Collectors Craving for Vatican Euro Coins

John Paul II’s Image Has Profitable Appeal

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 5, 2002 ( Vatican euro coins bearing the image of John Paul II have become hot items for collectors.

Limited-edition sets of eight Vatican coins now trade on Internet auction site eBay Inc. for more than 800 euro, more than 65 times their 12-euro sale price in March, reports the Bloomberg news service.

«I’m trying hard to get hold of extra sets, but it’s more and more difficult,» said Franco Brunetti, 36, part-time computer technician who earned more than 5,000 euro ($4,957) trading the pieces. Brunetti lives a two-hour drive south of Rome and has had requests for the coins from as far away as New Zealand.

The Vatican will likely trigger more interest among collectors next week when it releases a second issue of euro coins.

Small countries with close ties to the euro region — Vatican City, San Marino and Monaco — were allowed to mint and circulate their own euro coins. Fewer than 6 million of the coins were allocated to the three countries, a fraction of the 51 billion of euro coins that came into circulation in January, making them instant collectors’ items.

The euro coins of the 12 member nations — and their three small neighbors — bear images unique to each country. The Vatican coin features a portrait of the 82-year-old Pope by sculptor Guido Veroi.

Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Italy’s mint, produced an initial run of 69,000 sets of the Vatican euro coins. The Holy See priced the eight-coin kits, which have a face value of 3.88 euro, at 12 euro each and sold out immediately in March.

Since then, the coins have been sought after by collectors. Christos Apostolidis, a Greek coin collector, sold a set of the coins last week on eBay for 700 euro that his Finnish partner had purchased for less than 15 euro in March.

Of the 9,000 sets to be issued next week, some were reserved by advanced order, though an unspecified number of sets will be put on sale at the Vatican next Tuesday.

Each kit will be a proof set of the eight euro coins and will also contain a silver commemorative medallion depicting on one face Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, part of the fresco painted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

A rendering of the Pope’s coat of arms decorates the other side of the coin. Proof coins are the highest quality a mint can produce and are favored by collectors. The new set of coins and the medallion will cost 75 euro.

The new coins may prove to be even more coveted. «People are already talking about prices of 1,000 euro for the new sets,» said Brunetti.

The Vatican City State also plans to begin selling 10,000 silver 5-euro coins for 37 euro each. Later this year the Vatican will also sell 10,000 silver 10-euro coins and about 2,500 gold 20-euro coins and the same number of gold 50-euro coins.

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