Athens 2004 - 500 drachma coins

On November 11, 2000 Lucas Papadimou -governor of the Greek Central Bank- presented a series of 500 drachma coins created in honour of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens. The obverse of the coins features the Athens 2004 Olympic Games logo, a stylised olive wreath, while the reverse -which is different on each coin- features a variety of Olympic themes and figures. The series is composed of six different coins, three of which were realeased for circulation immediately, while another three followed suit on December 15, 2000. Not only are these the first coins commemorating the "Athens 2004" Olympic Games, but are also the last coins ever to be minted by the Greek Central Bank before the country entered the euro zone on January 1, 2002. As a consequece, the 500 drachma coins bear a twofold significance, being the last coins with a face value expressed in drachmas, the national currency of Hellas (Greece), and at the same time the first "Athens 2004" coins.

A total of 24 million coins have been struck, namely 4 million coins for each design. At first glance, the mintage seems to be adequate as the total population of Hellas bearly exceeds 10 million people. It should also be noted that -for instance- the Greek Central Bank issues only 4 million pieces of the 100 drachma coin every two years in order to satisfy domestic demand. However, taking into account the increased demand for these coins by domestic and from around the world coin collectors, it is pretty doubtful that the majority of the population will ever get to see them in circulation.

Coin design and specifications

The modern Olympic Games is an international sports competition, held every four years at a different site. There are two types of Olympics, the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. The modern Olympic Games began in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and the program for the Games included only summer events (the Winter Olympics were not established until 1924), in which about 300 athletes from fewer than 15 countries participated. The common side of the coin displays the denomination (500 drachmas), the sign of the Olympic Games (the five rings), the Athens 2004 Olympic Games logo (an Olive Wreath within a square) and in a semi-circle the inscription "Hellenic Republic".

Reverse of Greek 500 drachmas Athens 2004 coin
Diameter 28.5 mm
Thickness 1.98 (+/- 0.01) mm
Weight 9.54 gr
Composition 75% copper - 25% nickel
Shape Round
Edge Smooth
Engraver Nikiforos Lytras
Obverse of Greek The Medal coin
500 drachmas - The Medal (KM# 180)

Nike is the personification of victory, as it was depicted in a Greek statue from about 200 bC. Nike of Samothrace (also known as Winged Victory), is one of the most famous Greek sculptures from the Hellenistic period. Formerly located on the island of Samothraki (Samothrace), the sculpture is now part of the collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

The coin reproduces the commemorative medal of the 1896 Olympics illustrating Nike. In the upper half of the circle the words "Athens 1986" and in the lower half the words "The Medal"

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.90 Buy
Obverse of Greek Spyros Louis coin
500 drachmas - Spyros Louis (KM# 179)

Louis, Spyridon (1873-1940) was a Greek water-seller and shepherd, who became a national hero in the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, when he won the marathon (40 km) event in 2 hours 58 minutes 50 seconds. Having achieved this feat he returned to his village of Maroussi and did not run competitively again.

The coin portraits Spiros Louis between two rows of trees, the Tomb of Marathon in the background and the words "Olympic Champion Spyros Louis"

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.90 Buy
Obverse of Greek Coubertin - Vikelas coin
500 drachmas - Coubertin - Vikelas (KM# 178)

Baron de Pierre Coubertin (1863-1937) was a French educator and thinker, who was the principal organizer of the modern Olympic Games. In the late 1880s Coubertin was commissioned by the French government to form a universal sports association, and in 1894 he invited representatives from several countries to Paris where he propose the organization of the Olympic Games

Dimitrios Vikelas was a permanent resident of Paris at the time of the congress in Sorbonne and his proposal that the city of Athens should organise the first Olympic Games was unanimously accepted by the delegates

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.90 Buy
Obverse of Greek Diagoras coin
500 drachmas - Diagoras (KM# 177)

The boxer Diagoras of Rhodes (464 BC) belonged to a noble family and during his life, he was known by the whole Greece, as the best example of an athlete. His sons became also Olympic winners and he was fortunate to see them winning, the one in boxing and the other in the pankratium.

After their accomplishment they crowned their father's head with olive branches and carried him in their shoulders. The whole stadium cheered and congratulated them and when someone advised him to die at that moment, Diagoras let his head drop and died instantly, in the shoulders of his sons

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.70 Buy
Obverse of Greek Olympic Flame coin
500 drachmas - Olympic Flame (KM# 176)

To symbolize the link between the ancient and modern Olympic Games, each Olympic year officials rekindle the flame from the rays of the sun in Olympia, Greece, the site of the original Olympic Games. A relay of runners then carries the flame to the site of the new games; the lighting of the Olympic cauldron has become the most hallowed moment of the Olympics.

The coin proptrays a scene of the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony, held on the site of Ancient Olympia, with the high priestess handing the Olympic Torch to the first runner of the torch relay and the words "Olympic Flame Lighting"

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.75 Buy
Obverse of Greek The Stadium coin
500 drachmas - The Stadium (KM# 175)

The enchanting setting of ancient Olympia was chosen by the ancient Greeks as the place where the most glorious and renowned Pan-Hellenic games in antiquity were held in 776 BC, which gave birth to the modern Olympic games. One of the most important monuments of Olympia is the Crypt, a long and narrow vaulted passage through which the athletes and judges entered the Stadium, and which soon acquired its symbolic importance signifying the opening of the games

Year Mintage Price Shop
2000 4,000,000 pieces € 2.70 Buy

Design critique

Because of the twofold significance of these coins, collectors had high expectations in terms of design, alloys and overall craftsmanship of the coins. Unfortunately, the six commemorative coins presented by the Bank of Greece fell sort of these expectations. Although the themes portrayed on the coins have been carefully selected combining both, beauty and historical significance, the overall design of the coins suffers, as the details are not very sharp and the quality of the minting is mediocre. It seems the height of the coins is too small to accurately depict the fine details, so in many cases it is hard to get a clear picture of the theme portrayed.