The world map keeps on changing. Countries of various sizes are periodically created, absorbed or dissolved. And many of the 195 nations that exist today are not well known. But that hasn’t stopped them from issuing some pretty unusual coins!
As mints around the world get more creative, the U.S. Mint has become bolder and more experimental as well. The popular Statehood quarters of 1999-2008 were followed by Westward Journey nickels, National Park quarters, Presidential dollars, Native American dollars and more. But other national mints keep pushing the envelope with the designs, colors and shapes of coins!
Intriguing designs from little-known countries
Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country in West Africa. It’s surrounded by several other little-known countries – Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. This low-mintage Burkina Faso 2016 1,000 Francs Proof struck in 1 oz. of 99.9% pure silver depicts Jesus giving his sermon on the Mount. It bears a nano chip that under high-powered magnification, displays the entire 800,000-word text of the Bible!
2016 Burkina Faso Proof
- “Scent of Paradise” $5 coin celebrates the 4,000-year-old Polynesian sport of surfing. Rub this color-enhanced 2010 coin from the Pacific island group of Palau and you can smell the ocean! The tropical paradise of Palau is one of the last true unspoiled destinations on Earth.
- Benin in West Africa achieved independence from France in 1960. In 1991, it became the first African republic to successfully change from a dictatorship to a democracy. The 2011 Benin 100 Francs Proof in the shape of a Cannabis Sativa (marijuana) leaf has the arms of Benin and denomination on one side and natural leaf color on the other side!
Colorful issues from little-known countries
The Cook Islands between Tahiti and Fiji in the South Pacific are a castaway’s dream. They offer limited population, powder-white beaches, warm translucent lagoons and lush tropical forests. The islands’ vivid Stardust of the Universe $5 Proof coins struck in 1 oz. of 99.9% pure silver contain genuine fragments of the world’s most famous meteorites.
2016 Niue Silver Proof
- Niue is a small island republic in the South Pacific with a breathtaking landscape of cliffs and caverns. Its popular Solar System Coin Series features colorful space-themed designs on $5 Proofs struck in 1 oz. of 99.9% pure silver. This 2016 Solar System Proof contains fragments of meteorite glass formed when a meteor crashed into Earth 26 million years ago in northern Africa!
- South America’s smallest country is Suriname, located on the Atlantic coast just north of Brazil. The dazzling set of Series 2000 Uncirculated 5, 10, 25 and 100 Gulden Notes from Suriname features the republic’s exotic birds and tropical native flowers. While U.S. notes now display a little color, it’s nothing like this!
Unusual shapes from little-known countries
- Malta is a group of islands south of Sicily in the central Mediterranean Sea. It has been controlled through the years by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, French and British before gaining independence in 1964. Her scallop-shaped 2, 3 and 5 Mils coins of 1972 were rendered obsolete after Malta’s adoption of Euro coinage in 2008.
Somali Republic is a coastal country on the easternmost peninsula of the African continent. Its 2004 Somali commemorative dollar shaped like a guitar marked the 50th anniversary of rock and roll music and the Fender Stratocaster guitar so popular with rock and roll musicians! Colorized on one side, the legal tender coin is about 1.75 inches long.
Set of 12 odd-shaped world coins
- Our World Discovery Set in a velour pouch contains 12 odd-shaped coins from 12 different countries – including the little-known nations of Botswana, Fiji, Laos, Uganda and Bangladesh. All 12 coins are out of issue, some are over 60 years old and nearly all are mint Uncirculated.
Of course, some coin designs are not practical for circulating issues. And might cause some discomfort or damage if carried in one’s pocket. But it seems the sky’s the limit for world commemoratives and other global issues for collectors!
As far as U.S. coins are concerned, who knows? The U.S. Mint’s engraving staff and guest designers may be conjuring up some pretty unusual creations right now!
If you have other favorite designs, or know of other particularly interesting coins, please share them with our Heads and Tails readers.