Italian coin encased in a volcanic lava rock

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by willieboyd2, Feb 11, 2024.

  1. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    One doesn't see this every day, an Italian coin embedded in a piece of volcanic lava.

    These items have been manufactured by Italian entrepreneurs since the early 1900's for sale to tourists.

    Most of them come from the Mt. Vesuvius volcano region near Naples which last erupted in 1944.

    The lava coin pictured here may have been brought to America by a returning serviceman.

    Italian coin pressed into a piece of lava

    The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 centesimi 1919, about 19 mm 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).

    An American friend gave me this interesting rock and asked me to identify it.

    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.

    The volcano Mt. Vesuvius and the neighboring Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a famous attraction and are visited by thousands every year. 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." (A French franc was worth US 20 cents in 1912)

    At least two British museums have similar objects, the Cliffe Castle Museum and York Museum.

    A man from England wrote me that his World War II veteran grandfather brought a lava coin dated 1942 back from Italy, thus they were still being manufactured in or after 1942.

    I have seen only copper coins used in this way and always the coin side with the date is visible.

    More about the coin:

    The coin is a Italy Bronze 5 centesimi dated 1919 with a diameter of 19 mm. It is about the size of a United States cent.

    A similar coin with the same date:

    Italy 5 centesimi 1919
    Bronze, 19 mm, 3.27 gm

    The other side of the rock:

    Lava piece back side

    Another example of lava coins from a different part of the world.

    In 1907 Martin Johnson (later the African explorer and filmmaker with Osa Johnson) hired on to the boat the Snark which was owned by writer Jack London and his wife Charmian.

    They sailed to the South Pacific and visited various islands. At one island, Upolu, a volcano was erupting. The crew members walked on dried lava and watched slow flows moving down the mountainside.

    Then they stuck coins onto the ends of sticks and dipped them into the lava to make souvenirs.

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2024
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  3. JoshuaP

    JoshuaP Well-Known Member

    My dad was stationed in Naples, and I have great memories of Mt. Vesuvius. I was freaked out as a little boy visiting Pompeii but would enjoy seeing it again as an adult. Thank you for sharing that interesting souvenir.
  4. Joshua Lemons

    Joshua Lemons Well-Known Member Supporter

    What a cool item!
  5. SensibleSal66

    SensibleSal66 U.S Casual Collector / Error Collector

    Cool item! Probably worth more as is, no? biggrin.gif
  6. PaddyB

    PaddyB Eccentric enthusiast

    I have seen these before with Turkish coins inset. As far as Wikipedia knows, there are no volcanoes in Turkey currently or recently producing lava, so presumably done in Italy or elsewhere.
    I would think Etna is more likely than Vesuvius as that continues to produce lava regularly. Any volcanologists out there?
    SensibleSal66 likes this.
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