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The Diversity of Israel's Coins and Medals
By Mel Wacks

The collector or exhibitor seeking beauty and variety should examine Israel's numismatic issues for both popular and unusual themes.

You DON'T HAVE to be Jewish to enjoy Israel's coins and medals, and you don't have to be wealthy. Many feature important Christian holy sites, while others commemorate a great variety of topical subjects ranging from space to sports. Israel does issue gold commemoratives, but the same designs usually are available in inexpensive bronze or silver issues in the $10 to 120 range. And many beautiful low-mintage issues of the past- brilliant uncirculated or proof-are now available in the aftermarket at remarkably low prices. An overview of the rich variety of themes available to the collector and exhibitor demonstrates the viability of this specialization. The most obvious topic covered in Israeli numismatics is the Bible.

Commemorative coins featuring Old Testament themes and quotes include the 1979 "Mother of Children" (Psalm 113:9), the 1984 "We Are Kinsmen" (Genesis 13:8) and the 1989 "Promised Land" (Jeremiah 3:19). However, Biblical quotes are far more common on official State Medals. These large, antique-finished bronzes are generally available for $10 to $15. Possible opportunities for collecting and exhibiting include: "I will remember the covenant of their ancestors" (Leviticus 26-A5) on the First Settlers medal (1963), "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18) on the Pilgrims medal (1963), and "Wisdom hath built her house" (Proverbs 9:1) on the 196! Hebrew University medal.

Designated the "People of the Book" because of their historical reverence for the Torah, Israelis have celebrated the written word on numerous numismatic occasions, starting with the holy Torah scrolls on the 1961 "Bar Mitzvah" coin, and continuing with the 1981 "People of the Book" Independence Day commemorative, the 1961 "Bible Contest" StateMedal, and the 1983 "Ministry of Education" presentation medal featuring the appropriate inscription "The wise of the nation will instruct the people" (Daniel 11:3 3).

The "Mother of Children" coin features references to the Bible (Psalm 111:9) and to women, both popular themes on Israel coins and medals.

The First International Harp Competition silver medal issued by Israel in 1959 features a representation of King David playing the harp.

A 1981 silver commemorative coin, "People of the Book," celebrates Israel's historical reverence for the written word

A bronze medal, issued in 1976 for the 22nd International Chess Olympiad, is one of many sports commemoratives issued by the State of Israel.

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