“Does anyone have change for a celeston?”

The Nation of Celestial Space, also known as Celestia, was founded in 1948 by James Thomas Mangan (1896-1970) of Evergreen Park, Illinois, and was registered in Cook County with the Register of Deeds and Titles on January 1, 1949. Calling himself “Founder and First Representative,” Mangan listed a mere 19 members on that date, including his daughter, Ruth, but within a decade the membership reportedly soared to more than 19,000 members with some claiming 100,000+ members in the later years.

Mangan founded the Nation of Celestial Space entity by “claiming all space in the sky as its sovereign territory.” In 1949 he even notified the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations that Celestia had banned all further atmospheric nuclear tests. Mangan was actively involved in the day-to-day workings of Celestia, and in June 1958 the flag of Celestia – deep blue with a deep blue musical sharp sign on a disc of white at the center – was unveiled on national television. The next day the flag was run up the flagpole and displayed at the United Nations alongside the flags of all the member nations. It is generally thought that the “nation” passed into oblivion in 1970 with Mangan’s passing, though there are no doubt members scattered across the United States and around the globe who remember the organization fondly. Much more information on Mangan and the Nation of Celestial Space is available online, and it makes for interesting reading.

In 1998 while walking the bourse floor at a coin show, I came across some items I’d never seen before — three little U.S. gold dollar-sized coins from the Nation of Celestial Space. My “too neat to pass up” senses kicked in and I paid $35 apiece for the three coins. I remember trying to get the dealer to part with them at three for $100, but he stood his ground. It turns out the Nation of Celestial Space actually struck coins and printed postage stamps! The three gold celestons I purchased are dated 1959, 1960, and 1961 and comprise a complete date set. The gold celestons weigh 2.20 grams and are struck from .900 fine gold. (I understand there are silver “joules” that weigh 4.15 grams and are struck in .925 sterling fineness, though look as I might, I have yet to come across one at a coin show.)

The obverse of the three gold coins is identical save for date. A portrait to left is said to be that of Ruth Mangan, daughter of James, and known as the “Princess of the Nation of Celestial Space.” The date is below, 11 stars encircle, and her headband reads MAGNANIMITY. The reverse features a demi-wreath at the bottom with NATION OF CELESTIAL SPACE around the rim, and with 1 / GOLD / CELESTON and a tiny “sharp” symbol in a circle at the center. It was near the holiday season when I acquired my little links to this unusual “nation,” and I presented my wife, my daughter, and my son each one of the gold celestons on Christmas day in their stockings, with my wife getting the earliest-dated piece, my daughter the middle date, and my son the latest date. The 1959 and 1961-dated pieces are shown here, while the 1960-dated piece lives in Washington state with my daughter. Everything I read about these gold celestons suggests they are rare, and experience has taught me the silver joules are easily as rare. Rare or not, these little golden links to the Nation of Celestial Space are favorites with my family – I wish they were still mine!

Next time we’ll visit the “Biggest Little Town in Ohio” for some early 20th century Halloween fun!

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