The phrase ‘odd change’ is often used to refer to a small number of coins. But, when thinking about the phrase, we pondered on current and historic coins that could be considered ‘odd’ in some way. We searched for coins that ‘break the mould’ – both in the UK and worldwide – and the variety we’ve uncovered is amazing.
We’ve found coins that are: oval, scalloped-edged, triangular, square, rectangular, pentagonal and hexagonal, polygon-shaped and even guitar-shaped. There are coins with colour; of weird material; even coins that glow! Then there are the odd designs – but which are the strangest ones? When does a coin stop being a coin? And, if it’s not the shape, what makes a coin a coin? Here are just a few that we’ve found to get you started…
|The Japanese 5 yen brass coin with a central hole was first issued in 1949 and is still used today in Japan. It’s not the only current Japanese circulating coin to have a hole in the middle, the 50 yen coin is also missing its centre. It’s a security feature of the coins as well as a way of telling the denominations apart. Read more on Japanese coins here.|
|I’ve also found coins with central holes that were minted here at The Royal Mint – A British East African 5 cent coin. Image: www.museumvictoria.com|
|Some coins bear an ‘optical illusion’ of being shaped but are actually round due to inner shapes in the designs. The South African 10 and 50 cent and 1 and 2 Rand pieces are examples.|
|The Hong Kong 20 cents is an example of a scalloped circulating coin. Struck by The Royal Mint in 1980.|
|The Bahamas 15 cent coin is an example of a square coin. A scalloped coin also features in their circulating coinage – the 20 cent piece.|
|The Perth Mint of Australia produced some particularly intriguing coins in 2014 – their Transformers: Age of Extinction 3-coin set. Not only unusually-shaped and coloured, but these coins also contain lenticular lenses! When the coins are viewed from slightly different angles, different images are magnified.|
|The Royal Australian Mint produced a beautiful triangular coin in 2013, something that Bermuda, the Cook Islands and the Isle of Man, amongst others, have also done in the last few years – take a look at this article.|
|Talking about the Cook Islands, these ‘Pop-Up Head’ coins are a lot of fun! A gold-plated moai – a ‘living face’ of a deified ancestor – can be inserted into a slot on the coin, creating a miniature version of the well-known Easter Island statues.|
What about these guitar-shaped coins?
Somalia has been prolific in producing unusually-shaped coins, such as their bike-shaped and guitar-shaped coins! Not to mention maps, flags, cars, animals and their range of 3-dimensional ones!
Palau introduced a whole new element to coins with their ‘Scent of Paradise’ range, which is, essentially, a scratch and sniff experience. Featuring surfers and coconuts, apparently if you rub the coconut, you can smell it!
Another range of Palau coins have real pearls embedded in them. I haven’t checked the price of those though …
Tristan da Cunha ‘broke all barriers’ with their Concorde coin (hope you got that). Made in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Concorde. These gold-plated coins each contained a small piece of the titanium alloy heat shield from Concorde. Apparently, they flew off the shelf! (sorry…)
Did you know: worldwide, some 50 nations have issued non-round coins for circulation and commemorative purposes.
So when does a coin stop being a coin?
In the UK, the reigning monarch’s effigy must appear on the obverse of a coin – the ‘Heads‘ side – and have been approved by Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Privvy Council and Her Majesty The Queen herself, for it to be a legal tender coin of the realm. Anything else is a medal, medallion, token or commemorative piece, such as the bronze one we made for the 2014 NATO Summit in Newport.
And, don’t forget, the final design is not just about whatever image an artist or designer comes up with – coin designs are limited by what’s technically possible regarding how the metal reacts during production. The hardness of the metal, its durability and how it will withstand pressing are some of the fundamental limitations on what can be made.
So, what ‘odd’ coins have been made at The Royal Mint?
I spoke to one of our longest-serving colleagues here – Dave Stonehouse – who has worked in our Coin Press department for more years than he cares to remember! As we are the world’s largest export mint, we have produced coins for around 100 other issuing authorities, so Dave has witnessed a huge variety of coins being struck here. He’s been kind enough to share his favourites with me, and I’ve included some of his own comments (in italics):
1. The collector sets of triangular Bermuda coins (think about it…)
2. The New Zealand ‘Lord of the Rings’ series
3. The beautiful Icelandic portfolio – my favourite
4. The square, reverse striking Suriname 5c
5. The FCFA (Franc Communauté Financière Africaine) confederation of West African states coins – known as the ‘African €uro‘
We hope you enjoy the variety and novelty of these ‘oddities’ and we’d love to hear from anyone who can add to them. We could go on and on, as you can imagine; but we hope this has whetted your appetite to hunt down some more ‘odd’ coins. As fellow coin-lovers, please share them with us by commenting on this article or on our Facebook or Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you!