Aviation and space travel coin sets by Shell
Several months after the successful Apollo 11 mission, Shell somehow belatedly jumped on the moon craze bandwagon and issued a series of coins commemorating milestones from the history of aviation and space travel. The motifs range from Icarus and Daedalus to Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Gas station customers could obtain coins for every bigger purchase and collect them in designated cardboard holders.
This post shows several of the card designs that varied from country to country. It’s interesting to see which typefaces were deemed appropriate for this topic. In the Netherlands, the series was named Ruimte-avontuur (“space adventure”). The chosen typeface is a condensed phototype version of Nubian. The fat 1920s Didone was probably chosen for its gravitas. Its rocket-like (dare I say phallic?) i might have played a role, too.
In the UK, the series was named Man In Flight and used the quaint Goudy Bold for the display typography. Like in the Dutch version, Univers is used for smaller text. In South Africa, a set of 20 coins was available as Man in Flight / Lugpioniers, with the title presented in Peignot. With its unicase letterforms, this 1930s avant-garde face probably comes closest to our today’s notion of a “space font”.
In France, the coins were presented by Shell-Berre under the title L’épopée de l’espace (“The epic of space”), in tightly spaced light caps derived from Adrian Frutiger’s Univers, with custom flat accents. Univers for traversing the universe, what’s not to like?
The Finnish version was called Lentävä Maailma (“The Flying World”). The type choice – Max Caflisch’s Columna, a set of open Roman inscriptional caps – seems to be inspired more by the commemorative aspect and less by the space theme. In Germany, the designers of Die Eroberung des Himmels (“Conquest of the sky”) went with the fett Kursiv (bold italic) style of Trump Mediaeval. – a striking display face for sure, but not exactly what I would have expected. The secondary typeface here is Helvetica.
I’m surprised that none of the designs feature one of the popular typefaces that nowadays are associated with space travel and (late 1960s) futurism, like Amelia, Computer, or Yagi Double. The coins themselves were made by the Danbury Mint and use Optima Bold in all caps.
The depicted series were preceded by another set of promotional coins by Shell issued in the United States in 1969. Available in aluminium and bronze, Man In Space focused on the U.S. manned space missions. These coins are not included here.