Who else has started drawing up a destination wish-list and going holiday window shopping in preparation for this year’s adventures?
I know I certainly can’t wait for the holiday season and for me, one of the best things about going abroad is the discovery and experience of new cultures, and that includes foreign currency. As a Change Checker, I’m sure you’ll love looking at the different designs as much as I do, and since each currency is unique to its country, you’ll find there is always a story to tell from the change you find abroad.
In fact, we’ve come across some truly fascinating coins from Europe, so if you’re like me and are already planning your next getaway, make sure you keep an eye out for some of these gems when you jet off…
An ever popular tourist destination for us Brits is Spain, and I’m sure that the Spanish euro is one that many Change Checkers would recognise. All euros issued before 2015 feature the portrait of King Juan Carlos I who reigned as the King of Spain from 1975 until his abdication in 2014 when his son Felipe VI took over the royal duties. King Juan Carlos I was an interesting Head of State because he was not born in the country he eventually came to rule, his family having been exiled to Italy due to the abolition of the Spanish Monarchy in 1931. However, following a coup d’état in 1936 the dictator Generalísimo Francisco Franco took control of the Spanish government, and 11 years later reaffirmed Spain’s status as a Monarchy. This 2009 2 euro coin designed by Luiz José Diaz depicts King Juan Carlos I encircled by the lettering “ESPAÑA” and the twelve stars of Europe.
Portuguese euros are in a league of their own as, unusually, they follow a theme (with the exception of commemorative euros) and the designs do not vary from year to year. Throughout Portuguese coinage you will find various royal seals of the past: the cross of Knight Templar from 1134, the Rota with cross from 1142 and the Compass rose from 1144, each featuring at the centre of the copper covered steel coins (1, 2 and 5 cents), Nordic gold coins (10, 20, 50 cents) and bi-metallic coins (1 and 2 euros) respectively. What is also distinct about Portuguese euros is that they feature a second circle of emblems below the 12-star requirement. This second ring is made up of 7 castle towers and 5 shields, to symbolise dialogue, the exchanging of values and the dynamics of building Europe. This additional design feature was deliberately added as a point of difference in comparison with other Eurozone coinage.
With 19 out of the 28 EU member countries using the euro, and each country minting its own unique designs, you’re bound to come across some weird and wonderful looking coins, many of which have been chosen or designed by the public. The French 1 and 2 euro coins are stunning examples of this. 1,200 applicants submitted their designs for the obverse and the successful entry was chosen by a jury. The winning entry by Joaquim Jimenez features a stylised tree in a hexagon, framed by the motto of the French revolution: ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’.
Similar to their French neighbours, the public had a hand in choosing the designs for the Italian euros, with each denomination featuring a different image. Designs featuring works by famous Italian artists were scrutinised by a technical and artistic committee before being presented to the public to vote. However, in a twist of events during the selection process, the 1 euro coin designs were withdrawn and the former economy minister Carlo Azeglia Ciampi took it upon himself to make an executive decision. He decided Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man was the best option, reasoning that the design represents the ‘coin to service of Man’ as opposed to ‘Man to the service of money’.
Some of the most iconic pieces of art featured in winning designs include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus on the 10 cent coin, the Equestrian Statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on the 50 cent coin and the 2 euro coin features a portrait of Dante Alighieri from Raphaël’s La disputa del sacramento (Disputation of the Sacrament) which you can find in the Pope Julius II Wing of the Vatican City Palace.
If you’re considering popping to the Vatican Palace to see the Raphaël masterpiece, you might want to try and track down some of the most coveted euros – Vatican euros. Euros issued by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State are easily some of the rarest euros you may come across, especially the 1 and 2 euro coins issued in 2011, as only 6,000 coins were minted! Vatican euros are minted with collectors in mind rather than for commercial use, and with the number of coins minted being so small, the collector value is incredibly high. You’re very lucky if you find one of these in your pocket!
