“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” was said by the famous poet, Alexander Pope. He could have been speaking about the special commemorative coins issued to honor the present pope, Pope Francis, which bear a highly unusual error for Vatican memorabilia: Jesus is misspelled as Lesus.
In the name of Lesus, who is responsible for the spelling error?
Everyone makes mistakes, Heaven knows; but, to make a mistake in spelling Jesus on a coin, or on any religious artifact, meant to commemorate a pope seems to be especially egregious.
Don’t blame it on Cain; blame it on the Italian institute that prints stamps and passports and which also mints coins.
As the Reverend Federico Lombardi said:
Everybody makes mistakes. Even people who make coins.”
On Friday, the Vatican said that some 6,000 coins struck to commemorate Pope Francis’ first year as the Pope had been withdrawn. This is sure to make the coins that got out into the retail market will eventually make it to the world of coin collecting. The error coins will likely become much sought-after and valuable items.
The Italian State Mint and Polygraphic Institute, a state-controlled manufacturer, minted the commemorative coins. On Fridayday, a spokesman for the institute, Lorenzo Carella,said that the image on the coins was traced using a digital laser.
There were gold, silver, and bronze versions of the coins minted, with bronze being the least expensive to buy, at 80 euros ($108 dollars). The silver coins would have cost approximately $135, while the gold ones were meant to sell at $203.
Where does the error appear on the coins?
The misspelling of Jesus as Lesus occurs in the engraving of a Latin phrase around the coins’ edges. The word of the Holy Savior is a part of a quote attributed to a seventh-century theologian known as the Venerable Bede. The phrase, “miserando atque eligendo,” which is a part of the quote, means “lowly but chosen.” It is the motto which Pope Francis chose for himself.
Father Lombardi, not one to pass the buck and blame others, said that the Vatican was responsible for the misspelling mistake. He joked about it, saying that the spelling error was minor compared to the other “problems we had to deal with.”
According to Francesco Santarossa, who owns a coin and stamp collecting shop in Rome close to St. Peter’s Square, he couldn’t think of any mistake to rival the misspelling of Jesus on the coins “in the 600-year-long history of papal medals.”
Shrewd and sharp-eyed experts were quick to buy up all of the error coins that they could, before anyone else noticed the spelling mistake.
Any coins considered to be Vatican memorabilia are collected by people all around the world. The error coins will probably command high prices, due to their scarcity and the strangeness of the spelling error.
The value of the coins in the hands of collectors is sure to soar, and they might make some collectors a small fortune.
The coins might not be considered ‘pennies from Heaven” as the name of the Savior is misspelled; but, they are collector’s items whose worth will be driven far higher than their intended issue price because of their spelling error of Lesus instead of Jesus.
Written by: Douglas Cobb