Pablo Hoffman passed along this new article on the big 2017 coin heist in Germany. Here's a short excerpt - be sure to read the complete article online.
"Quite the coin story, not just pocket change . . . no Whitman folders for this million-dollar, 100 kilo coin"
Most coins can be struck with a hydraulic press, but there was no machine large enough, or powerful enough, to strike a coin this size. Li and his colleagues would have to turn to casting, a process not unlike pouring batter into a cake mold. The problem with that was the need to create a custom mold that could produce the needed thickness. It would also have to be a mold strong enough to withstand so much hot molten gold, while flexible enough to let the coin pop out after. Precision also had to be considered. Because the coin was to be sold at 100 kilograms, if it ended up weighing 101 kilograms, that additional gold would be an expensive loss for the RCM. If the coin came out of the cast under 100 kilograms, the team would have to scrap the entire coin and start again. The process could also risk contamination, turning five nine gold into four nines.
Over the next three months, the team worked through the process. They knew they were working on something unique. Defining. Whenever a coin was cast, the whole plant would gather and provide support.
Everyone wanted to know how successful it would be, recalls Xianyao Li.
When we succeeded everyone was so happy. When we scrapped one coin because of the weight, everybody found a way to support the team so they don't feel bad.
Eventually the casting process succeeded. Witten used hand engraving tools to remove slight defects that emerged during the casting process, enhanced the details of the maple leaves and the image of Queen Elizabeth (designed by Susanna Blunt) on the opposite side. The coin surfaces were primed by hand, pre-polished, and then given a frosted finish.
In May 2007, the Big Maple Leaf coin was revealed to the public and the press at the RCM's Ottawa offices. Internally, the team celebrated. Special posters were made and signed by all involved (Li has one framed in his office). Team photos were shot. There was also a celebration in the employees' cafeteria, with coffee and cake, and a chance to stand next to the coin and have a photo taken.
In the days, weeks, and months after, the Big Maple Leaf coin's creators saw their hard work receive international attention. The Guinness World Records organization officially recognized the coin as the world's largest. There was high demand for the coin to tour the world.
The creators received personal attention too. Witten saw his name appear widely in external publications and brochures. All of it has been tucked away in a filing cabinet he keeps at home, to look back on when he retires.
As for Li, he was invited in 2008 to give a presentation at his industry's most prestigious event, the Mint Directors Conference. He broke through in the mint industry in ways he hadn't before, becoming a member of the technical committee that oversees the industry.
The RCM's work with the coins wasn't entirely done, however. The coin had attracted other attention as well. Wealthy companies and individuals reached out to the Mint, inquiring if the coin could be custom made for them. The RCM accepted. In the end, six coins were created. One stayed with the RCM in a vault. One went to Barrick Gold Corporation, a Canadian gold mining outfit. One went to an Austrian investment firm. One went to Queen Elizabeth. The last two went to two individuals in Dubai, one of whom, it is rumoured, uses the coin as a coffee table.
When all the work was done, the team was proud of it as an artistic accomplishment, an engineering accomplishment, and a national accomplishment.
I think coins tell a lot about a country, and showcase the country. What's important, what they're proud of, what's meaningful, Witten says. Li adds,
That's our history. The coins do give us things we can pass down for years.
They felt they had created something lasting.
Coins are permanent, right? Even one this heavy. They don't burn or don't blow away, or get lost, Witten told me.
Unless someone steals it, Li added.
To read the complete article, see:
The Big Coin Heist
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
GIANT GOLD MAPLE LEAF COIN STOLEN
POLICE RELEASE VIDEO OF BIG MAPLE LEAF THIEVES
ARRESTS MADE IN THEFT OF BIG MAPLE LEAF
Wayne Homren, Editor
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