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
Summer is right around the corner and as we start thinking about jetting off on holiday for some fun in the sun, it’s time to organise that all important foreign currency.
But have you ever thought about checking your holiday money for hidden treasures and rare coins?
Having recently returned from a two week holiday in Japan, I’ve got foreign currency on my mind and a few leftover Yen in my pocket!
Despite the growing use of credit and debit cards in Japan, the country still relies largely on cash for daily spending, making coins an indispensable aspect of living – although it did take me some time to feel comfortable handling their 500, 100 and 50 Yen coins! Other denominations of Japanese currency include 20, 10, 5 and 1 Yen coins and 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 Yen notes, with 10,000 Yen converting to roughly 65 Pounds.
Since returning to England, I’ve begun to wonder what some of these coins might be worth…
The 5 Yen coin is said to be the luckiest of all because of the way the Japanese pronunciation of the coin sounds – “Go-en” –which is the same as the word for destiny in Japanese and the expression for good luck.
When visiting the many Shinto shrines around the country, I noticed people giving 5 Yen coins as donations, and souvenirs of the coin were available to buy, decorated with ribbons and chains through the handy hole in the middle, which can be used to string many coins together.
Roughly converting to a mere 3 Pence, these coins have sold online for much higher than their face value. If dated before 1959 they could be worth about £7 if in uncirculated condition. Coins dated 1957 are scarce and could be worth around £20 in uncirculated condition.
Japan might not be everyone’s typical holiday location, but you too could discover a hidden treasure when you return from your next holiday, with many European, US and Australian coins proving to be very collectable.
Lucy Mackenzie, our Head of Numismatics says, “I would recommend they do their research before they travel to their destination and pay close attention to their change as they could find a rare coin or mis-strike.
“The minting process is never completely exempt from human error and mistakes happen, when it comes to coins these mistakes can often be worth a lot money to sharp-eyed collectors.”
So which holiday destinations do we deem to be the ‘hot spots’ for rare coin hunting?
Europe is certainly a popular and convenient location for us Brits abroad, but before you think about getting rid of those Euros when you return, keep your eyes peeled for the special edition 2 Euros which have been sold for up to fourteen times face value!
Most sought after editions include the 2011 2 Euro Europa from Greece, the 2008 2 Euro Human Rights coin from Finland, 2005 Austrian state contract coin and the 2007 Monaco 2 Euro featuring Grace Kelly which has become one of the rarest commemorative coins, selling for roughly £1,100.
You might also be lucky enough to discover old tender in Europe on your next holiday. These coins were replaced by the Euro in 1999 but could now achieve an easy profit.
Look out for Irish coins from the 1980s and 90s which have been valued for thousands of pounds at auction. The 1985 copper-coloured 20p and the 1992 10p are also ones to hunt out and have both been sold at $5-$10,0000!
For a hop across the pond to America, you could get your hands on rare quarters such as the 2004 Wisconsin extra leaf high quarter, which eBay says is the most sought after of all due to an extra cornstalk leaf on the design being struck by mistake. This small error means that these coins are being sold online for up to £125!
Also look out for the 2005 Minnesote Doubled-die Extra Tree Quarter and the 2000 South Carolina off-centre error quarter to add to your rare coins collection when on your trip stateside.
If you’re travelling farther afield, the Australian mule could make you a tasty profit of $1,000 and has been sold for thousands online, with one selling for $2,742 at auction in 2016.
The production error occurred in 2000, resulting in a coin that was thicker than usual, with a double rim on the Queen’s side. If this treasure turns up in your foreign change, it’s definitely worth keeping hold of!
I’ve certainly admired the beauty of the coins I’ve found on my travels and always keep hold of a few as mementos, but it’s also worth being extra vigilant and checking your foreign currency to see if you can find any hidden gems!
Have you found any rare coins on your trips abroad? Let us know in the comments below.