Collectors hoard official Olympic coins, offend the gods

Armando Botello II
Fourth-Place Medal

The Royal Mint has played a part in bringing excitement, and a wee bit of embarrassment, to Britain ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Avid coin collectors began licking their chops in 2009 when the Royal Mint held its biggest competition ever, inviting people from Wales and England to design the official 2012 London Games commemorative 50 pence coins. From the nearly 30,000 entries, one coin was selected for each of the 29 sports of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The coins were released into general circulation in October 2010. They are the first U.K. coins designed by members of the public.

However, one gaffe has Olympic purists grumbling. The coins prominently feature some of the names of Roman gods including Jupiter, Mars and Minerva, who are also known by their Greek names Zeus, Ares and Athena. According to NPR, "The Royal Mint justified the use of the Roman names because the Olympic motto is in Latin."

Though some may dismiss the coins for their flaws, most fans are scooping them up like candy. While the coins are worth only 50 pence each, or 77 cents, bidding on eBay for all 29 coins, including a collector coin folder, has topped £50, or $77. That is almost four times their face value. According to the BBC, "More than £10M worth of the coins, or over 70 percent, will be hoarded by people wanting an Olympic souvenir, a Royal Mint audit suggested."

From the BBC article:

Philip Mussell, director of Coin News magazine, said it was very unlikely the coins would be worth anything more than 50p after the Olympics. "People are simply keeping them because they're nice things to keep," he said.

"The issue numbers of them are around about 800,000 to 1 million for each design, and there are 29 designs.

"After the Olympic Games are all over, are there going to be 800,000 people who want these things? I doubt it." He said people were having great fun collecting them, which is what coin collection should be all about.

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