A recent trip out west took me near the famous Area 51. That's the place that, for years, the government denied existed. They had a field day with it in the film "Independence Day" and, of course, it does exist. Exactly what's there is an ongoing mystery. Some say an extraterrestrial spacecraft or even the remains of alien space travelers. Others say it's just a science lab.
No matter what is there at Roswell, New Mexico, or at places like the Bermuda Triangle, there have always been believers in visitors from other galaxies.
Over 300 years ago — centuries before humans would create successful flying machines — a most curious coin was produced in France that still defies explanation. On it is a scene of a pastoral countryside replete with rolling hills, trees and puffy clouds. All is serene save for an object amidst those clouds that fits every conventional description of a UFO.
Struck in the 1680s, the coin is actually what's known as a "jeton." These were coin-like pieces used as educational tools that helped people understand and count money in the 16th and 17th centuries. Roughly the size of a quarter, jetons were produced with different designs.
On this particular one, there's no mistaking the large image that hovers above the landscape. Tilted at a slight angle the circular disc has a rim around the top and round images around the circumference that appear to be windows or lights. Protruding from the bottom is a rod or ray pointing downward. And, yes, it's flying.
Perhaps more inexplicable and/or telling are the Latin words "OPPORTUNUS ADEST" around the outer portion of the coin. It translates to, "It is here at an opportune time." That's gotta send a chill down someone's spine.
For extraterrestrial agnostics, the reverse side of the jeton may offer a possible explanation. On it is a scene of rain pouring down from the sky over a plant. Perhaps the Latin inscription refers to rain coming after a prolonged period of drought. Of course, that still begs the question of what in the world the image of a "flying saucer" is doing on the other side.
Some have suggested the coin's design may be a reference to the Old Testament's Ezekiel's Wheel as recounted in Ezekiel 1:5-20. Then again, some believe that too refers to UFOs appearing in biblical times so we're back to square one.
After I heard of the coin I talked about it with Ken Bressett, a leading authority on coins and former President of the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs. He too had known of the coin and looked into its origins. It turned out deciphering the meaning has been one of his pursuits for the past 50 years.
Ken wasn't sure if the object in the sky was symbolic of needed rainfall or a Biblical reference to visitors from beyond. And, after half a century of research he had heard of only one other example of the coin and still didn't have an explanation of the unusual design." That is, until recently.
He revealed to me what he now recognizes the object to be. "It's an object, it's flying and it's unidentified," he said. "So, what's on the coin is, by definition, a 'UFO.'"
OK. That seems simple enough. In other words, we may never know.
For collectors and investors in precious metals, 2015 continues to be a roller coaster. Silver has bounced between $18 and $15 an ounce. Right now it's barely above $15. This year, gold enjoyed a high of $1,300 an ounce but is currently down to less than $1,150.
Perhaps those lower prices account for some of the sales activity reported by the U.S. Mint. As of November, the Mint has sold more than 750,000 ounces of gold coins. On the more affordable silver front, a whopping 40 million ounces of the shiny coins have been purchased.
Of course, this doesn't count the thousands of coins sold by coin dealers. And, between now and the end of December the biggest sales take place. With prices as low as they are now and in preparation of Hanukkah and Christmas, this has all the makings of holidays gleaming with gold and silver.
Editor's Note: A JPEG visual of the mysterious French "jeton" UFO coin has been sent with this column.
To find out more about Peter Rexford visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.