With each decade, we head closer to the seemingly inevitable; a future of total electronic money. Within the next few years, Denmark might well become the first country to go entirely cashless. The benefits of keeping finances online are plentiful; physical cash is less hygienic and more vulnerable to damage and theft, the digital record of online transactions means crime is easier to prevent and, on top of all that, electronic money is simply more convenient.
No more loose change rattling around in your pocket, no more bus drivers rolling their eyes as you apologise for having to hand them a $20 bill, no more high school bullies stealing other students’ lunch money. Just seamless, smooth and faultless digital transactions with the swipe of a card. Still, there’s something sad about the thought of leaving behind physical cash once and for all. As collectors will have you know, there’s a great deal of history attached to each coin and banknote issued; each one of them a remaining fragment of a culture’s past.
Mongolian JFK coin
The phrase “money talks” is taken to a literal level with this truly bizarre coin issued by the Mongolian government in 2007. Depicted on the coin is passed US president John F Kennedy along with a button that plays a soundbite from his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Exactly why John F Kennedy is beloved by so many Mongolians is not clear, but has presumably something to do with the ex-president’s role in launching the Peace Corps. Most coins in this special JFK edition were quickly snatched up by collectors. Those still in circulation reportedly no longer play the soundbite.
Recent history has seen no shortage of financial crises. The Western world has experienced their own array of economic issues, with frustrated citizens watching their national currency fluctuate drastically in value. Few currency turmoils have matched that of the Zimbabwe dollar, however. The country’s government took to printing more and more money to the point where a single egg was priced at 50 billion Zimbabwe dollars in 2008. Eventually, Zimbabwe discontinued their dollar, opting instead to use the American dollar as their main currency.
Though the Bitcoin is not a physical coin, its use is undoubtedly associated with the modern era. Some of the more technology-savvy will have you believe Bitcoin is the currency of the future. Regardless of whether Bitcoin is here to stay, its growth in circulation and popularity since 2009 has been quite extraordinary. This new type of currency is entirely digital and transfers quickly between countries. As well as making payments online like one usually would, Bitcoin can also be transferred through scanning one’s phone. All in all, Bitcoin has been welcomed as a safe and efficient means of making payments online. The currency is especially popular with online poker sites, but is accepted by a wide range of businesses including even Amazon and Subway. One bitcoin is currently valued at 423 US dollars. That’s about 84 foot-long subways, in case you were wondering. Actual coins (such as the ones below) can be used to represent one’s digital possession of Bitcoins, but don’t carry any real value.
Pop-up Easter Island Coins
Encased in these coins are gold-plated miniature replicas of Easter Island’s moai statues. What’s more, the moai figures can be moved vertically into a slot which gives them a three-dimensional view. The $10 coin was issued in Cook Islands which, like Easter Island, was explored by James Cook.
Coins of Palau
The archipelago of Palau consists of over 500 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Besides blissful beaches and a tropical climate, the islands have become famous for something else – namely their truly unique coins. These coins are amongst the most beautiful in the world and, though they look too pretty to spend, are totally legal tender. One of the most unconventional Palau coin editions depicts the Holy Virgin Mary accompanied by a small capsule of ‘holy water’ taken from the Grotto of Lourdes in France. Other notable coins from the archipelago include the beautiful butterfly prism coins, the coin that smell like coconut, and coins that contain real pearls (pictured below).
The German word ‘notgeld’ translates to ‘emergency money’ or ‘necessity money’ – which is exactly what Germans were in need of during the First World War and subsequent hyperinflation under the Weimar Republic. Notgeld was issued in the form of paper, silk, postage stamps and even playing cards. The accepted types of notgeld differed from region to region, but wood was a common currency across the entire nation. Wooden notgeld, depicted in the below image, are now highly valued by collectors.
Penguin Lifecycle Coins
Perhaps the most adorable on the list; the world’s first silver and crystal coin was issued on behalf of South Georgia and South Sandwich Island by the British government in 2007 as a show of dedication to the penguins of the Antarctic. The collector’s coin is designed to show the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin and was issued just two years after the release of ‘March of the Penguins’, a highly acclaimed documentary filmed in the region. In the coin’s glass middle stands the King Emperor.
Riga Technical University Coins
These interconnecting coins each represent 1 Lats (the currency used in modern-day Latvia) and were issued in commemoration of Latvia’s oldest university. The upper triangle is designed as a protractor, whilst the longer side of the lower triangle features a calibrated ruler. On the reverse side, the upper coin reads ‘Riga’s Technical University’, with the lower coin featuring a golden pair of compasses and triangle. The two coins are symbolic in many ways – they are small but practical tools; representing the way in which money is “the most influential auxiliary instrument to satisfy human thirst for knowledge and creativity”.