Posted by Allison on 6 April 2009, 15:22
Coins have depicted all kinds of images and faces throughout the ages. But one of the more modern ideas for using coins is to issue commemorative issues from time to time, to celebrate certain events and relevant dates in time. You certainly won't find any coins which are deemed to be of a commemorative nature much before about sixty years or so ago. From royal events to specific dates to remember, and even marriages and iconic people and structures of our times, coins certainly seem to provide a great medium on which to remember and mark certain things.
After all, most people in a specific country are likely to come into contact with these coins, although quite often they are released as a purely commemorative issue which – although it is legal tender – is often circulated only among collectors to form part of a larger collection to keep for times to come.
There are plenty of examples of commemorative coins to trawl through; one of the most recent (and certainly one of the most ambitious) is the Presidential coin collection in the United States of America, which started in 2007 and looks set to issue four more commemorative dollar coins every single year for the next few years, each depicting a different US President.
There will sometimes be a particular coin in each country which is chosen to be the model for a commemorative design, although this doesn't always hold true. For example, in the United Kingdom the two pound coin often holds a specific design.
Even the most recent currencies which have been introduced have already had commemorative issues made. A good example is the Austrian version of the Euro (every country using the Euro has one side of the coin on which they can put a design they have chosen, thus opening the way for plenty of different commemorative coins pertinent to each country through the coming years.)
For example, Austria issued a gold coin in 2002 to the face value of five Euros, although it was worth a lot more since it was issued in solid gold and thus was not intended for common circulation. Many coins are struck with the intention of being bought and sold by collectors only. This particular gold coin commemorated two hundred and fifty years of the Vienna Zoo. Austria has made something of a regular event out of commemorative Euro coins, since it releases several new ones each and every year.
In the United Kingdom there have been many commemorative coins issued to mark royal events, perhaps most famously the wedding of Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana, way back in 1981. This was in fact the last time a crown coin was used as a commemorative issue. Since then times have changed and it is now generally the preserve of the two pound and five pound coins to display commemorative issues when they are struck.
One particular worldwide event that every country jumps on when it occurs in order to get one or more commemorative coins struck is the Olympics. No matter whether it is the summer or winter Olympics, there have been plenty of examples of outstanding designs to mark this event when it occurs. The 2008 Olympic Games are being held in Beijing, China. To celebrate, the country has released two types of coins – one is an ordinary one which can be used in general circulation (the one yuan coin) and the other is struck in gold or silver and is therefore intended strictly for collectors only.
Olympic coins tend to be very popular and some people make a point of collecting just these as there are obviously new ones released every two years, given that the winter Olympics is held in between the summer ones. It is often the case that the country hosting the Games each time will release commemorative designs several years before the event itself, with more new designs issued just before the Games commence.
These coins often show some image related to the Olympic torch, such as the one seen on the commemorative coin issued for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. The gold fifty Euro coin showed a horse and rider in front of a majestic looking building, with a more modern picture of a person running while holding the Olympic torch.
But it's not just the event itself which is commemorated. Sometimes the anniversary of it is worth mentioning, such as the current 2008 two pound coin released in the United Kingdom, which shows the one hundredth anniversary of London hosting the Olympic Games in 1908. In just four years time London will again play host, so it is widely expected that they will release more commemorative coins around that time to mark the new event.
But there are some coins which are created to mark a certain event which are not part of any specific legal currency at all. These are more properly called tokens which are created in the shape and style of a coin, but are not actually legal tender.
A good example of this is the coin which was issued in 2005 to celebrate the internet browser Firefox being downloaded some fifty million times up to that point. This is a neat way to draw attention to the success of a product, and since any type of coin does tend to have a perceived value it will no doubt be kept for a long time, and may become a sought after collectors item.
Sometimes it is not just the case that a single coin will be released; commemorative sets tend to sell very well, since they contain a freshly minted version of every single coin in circulation in that country. Some of these do not have any particularly notable design on them; it is simply a brand new set which will have more value in the future.
One thing is certain though – if you do have a selection of commemorative coins it is well worth keeping them in good condition, as their value may well rise over time.