Dutch euros are unique in the sense that they only bear one motif, that of the reigning monarch. The first generation euros, issued until 2013, feature the effigy of Queen Beatrix. It is customary in the Netherlands to change the direction the portrait of the monarch is facing whenever a new monarch ascends the throne, so Queen Beatrix can be seen looking to the left whilst the image of King Willem-Alexander featured on second generation euros from 2014 onwards faces right.
A special ‘first’ to feature in this list is the 2003 1 euro coin from the Netherlands, which although currently in circulation is considered to be part of the first generation euro introduced in 1999. What’s interesting about this coin’s design is that at the time they were struck the design satisfied the basic euro coin requirements of having 12 stars arranged anywhere on the obverse, but this changed shortly after the coins entered circulation when new, more definitive design requirements were enforced. All second generation designs required the 12 stars to be spaced evenly apart and in a circular shape in the outer ring, mimicking the shape of the European flag. On the Dutch 2003 1 Euro you’ll notice the stars are compressed onto the left-side of the coin in a semicircle, curving around the profile of Queen Beatrix, rather than forming a full circle to meet the new design specifications.
Likewise, all other Dutch coins issued at the same time are considered to be first generation due to their designs which clearly flout the requirements. Most notably, on the 50 cent coin you can see 12 small stars circling the effigy of Queen Beatrix at the centre of the coin, and an inscription reading ‘Koning der Nederlanden’ (Kingdom of the Netherlands) with the name of the Queen and the year of issue engraved where the 12 stars should be (according to the standard guidelines).
We’ll finish our trip through the pockets of the Eurozone in Germany, where there are several coins of note, including the 1 and 2 euro. These euros feature The Federal Eagle, which holds high symbolic value in Germany. The Federal Eagle is the oldest existing state symbol in Europe and one of the oldest insignia in the world, dating back to Germanic tribes and the Romans who saw the eagle as an incarnation of the god Odin, the supreme deity of vitality and the sun. The symbol was adopted by many states and noble houses in their coat of arms, resulting in a long tradition in Germany. Unlike euros issued in other countries, German euros carry the mintmark of the region where they are minted: ‘A’ for Berlin, ‘D’ for Munich, ‘F’ for Stuttgart, ‘G’ for Karlsruhe and ‘J’ for Hamburg.
Another main symbol of Germany is The Brandenburg Gate. Located to the west in Berlin it symbolises both the division and subsequent unification of the country, because when built the Berlin Wall cut off access to the gate for both West and East Germany. This image can be found on the German Nordic gold coins – the 10, 20 and 50 cents. The perspective of the design emphasises the opening of the gate, truly highlighting the unity and peace between Germany and Europe.
Our final destination holds by far some of the most unusual euros to be circulated, including the 2016 German 5 euro. This euro made numismatic history when it was issued, as it is not only the first commemorative 5 euro to be issued by Germany, but it is also the first coin in history to feature a brand new material in the minting process – a translucent polymer.
The coin features a millimetre-fine blue translucent ring made from polymer on its bi-metal surface, and this innovative technology makes it the first coin to keep up with banknotes in terms of counterfeit prevention. Remarkably the colour of the blue Polymer ring is different for each of the 5 regional mints, varying from light blue to a very dark blue. 10 years of research went in to producing this coin, and has since paved the way for a collectable series of German 5 euro coins based on the ‘climate zones of Earth’ to be issued over 5 years using the same minting techniques to produce a different coloured ring for each coin.
Error coins and rarities
In Italy in 2002, 7,000 1-cent Mole Antonelliana error coins were struck on 2-cent blanks. These rare error coins have been known to sell for thousands of euros, with one bidding war reaching the dizzying heights of €6,600 back in 2013!
2002 was also the year that France minted just 9,000 2-cent coins featuring a young feminine Marianne, known as ‘the national emblem of France’ and a ‘personification of Liberty and Reason’. These rare coins are easily overlooked, but with so few of them in circulation they are certainly worth keeping your eyes peeled for.
Other coins with very low mintage figures include the 2011 Greek 2 euro, the 2008 German 5-cent, the 2013 Cyprus 1 euro and the 2002 Belgium 10-cent.
