deep connection to the subject. Her previous coin design work for the mint includes a coin celebrating Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space. Lefort also has a PhD in Planetary Sciences from the University of Bern in Switzerland.
The design had to include a reinterpretation of the RASC logo, explained Lefort. But instead of looking at it as a limitation, she used the logo as inspiration.
“I kind of imagined the coin almost as a piece of jewelry with a precious stone embedded in it,” said Lefort.
Lefort considers the meteorite as “an ambassador of space to Earth.” So the meteorite was central to the design, with the other elements arranged around it.
“The challenge,” she said, “was to choose between all the really cool space objects.”
The design features a deep space vista enhanced by engraved textural details and full colour. Elements that stand out include the Eagle Nebula and its pillars of interstellar gas and dust, also known as the Pillars of Creation, and images of the moon – representing the calendars of First Nations peoples and the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest galaxy to ours.
The focal point is the image of a blazing meteorite as it burns through our atmosphere, enhanced by an iron meteorite fragment in a pocket in the coin. The fragments came from the Campo del Cielo meteorite field located 1,000 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The coin was recently unveiled at a special ceremony in Toronto to commemorate the RASC anniversary. In attendance along with RASC officials was former Canadian astronaut Dave Williams.
The 2018 $20 silver coin is made from 99.99 per cent pure silver. The limited edition of 5,500 coins sold out within 48 hours. Each coin cost $149.95.
“I could hardly believe it at first,” said Lefort. “I thought it was likely to be popular but I didn’t expect that it would sell out in just two days.”
Lefort is amazed and delighted the launch was so successful.
“The piece of meteorite was the cherry on the cake; it made the whole project even more exciting.”
Troy Media columnist Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.