At the request of the Sri Lanka Catholic Bishop's Conference a commemorative Rs 500/- sterling silver crown size frosted Proof NCLT coin was issued by Central Bank of Sri Lanka to mark the Visit of Pope Francis from 2015 January 13 to 15th in recognition of the national importance of this event.
Obverse : In the center, an image of His Holiness Pope Francis. Within a circle of 120 dots is a ring of 33 honeysuckle flowers in the traditional Sinhala artistic style. Number 33, is considered a sacred number in the Christian tradition, based on the estimated lifetime of Jesus Christ. Along the periphery above the legend PAPAL VISIT SRI LANKA in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and below the dates of the visit, 13-15 JANUARY 2015, with the month 'January' in Sinhala, Tamil and English.
Reverse : In the center, the official logo for the POPE FRANCIS Visit to SRI LANKA 2015. Below the logo is the face value of the coin 500 in large numerals with to left RUPEES in Sinhala, Tamil and English. On the top SRI LANKA in Sinhala, and in Tamil and English to left and right. The periphery is decorated with a Liywela made out of 40 floral designs each with Na flowers, 3 Na buds and 3 Na leaves, within a circle of 120 dots. Na, the National Tree of Sri Lanka, is used in the statue of Our Lady of Lanka - representing the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
Designed by Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva.
The frosted proof coin has been struck with one ounce of sterling silver to the British crown coin size. Enclosed in a circular coin capsule it is embedded in red velvet inside a white leatherette covered 6.5cm square spring hinged presentation box with white satin inside cover. A printed numbered Certificate of Authenticity contains the specifications and the text in English, Sinhala and Tamil.
The coin was presented to His Holiness Pope Francis by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe at an event held by His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on 2015 January 13th. Event reported in evening News (Watch at 8 min into News Video). By chance, we saw the Pope, returning from this event, with roads closed for his travel, as he drove past the Kollupitiya market at 6:07 PM, as captured on a her Nokia Phone by Lidwina Sebastian.
It was sold to public at CBSL Cash counter from 2015 January 19th for the issue price of Rs 9000/- (US $69).
In 1990 the Silver Crown had a face value at Rs500 ($12.5), in 1998 it rose to Rs1000 ($15.6), in 2006 it rose to Rs1500 ($14.7), and in 2011 it rose to Rs2000 ($15.0). Why the face value was reduced in 2014 to Rs500 ($4) is unexpected. There was some apprehension from those who were not coin collectors and wanted it with religious devortion when they were told the Rs500/- coin costs Rs9000/- The coin has just over Rs2000 of Silver, to which the cost of Minting the Proof coin, Packaging, Air Freight, Taxes (VAT+NBT), and maybe the face Value is added.
Coins were sold at strictly one coin per person in queue. The initial sale was stopped after about a hour around 10 AM. The coins then appeared at a much higher price on Chatham Street. One dealer said the coins went like hot cakes. To try prevent the limited mintage of coins being bought up by dealers and sold for a higher price to collectors, buyers had to register request for a coin, with your name and phone number at the CBSL Economic History Museum. You could then buy the coin after getting a phone call from CBSL stating that one is available for you. The CBSL Museum staff did register Telephone requests. However process was frustrating to many genuine collectors, who without knowing the new procedure, come maybe from long distance, and had to return on another day to get a coin for their collection. CBSL recorded names and national IDs of those who purchased coins.
Read my article which was published as Silver coin to commemorate Papal visit to Sri Lanka in the Sunday Times of 2015 January 25th.
The coin was obtained from CBSL on 2015 January 20th and scanned at 600 dpi and the images are displayed at 200 dpi.
Also displayed above are scans of Artwork sent to Mincovna Kremnica in Slovak Republic, included in CBSL Press release. On Artwork, the Tamil, Sinhala and English Legenda are slightly different from each other. English - Papal Visit Sri Lanka, Sinhala - Holy Father Lanka Trip (No Sri) Tamil - Holiness Pope Visit (No Sri Lanka). This error has been corrected in the coin issued.