Pope John Paul Commemorative Coin

Pope Coin in Box shape             Pope Coin in Box Shape 2

We wish to thank Judy Blackman, the author of this article, and Keith Day-Thorburn, editor of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Society’s NumisNotes for their permission to reproduce this article in its entirety.

A Different Look For PJP

By Judy Blackman

Those who viewed my 5-case Papal (God’s Spirit) exhibit at the 2009 ONA Convention, know I have a vast collection, and the judges kindly awarded me a 1st Place ribbon for the Non-Canadian Coins and Tokens. Although I’ve sold off some parts of this collection since then, it remains large. Despite this, I have never had any coins with images of Pope John Paul II before his ordination. In 2005 the Somali Republic issued 3 different dollars to commemorate this earlier time in the Pope’s life.

Pope John Paul II (PJP) was born KAROL JÓZEF WOJTYLA in Wadowice near Kracow (Poland) on May 18, 1920. His father (KAROL WOJTYLA ) was an army sergeant who died during WWII, and his mother (Emilia Kaczorowska) died when he was 9. Karol had a sister who died before he was born and an older brother (Edmund, a physician) who died before WWII. As an adult, PJP lamented not having adult siblings. Growing up, Karol loved athletics and drama, and he dreamt of becoming a writer.

To avoid deportation and being sent to a labor camp in Germany when the Nazis invaded Poland during World War II, Karol secured a job in a stone quarry (1940-1944) and then the Solvay chemical factory while continuing his studies of Polish literature at Jagiellonian University undetected. Ignoring curfews and SS roundups, Karol pursued his love of acting by performing secretly in homes. He was also an expert skier and swimmer, and he canoed the rapids. Karol also like mountain-climbing, hiking and kayaking.

As a student, his interest was centered around religion, and he felt the call to the priesthood, so began his studies in 1942 in the clandestine major seminary in Krakow, directed by the Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha. During this time, he was one of the organizers of the “Rhapsodic Theatre”, which was also clandestine. After the Soviet liberation of Poland, Karol finished his studies in Rome at the Angelicum. He attained his doctorate in theology in 1948. While in Rome, he spent his vacations exercising pastoral ministry among Polish emigrants in France, Belgium and Holland. He returned to Poland and continued his studies. Later he became a professor of moral theology and ethics in the major seminary in Krakow and in the theology faculty in Lublin.

These three 39mm coins (from the Life of Pope John Paul II Series) were issued only as Proof Copper-Nickel Dollars in 2005, with the catalogue indicating a value around $20 Canadian each; however, the hiking coin is rarer and tends to sell for much higher. They have a common obverse Coat of Arms with the legend SOMALI REPUBLIC. The reverse has a multi-coloured photo scene inside a Papal purple ring (X# 21 Pope John Paul II as infant, X# 22 ordination photo, X# 23 casual hiking scene).

In 1958 Pope Pius XII appointed Father WOJTYLA auxiliary bishop of Krakow, with the titular see of Ombi. Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak ordained him in Wawel Cathedral (Krakow) two months later. His religious path continued to be developed, and then 20 years later KAROL JÓZEF WOJTYLA was elected Pope on October 16, 1978. The once-sturdy Pope was already weakened by his nearly 13-year battle with Parkinson’s when his heart began misfiring, and he died in 2005 at the age of 84.

[References and courtesies: Vatican City Special Archives: Pope Profiles; 6th Edition UNUSUAL World Coins (Krause Publications catalogues); The Knights of Columbus Life of Popes; Cultural Catholic; and booklet Celebration of the Canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014.]

Now the other coin I’ve never seen before was issued in the spring of 2015. The Government & Treasury of Niue Island launched the new concept coin, a creation in the shape of an open cube with images and artwork on each, but opening up into a flat cross. The design is by artisan Urszula Walerzak and minted by the Mint of Poland (Mennica Polska, Warsaw). Taking advantage of a specially designed minting process – the production of a flat-cross-shaped coin is completed and the next procedure of ‘shaping’ the actual piece after minting and oxidizing takes place. The coin is bent with precision into the final example seen, the forming of an open-sided cube. The coin commemorates the canonization of the late Pope John Paul II, occurring on the 27th of April, 2014.  
On the upper side face of the reverse of the coin is an image of John Paull II surrounded by a frame with an inscription in Latin: OMNIA NUDA ET APERTA SUNT ANTE OCULOS EIUS (Everything is disclosed and revealed before his eyes, Matthew 23:1-39). On the side faces of the coin are figures of the Four Evangelists, they are St. Lucas, St. Mark, St. John and St. Matthew emblazoned with decorative ornaments.
In the central part on the obverse of the coin is a profile effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by a decorative frame. Around the portrait are the inscriptions: ELIZABETH II, NIUE ISLAND 2014 and the face value: 25 DOLLARS. In the lower corners of the coin is the hallmark of “Ag 999” and the mint mark of m/w. This silver coin is a limited edition mintage of only 555 pieces, the dimensions are 45 x 45 x 45 mm, and weight is 6.5 oz. The coin is housed in a double-sided presentation box which includes a Perspex stand providing a perfect display for this most unusual coin. The coin debuted at the 2014 World Money Fair in Chicago. The market trend for this coin is approximately $810 AUD, $520 EUR, $765 CDN, $582 US.

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