An interesting series of 5 euro coins to look out for comes from Germany and was created to reflect Earth’s climatic zones with the use of coloured plastic polymer rings to represent each zone. The first coin was issued in 2017 and the series will continue releasing one coin per year until 2021.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little road trip through Europe and some of the fascinating finds you could discover in your change on your next trip abroad, but don’t worry Change Checkers, as you don’t have to wait until your next holiday to snap up some of these fascinating euros…
Secure 10 fascinating finds from the Change Checker Euro Collection
This set of 10 commemorative coins from all over Europe includes:
- Italian 2 Euro – featuring poet Dante Alighieri
- Spanish 2 Euro – featuring the King of Spain Juan Carlos
- Dutch 1 Euro – featuring a half side portrait of Queen Beatrix
- German 1 Euro – featuring an Eagle, the symbol of German sovereignty
- Italian 1 Euro – featuring the famous drawing by Leonard da Vinci
- French 1 Euro – featuring the Liberte Egalite Fraternité (Tree of life)
- Dutch 50 cent – featuring Queen Beatrix
- German 50-Cent – featuring Brandenburg Gate
- Portuguese 50-Cent – featuring the Coat of Arms and castles
- Italian 50-Cent – featuring the Italian Emperor Marcus Aurelius
Coins from Crown dependencies and overseas British territories can sometimes make an unexpected appearance in our change.
They are identical in size, shape and weight to UK denominations (bar the new 12 sided £1) which means they often find their way into tills and vending machines undetected.
Finding one in your change can be an annoyance on one hand as technically the coins are not legal tender in the UK. On the other hand, from a collecting point of view, new and interesting designs are always a bonus!
Mintage figures for British Isles coins are very hard to track down, but we’ve managed to get hold of the definitive mintage figures for Guernsey to show you which are the rarest coins you should be looking out for.
Guernsey Definitive 50p Coin Mintage Figures
Guernsey’s Definitive 50p Coins
Two different definitive 50p designs have been issued on Guernsey coinage between 1969 and 2012 – the Ducal Cap and Freesia 50p coins.
The first 50p design released in Guernsey, the Ducal Cap, was issued six times between 1969 and 1984, with each coin having a mintage of 200,000.
The coin features an image of the Ducal Cap of the Duke of Normandy on the reverse and the Guernsey Coat of Arms on the obverse, which includes three lions instead of Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait. This makes the 50p particularly distinguishable.
Whilst the Ducal Cap 50ps have a fairly high mintage figure considering the size of Guernsey’s population (just 62,307 as of 2018), the most common Guernsey 50p is actually the 1997 Freesia design with a mintage of 1,044,000.
The Freesia 50p features the Guernsey Freesia Flowers on the reverse and the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. There is also a small Guernsey Coat of Arms on the obverse of the coin, which acts like a Guernsey mint mark and makes the Guernsey 50p stand out when compared to typical UK 50p coins.
Mintage figures for the Freesia design vary considerably, with the rarest coin issued in 1987 actually only having a mintage of 5,000. Mintage figures for the UK Britannia 50p were also low in 1987, as this coin had a mintage of 88,659, whereas the definitive 50p is normally issued in the millions. However the Guernsey Freesia Flowers 50p is still over 17 times rarer than it’s UK counterpart for 1987.
The most common Guernsey 50p, the 1997 Freesia Flowers has a mintage of 1,044,000, however this is still lower than the rarest UK definitive 50p (2017 Royal Shield), which has a mintage of 1,800,000.
Guernsey Definitive £2 Coin Mintage Figures
Guernsey’s Definitive £2 Coin
The first definitive Guernsey £2 coin design was actually dated 1997, but was only included in brilliant uncirculated and proof coin sets.
It was in 1998 that the first of the Guernsey £2 coins were issued in to general circulation, featuring the definitive Flag design.
As the first year of issue for the first bi-metallic coin, you’d expect the mintage for this to be high, however only 150,000 of these coins were struck in 1998. This makes the 1998 £2 Guernsey’s most common definitive £2 in circulation, but when compared to the UK’s most common £2 (1998 Technology design) which had a mintage of 91,110,375, you realise just how rare these Guernsey coins really are!
