OK. so here we go, I'll do my best to present what I have uncovered.
Somalian Silver 1 oz Elephant coins-
Many of you have noticed these coins at several dealers such as APMEX
and Modern Coin Mart
and other dealers, and even on Ebay. But where does this series start? Who makes them? Are they legal tender? Are they worth buying for investment or just for collectors? So many questions!
What sparked my interest in these coins is the beautiful design with the elephant on the front, the proof like finish and the fact that the coins come stamped with Somalia Republic on the back side. Therefore I embarked on this quest, which I thought would be easy enough to educate myself on. Boy was I in for twists and turns.
Here is the little background I have on these coins, pieced together from dealer PDF files, web sites in Germany and in talking with dealers in the past few weeks.
This series is called the African Wildlife Series and these coins are minted by one of the German state owned mints in Munich as best as I can tell from reading various web sites regarding this coin. There can be no doubt in regards to its fineness .999 of silver. Furthermore, this coin is marketed as a bullion coin and appears to be very popular in Germany and parts of Europe. It appears that the state owned mint in Germany has been minting this series since 1999 in various finishes and started in 2004 with the design you see today, tho since 1999 it start with elephants, and each year it has been a different setting of an elephant or elephants.
The distributor of this series, which is out of Germany is Emporium Hamburg, who in turns, seems have to their own wholesalers who sell these coins to dealers. These wholesalers sell these African Wildlife Series to dealers, along with other world bullion coins such as the well know Silver American Eagles and Maple Leafs to name a few.
The series comes in various forms-
* Bullion, sold by the tube and by individual piece
* PROOF individual coins
* Uncirculated colored, Uncirculated gold plated and Uncirculated with a privy mark.
* Mintages range on the proofs and various uncirculated from 3,000 to 5,000
* Kilo Silver coin
* 4 coin PROOF Silver sets mintage 2,000
However, these Elephants don't come just silver, they also are issued in gold.
* 1 oz uncirculated gold
* 1/50 oz gold proof
* 1/25 oz gold proof
* 5 oz gold in wooden box with COA, mintage of 99, proof
There is already a 2013 1 oz that is coming out it appears in October.
However, one topic that came up in researching these coins was - are these legit? Somalia is a war torn country, one that is famous for their pirates that constantly high jack ships in the ocean waters. How is it possible they would issue legal tender in silver and gold, some may ask?
Well, that's what makes these coins intriguing. True, this country does make use of the shilling as their currency. But there is some speculation, based on some blogs I read and even a reported email that I saw on the Internet that the Somalia government has not authorized these coins, that they are NOT legal tender. Yet, these coins are marketed as legal tender and commissioned by the Somalia government. In fact the proof sets come with a COA that is signed by their central bank governor!
However, this again is where it gets interesting. When I researched this central banks governors name on the Internet, I came to discover that he isn't a current central bank governor, in fact he hasn't been involved in the central bank sinces the late 1960s!
I discovered this by researching his name and finding his name on declassified memos from the IMF web site, in letters dated back to 1969, when he was a central bank governor! Yet, his name is listed on the COA of proof sets, such as in the 2009 silver African wildlife series proof set!
Furthermore, to add to this debate if they are legal tender or not, it appears APMEX
is discontinuing carrying this series. They sold out of the 2012 coins, and are now having a sale on the 2011 coins. When I called them and asked about these coins I was told that they were being considered as silver rounds and not coins. Furthermore, if you notice, APMEX
is not carrying the 2013 coins which are now out.
All this adds to the mystery and confusion- are these coins legal tender? They are being marketed that way, as legal tender. But by whom? Could it be former leaders are enriching themselves by using their former powers? Or are the German mints just taking advantage of the situation, and using Somalia's name on these coins as a marketing ploy themselves and cutting a slice of the pie with ex government officials?
Nevertheless, these coins are legitimate, seeing that they are sold as bullion, and clearly are being produced year after year because there is a market for them. As one rare coin dealer told me out of Florida "these sets are rare, they are the kind of thing where you see them, 1-2 and they get snatched up and then they disappear for a while. They dont come up often, maybe 1 or 2 sets at a time. Sometimes we get them via other dealers or sometimes someones private collection."
Finally, adding to the legitimacy of these coins is the fact that Krause Publications announced, as one of the nominees in the Silver Coin category, none other than the "Somali Republic â€" KM# 230, 100 Shillings, Elephant Bullion Coin". The winners will be announced at this upcoming February 2013 coin show in Berlin so stay tuned!
So there you have it, the best I could piece together for this series.
I do believe, that while it is open up for debate if this coin is legal tender, the fact that its been around since 1999, it merits attention from both investors and collectors.
I hope you enjoyed this research, I wish I had more to share. But my hope is that those who enjoy this series as much as I do learned more about it!