BrianRxm Coin Stories 15/15
Lava Coin
Italian coin embedded in piece of volcanic lava
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The Coin:
 
Italian Lava Coin
1. Italian coin pressed into a piece of lava
 
The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 Centesimi 1919, about 20mm in diameter
The lava size is 2-1/2 x 2 x 1-1/2 inches (6.0 x 5.0 x 4.0 cm) and weighs 3 oz. (87 gm).
The Story:
 
An American friend gave me this interesting rock and asked me to identify it.
It is a coin embedded in a piece of lava and appears to be a souvenir made for tourists by
pressing a coin into a piece of warm lava.
 
The coin is a common bronze Italian coin dated 1919 which dates the item to after that year.
 
It had to be made near an active volcano in a tourist area, and the most likely ones are
Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Etna in Italy.
 
Mt. Vesuvius last erupted in 1944.
The volcano and the neighboring Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a famous attraction
and are visited by by thousands every year and the area has a large tourist industry,
including the manufacture and sale of souvenirs.
 
Mt. Etna in Sicily has erupted many times and is also a tourist attraction.
A man from Italy wrote me that there are lots souvenir shops near Mt. Etna selling lava pieces,
but he did not see any with coins in them.
A World War II soldier reported that a man was selling such items near the summit of Mt. Etna.
 
Baedeker's Southern Italy and Sicily Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedekerm, published
by Karl Baedeker, Publisher of Leipzig, Germany in 1912 has a statement about the volcano Mt. Vesuvius:
 
Of the Minerals ejected by the volcano, most of which are found in the older lava of Mte. Somma
as well as in that ejected during later eruptions, about 50 species are at present known.
A small box of specimens may be purchased for 1/2-1 fr., a piece of lava with a copper coin
embedded in it for 1/4-1/2 fr.
The "fr." is a French franc, worth about 20 US cents in 1912.
 
My friend told me that the item had been in her family for at least 50 years,
but she didn't know if any relatives had visited Italy and brought it back.
 
At least two British museums have similar objects, the Cliffe Castle Museum and York Museum.
More about the coin:
 
The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 Centesimi dated 1919, about 20mm in diameter or the size of a United States cent.
 
A similar coin:
 
Italian Lava Coin
2. Italy 5 Centesimi 1936
 
The other side of the rock:
 
Italian Lava Coin
3. Lava piece back side
 
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