This design has remained the same since its introduction, however the mintages figures for subsequent years were drastically lower, with the rarest coin being released in 2012 with a mintage of just 5,250. Comparatively, the UK’s definitive £2 coin (Technology design) issued in 2012 had a mintage of 3,900,000 – that’s over 700 times more than the definitive coins issued in Guernsey that year!
Although £2 coins were issued in Guernsey in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995, these were actually commemorative crown size coins, not issued for circulation and so we do not have these figures. At that time The Royal Mint manufactured Guernsey’s commemorative coins, creating a crown size denomination from the £2 coin.
Guernsey Definitive £1 Coin Mintage Figures
Guernsey’s Definitive £1 Coins
Three different definitive £1 designs have been issued in Guernsey since 1981 – the Lily, HMS Crescent and Finance Motif.
As you can see from the chart above, the Finance Motif design issued from 1985 – 2012 has dramatically lower mintage figures and has been issued more frequently.
The coin features the finance motif on the reverse, but as with most Guernsey coins, it is the unusual obverse that makes it stand out. The obverse features the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen facing right, with a small Guernsey Coat of Arms on the left.
In 1981, Guernsey issued the Lily £1. Similar to the Ducal Cap 50p, the Lily £1 features the Guernsey Coat of Arms on the obverse, which includes three lions instead of Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait. The reverse of the design features a lily flower, the national flower of Guernsey.
200,000 Guernsey Lily £1 coins were issued in 1981, making it the second most common £1 on Guernsey.
In 1983, Guernsey issued the HMS Crescent £1.This coin also features the Guernsey Coat of Arms on the obverse, but the reverse features an engraving of the HMS Crescent by Robert Elderton.
This is the most common Guernsey £1, with a mintage of 267,000. But, compared to the most common UK £1 (2015 Royal Arms) which has a mintage of 129,616,985, mintage figures for the HMS Crescent £1 are incredibly low. Almost 500 times lower than the most common UK £1!
Although the 1981 Lily and 1983 HMS Crescent designs were only issued for one year each, they both have much higher mintage figures than the Finance Motif issued prior to these designs.
In fact, if you were to add up the mintages for every year the Finance Motif was issued (bar an unusually high year in 2001) the figure would still be lower than the 1981 Lily and 1983 HMS Crescent coins.
The rarest Guernsey £1 is the 1990 Finance Motif, with a mintage of just 3,500. We know that British Isles mintage figures are much lower than the UK due to the smaller population, however when you compare this to the rarest UK £1 which is the 2011 Edinburgh £1 with a mintage of 935,000, the difference is staggering! In fact, Guernsey’s rarest £1 is actually more than 250 times rarer than the Edinburgh £1!
Lack of Demand for New Definitive Coins
From 2012 to present there have been no definitive coins released on Guernsey, and we must assume that this is due to the fact that there just isn’t the demand for them. As previously mentioned, the small population of just 62,307 means that there are less coins issued on the British Isles.
Has any Guernsey coinage found its way into your pocket and have you been lucky enough to find any of the rarer coins? Let us know in the comments below.
Start your Guernsey coin collection!
You can now order your very own coins from Guernsey to kick start your collection!
I can’t help but get a bit excited at this time of year, and now that my Change Checker Advent calendar is counting down to Christmas, I really can’t wait for the big day!
But what’s got me even more excited is to see how Santa’s little elves have been busily working away this year to release the most wonderfully festive coins in time for Christmas.
From all across the world we’ve seen renowned Mints issue beautiful Christmas coins that would take pride of place in any collection and I for one would certainly treasure forever (here’s hoping there’s one for me under the tree this year!).
I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite 2018 Christmas coins from around the world that I’d like to share with you, starting of course with the UK Nutcracker £5.
2018 UK Nutcracker £5
We all know that £5 coins are the ultimate collector’s piece, so I really enjoyed seeing this year’s festive £5, the Nutcracker.
