Vatican City: Portrait of Pope Francis Removed from Circulation Euro Coins

2017 obverse designs for the Vatican City 2 euros, 1 euro, 50 eurocents, and 5 eurocents. At far right is a 10-eurocent coin of 2015, with portrait of Pope Francis.

Note: The following is a re-post from World Mint News Blog’s sister site, Coin Update.

The Treasury of Vatican City State (or the Holy See) announced on the 24th January that from March of this year, new 2017-dated coins and those thereafter issued will no longer carry the effigy of His Holiness Pope Francis. The decision was carried out at the behest of the pontiff, and revised designs without the pope’s portrait were submitted to the European Union’s official Journal, who published the details and images of the new circulation-type coins.

It was widely known that the pope has, since the start of his pontificate, been uncomfortable with his portrait on money, especially as he has campaigned for greater distribution of the world’s wealth among the poorest. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina was elected as the head of the Catholic Church and took the name of Pope Francis after the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013. The first euro coins that included portraits of Pope Francis were issued in March 2014 and followed in 2015 and 2016. The coins included were 2- and 1-euro bimetallic coins, as well as 50-, 20-, 10-, 5-, 2-, and 1-cent coins.

The tradition of depicting the princes or heads of state of the Holy See on coinage has been in effect for centuries, as the possessions of the Vatican are recognised sovereign territory. Since 1929, the Vatican has been in a customs union with Italy, and as a consequence, the coins of Italy and the Vatican were identical in denomination and specification, with the coins of the Vatican being produced at the Italian State Mint. Since Italy’s adoption of the euro from the 1st January 2002, the Vatican were also given permission from the European Commission to produce Vatican City euro coins in proportion to their population, presently at 1,000 persons. Vatican City euro coins have been sought after by coin collectors. Since 2002 there have been four different changes, including the effigies of John Paul II (now St. John Paul) and Benedict XVI, and a series of issues termed “Sede Vacante” coins. The term identifies a period of vacancy of the papacy during process of electing a cardinal to the status of pope; these coins were issued between the reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. (continued below) 

The European Journal describes the obverse of all eight denominations of the newly submitted coin designs as featuring the coat of arms of the sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis. At bottom left is the mintmark R, denoting the Italian State Mint (the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, or IPZS); at bottom right is the year of issuance, 2017. The coin’s outer ring depicts the 12 stars of the European flag. The edge-lettering of the 2-euro coin is 2 * repeated six times, alternately upright and inverted. The reverse designs are those of the standard current circulating euro coins, according to their denominations. The new Vatican-crest coins becomes the fifth series since 2002.

For more information on Vatican City coins, please visit the website of the European Commission. ❑

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  1. Louis Golino says

    Thanks for the information, Michael. This is an interesting development that clearly reflects the humble character of Pope Francis. I wonder if it will impact the value of the coins already issued that do carry his image.

  2. M Alexander says

    Hello Louis,

    I think it really will depend on the length of Francis’ papacy, if there is an equal amount of the coins with and without his effigy, the portraited coins may carry a premium, certainly they will be more in demand with those who do collect Vatican coins because of the effigies.

    Having visited Vatican City just at the beginning of Francis’ papacy in 2013 and 2014, it was a question early on whether he wanted his image on coins or currency, the thought at the time was he was hesitant, now we know his true sentiments.

    I’m not sure whether this new development will set a precedent or not, for traditionalists, it’s a set-back I’m sure, but for reformers, perhaps its the start of a new chapter in Vatican city coinage.

  3. Koichi Ito says

    I think that Queen Elizabeth 2nd. should also should remove her portrait from coins of United Kingdom?

  4. M Alexander says

    Hello Koichi,

    It has been a long-standing tradition that monarchies especially in Europe include a portrait of the ruling or in the case of Queen Elizabeth II, reigning monarch which spans back to the time of the Roman Emperors.

    I wouldn’t expect that the United Kingdom, as long as it is a Kingdom would ever consider removing the portrait of its monarch – unless the request came from the King or Queen and for the most part, public opinion seems to be that they overwhelmingly prefer the Queen to be depicted on the coins & banknotes, we’ll see if the sentiment extends to her successors.

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