Star Wars coins have universal appeal to coin collectors who are fans of the space fantasy movie series by George Lucas. Even those who aren’t necessarily super fans of the film franchise that burst onto the scene in 1977 can appreciate the artistry and pop-cultural significance behind coins honoring the iconic series about a galaxy far, far away. This is perhaps especially the case on May 4, the day each year when Star Wars fans celebrate the series by paying homage to the space-fantasy film that gave birth to the phrase “may the force be with you.” The “force”? In the movie series, “the force” is described as an energy field originating in life itself that unifies the galaxy. And the significance of May 4th? Well, you may have already just figured out the pun-based origins behind this annual holiday…
Lucas, born in Modesto, California, on May 14, 1944, was only 33 when the first installment of the Star Wars series debuted on the silver screen on May 25, 1977. Becoming an overnight blockbuster hit, Star Wars spawned a cast of colorful characters that have become pop culture icons themselves – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, C3PO, R2D2, and so many others with which even those who have never seen any of the Star Wars films may be well familiar. Two highly successful sequels in 1980 and 1983 further and indelibly cemented the fame of the Star Wars franchise and follow-up films released since the late 1990s have ensured the success of the series for another generation.
It’s perhaps therefore little wonder that Star Wars, having permeated virtually every corner of collective pop culture, has left its impression upon numismatics. A handful of Star Wars coins have been minted, finding their way into the cabinets of Star Wars fans the world – er, galaxy(?) – over. Here’s a rundown on three of the most popular Star Wars coins released in recent years.
New Zealand $2 2017 1 oz. Silver Niue Return of the Jedi
The obverse depicts a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse design features a replica image of the original movie poster from the 1983 film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The coin is rectangular, measuring 2 x 1.5 inches and, unlike most coins, this limited-edition collectible was also struck in full color. The reverse design features Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa; in the background is a large image of Darth Vader. It also has a limited mintage of only 10,000 coins.
New Zealand Silver $2 2011 Star Wars Yoda & Obi-Wan Kenobi
Among the main characters introduced in the 1977 Star Wars movie are Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who also co-star on this coin anchored by an obverse portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse features Master Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi in full color contrast. The coin is struck in one ounce of .999 silver and has a limited mintage of 7,500.
2017 $5 Darth Vader 2 oz. Silver
Star Wars films are built on a classic concept: the battle between good and evil. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Yoda, and so many of the other characters profiled earlier are the “good guys.” The “bad guys”? Star Wars has many, and the leader of them all? Darth Vader, also known as Anakin Skywalker – a most complex character portrayed as an antagonist in the original 1977-‘83 trilogy but seen as a protagonist in the prequel films released decades later. Featured on the $5 2017 coin from the country of Niue, Darth Vader has a cult following all his own. The obverse of the Darth Vader coin features a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse depicts the iconic villain holding a red-lasered lightsaber – a weapon of choice for the bad guys (good guys in Star Wars wield blue lightsabers). The coin is struck in 2 ounces of .999 pure silver and saw a limited mintage of only 5,000 coins.
The Amazing Story Behind Star Wars
For all the talk about the coins, it’s important to understand that the Star Wars movie wasn’t a random choice of topic matter for the coins profiled here. The series is significant not just because it’s a story beloved by countless millions – perhaps billions. But it’s also in part because the movie franchise itself has a great story behind it.
The idea of producing Star Wars came to Lucas in 1971, and he worked on the script for two years. However, he needed someone to finance his first Star Wars movie titled, Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope. Perhaps surprisingly (surprisingly, that is, given how well we today know the Star Wars movie performed at the box office) film companies United Artists, Universal, and Disney all passed on the Star Wars film. Finally, in 1973, Lucas pitched the movie to 20th Century Fox, which decided to take a gamble with Lucas. But apparently it wasn't because they were interested in the Star Wars movie, but rather, Fox was mainly interested in working with Lucas on other potential movies. Therefore, in 1973, 20th Century Fox Studios offered Lucas $500,000 to produce the Star Wars movie. Lucas then counteroffered by taking a pay cut and asking for about $150,000 to direct the movie. The catch? That Lucas would own all the sequel and merchandise rights. Fox didn't really have high expectations for the Star Wars movie at the time, so they agreed to the deal and financed him to produce the first Star Wars movie. The $350,000 that Lucas left on the table back in 1973 ended up making him billions of dollars over the years!
It's estimated that the Star Wars franchise has generated about $30 billion through its different licensed products over the years. Ironically, in 2012, Disney, which passed on Star Wars back in 1973, ended up buying Star Wars from Lucas in 2012 for over $4 billion. Lucas is a great example of someone who really believed in his idea and never gave up. But most importantly, Lucas was able to produce one of the most famous and iconic movie sequels in history and some of the most memorable characters of all time.
As we’ve seen, this amazing cinematic legacy is memorialized on numerous coins, including a few mentioned in this article. But there are many more cool Star Wars coins in numismatics that collectors can add to their collection. How excellent that this movie series has crossed over into coin collecting, where Jedis and numismatists can combine forces! And may the force be with you, too.