The 2018 Christmas £5 coin features a magical design of an enchanting Nutcracker scene, by acclaimed engraver, Harry Brockway. According to legend, ‘Nutcracker’ represents strength and power and serves as a guardian – the perfect protector to watch over your family this Christmas time.
This is actually only the second time ever that The Royal Mint has released a Christmas £5 coin, and I’m sure that collectors will want to stay on top of this new tradition and make sure they don’t miss any of these coins for their collection, starting with last year’s Christmas Tree £5.
2018 UK The Snowman 50p
I love The Snowman Christmas story and so it came as no surprise to me to see that this coin was a favourite this year, with both Silver Proof and Gold versions completely SELLING OUT on the first day of issue!
Issued by The Royal Mint to celebrate the festive season, The Snowman 50p marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Raymond Briggs’ much-loved festive tale and was designed by Natasha Ratcliffe to depict the boy and the snowman flying through the night sky above Brighton Pier.
The Isle of Man has previously issued Christmas 50ps featuring The Snowman and these now sell for £100’s on the secondary market, which I’m sure would have added to the collectability of this first ever UK Christmas 50p.
2018 Isle of Man Wren £2
You might be familiar with the Isle of Man Christmas 50p coins, but this Christmas a very special £2 coin has been issued featuring a festive wren design.
Hunt the Wren, as it is known on the island has become one of the most popular yet more unusual Manx traditions in practice today, although it actually dates back to Pagan times! This year, the Boxing Day tradition has been celebrated on a £2 coin and only a limited quantity of these coins will enter circulation on the Isle of Man.
Typically, the mintages for Isle of Man coins are much lower than UK coins, with none of the previous Manx Christmas 50ps exceeding 30,000!
2018 Canada 3D Snowball Fight 50 Cents
We all love a snowball fight! Chances are though that in the UK we won’t see quite as much snow (if any) this year as Canada. But don’t despair, as this wonderful Canadian 50 Cent coin allows you to bring to life the magic of a snowball fight on an innovative 3D coin!
The Royal Canadian Mint is renowned for their forward thinking technology, and this Christmas they have used lenticular printing to create artist Tony Bianco’s fun-filled design with an illusion of depth, which actually appears to move as the coin is viewed from different angles – so watch out for those snowballs!
It really put a smile on my face when I came upon this coin in my research, and with a mintage of just 20,000 I’m sure Canadian Change Checkers will be eager to add this coin to their collection.
2018 Australia Looney Tunes Christmas Star Shaped $1
When it comes to dressing the Christmas tree this year, I’m sure Australian Change Checkers will be thrilled with this exquisite star shaped 99.99% Pure Silver $1 coin, which comes with protective casing that can be hung as a decoration.
The Perth Mint has produced some fantastic star shaped Christmas coins over the past few years and this year’s coin is no exception. One of the best known animated characters of all time, Buggs Bunny and his girlfriend Lola are celebrated in colour printing for this vibrant and festive Looney Tunes design.
This coin is actually legal tender in Tuvalu (a small island off Australia), but I certainly wouldn’t be spending it if I found one in my stocking!
2018 New Zealand Disney Silver $1
2018 must be the year for animated characters, as the new $1 from New Zealand features the iconic Mickey Mouse and his friends for this Disney Christmas themed 999 Fine Silver coin.
This is the fifth annual release from the New Zealand Mint and has been so incredibly popular this year that it has in fact sold out completely! Although with such an appealing theme and a very low mintage of just 10,000 this comes as no surprise to me.
Like the Australian Christmas coin, this $1 also comes in a special presentation case to be hung as a decoration – just imagine creating your very own tree filled with international Christmas coins!
I’m sure you’ll agree that wherever you are in the world, there’s something extra special about a Christmas coin which brings everyone together at this time of year. Whether or not you’re a dedicated collector, or simply enjoy Christmas collectables, these coins are impossible to resist!
Secure the perfect numismatic gift this Christmas!
With Christmas just around the corner, check out our charming selection of festive commemoratives that could make the perfect gift for friends or family, or as a special Christmas treat for yourself… we won’t tell if you don’t.