ATLAS in silver

18 November 2008

The coin set, with an extra coin to show the reverse face

You can get ATLAS t-shirts and fleeces, baseball caps, pens, a jigsaw puzzle and recently, the photo book.  One new, classy item commemorating the experiment was just added to the list. Now, you can get a coin of .999 fine silver embossed with a Higgs event on one side and the ATLAS and CERN emblems on the other.

Geoff Tappern may be retired, but that doesn’t stop him from being active in the collaboration – he may be spotted in building 40 fairly regularly. While he says he isn’t an avid collector, he appreciates a nice silver coin. Geoff felt a bit disappointed about the shortcomings of the CERN 50th anniversary memorabilia, but a new exciting event is on the horizon: the shift of the ATLAS project from construction to operation. “I thought, why not do a coin or medal for ATLAS?” he recalls.

Geoff put this idea to Markus Nordberg, ATLAS resource manager, who was receptive to it. Soon Kerry-Jane Lowery, writer of the ATLAS book, was on-board as well. Among their first steps, they chose a company that could mint the coin. “I found a company originally just by looking on the web,” Geoff recounts. “It’s not exactly a thing that is quiet.”

They also approached the Swiss Mint and were recommended a few commercial mints, among them Faude & Huguenin, located in Le Locle. Those from the company affectionately known as F&H were, “were very keen, very professional and came up with a good design,” says Kerry-Jane.

“The ideas of what should go on, came really from the three of us; it was kicked about,” says Geoff. They decided on a Higgs event for the obverse side, and the ATLAS and CERN logos on the reverse side. Kerry-Jane made a mock-up of the ATLAS side and sent it to Geoff and Markus for comment. Then, she sent that design, along with an image of a black hole, to the company.

The artists and designers at F&H modified the design so that the level of detail didn’t overtake the limitations of the minting machinery. Kerry-Jane let them know that the particle event wasn’t quite what they wanted yet, but the company went ahead “and came up with a fab design, but we wanted the Higgs,” she says.

They recruited Michael Barnett, ATLAS Outreach Coordinator, to provide the Higgs event. This time, the design modified for the machine was less appealing. “It looked like bird [droppings] on a car window,” according to the candid Kerry-Jane.

However, by taking some artistic license and combining some of the attractive elements from the black hole event with the Higgs event, they created what Kerry-Jane calls “a slightly artsy Higgs, although the main lines and angles are still correct.”

Higgs on the obverse, logos on the reverse

The coin is mounted in a folder and comes with a 12-page booklet that Kerry-Jane wrote on ATLAS, CERN, and the coin, collaborating with André-Pierre Olivier on the design. Three photos of ATLAS are in the pocket facing the booklet, and each coin has a numbered certificate.

You can buy the set in the office of Markus Nordberg for 110 CHF until Christmas.  Be aware that the price may rise should the coins become scarce – a mere 500 of them were minted, and about 50 were pre-ordered for 100 CHF at the ATLAS Start-up Event.


Katie McAlpine

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