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Any Limits on Commemorative Euros?
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
May 20, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Does the European Community have specific rules regarding how its monetary union members issue commemorative coins?

Technically each EU currency union member is allowed to issue a single commemorative coin annually. In fact it appears this is an unenforceable rule. The so-called national side of a coin can depict any design the individual issuer wants, however the EU side must depict the EU emblem.

What is a touch coin?

A touch coin in some ways reinforced the concept of the divine right of kings, that is, that a king was the sovereign by the grace of God rather than by chance of birth. Once a person, presumably a king or queen, had touched or blessed a coin it was believed the coin (or medal) was able to cure diseases simply by having the sick person touch it. Touch pieces were particularly popular in France and England where they were used to cure scrofula or “swine evil,” also known as “the King’s (or Queen’s) Evil,” “Mal de Roi,” or “Morbus Regius.” Scrofula is also found in pigs, hence its name. Scrofula is seldom fatal and cooperates nicely by often going into remission. King William the Lion of Scotland is recorded to have touched and cured a child in 1206. The practice of using touch coins was particularly popular between the time of Edward the Confessor and Queen Anne in England. Her successor, William III, stopped the practice.

Is it true Slovenia’s lipa coinage is issued privately rather than by the government?

The lipa denomination name is derived from the Slovenian name for a Linden tree. Dr. Bogdan Oblak established the Lipa Holding Company in 1989 to create a new currency for Slovenia rather than continue using Yugoslavian dinars. About 80 merchants in Ljubljana agreed to accept the proposed lipa currency. Some coins and notes circulated, but were soon replaced with a federal Slovenian currency following independence having been declared in June 1991.

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Why are some Caribbean coins called Black Doggs?

Calling a coin a “dog” was a derogatory term. Debased silver coins of the time of Queen Anne of Great Britain circulating in the Caribbean turned black, hence the term Black Dogg. The Black Dogg quickly became a confusion of coin types. A pewter or copper composition Black Dogg coin valued at 1.5 pence or a 72nd of a dollar was in use. The term Black Dogg was also applied to foreign coins circulating in the British territories. These coins were also called stampes or stampees. A contemporary French 2-sous coin (also valued at 24 deniers) would be countermarked and circulated in the British Caribbean territories. Likewise, silver Spanish 8-reales coins and their “pieces of eight” when cut into pie shaped pieces to make change (called bits) were countermarked, the bits being valued at six Black Doggs or four stampees. Adding to the confusion, in 1797 a Black Dogg was equal to a stampee. Prior to 1811 the 8-reales coin was equal to 11 bits, but was valued at 12 bits after that date.

Can you explain the custom of placing coins over the eyes of a deceased individual?

In an age prior to modern embalming techniques placing coins on the eyelids kept the eyes shut despite what might happen due to rigor mortis. The custom evolved into a superstition involving the deceased individual requiring money to pay his way into the next world. A second superstition that evolved from this custom was that if the deceased person’s eyes were open when he was being buried this suggested he was looking for someone to take with him! If that were true it might encourage those at his funeral to use silver dollars rather than pennies to keep the eyes closed.

What about the custom of a coin being placed in the mouth of the dead person?

Although similar to the custom of placing coins over the eyes, coins placed in the mouth were in ancient times meant to serve as money that would be used to pay Charon to ferry the soul of the deceased over the river Styx. The “Encyclopedia of Superstitions” mentions the custom being continued in Oxford (England) during the early 20th century: “She put a groat in her husband’s mouth to pay his footing.”

I’ve found slabbed coins to be heavily promoted when being offered for sale, but the same slab is often trivialized when I try to resell my coins to a dealer. What gives?

It may be the certification service or it may be the coin in the slab. There are many third-party authentication and grading service companies available, but only a few of them are generally accepted among coin dealers and collectors. Coins encapsulated by less recognized services typically sell for discounted prices. Regarding the coins being slabbed, there are only two times when it really matters. The first is when authentication is necessary, especially when a coin is well known to be counterfeited or the diagnostics of a genuine example are difficult to confirm. The second is when the value between grades is so substantial the potential buyer needs assurance the coin will be honored as being a specific grade. Slabs are often used as a marketing tool. Many collectors of foreign coins prefer their coins to be “raw” rather than slabbed.

Can you explain Hell Bank notes and coins?

Hell in the Western tradition is usually viewed as a dark place where only the bad go following death. In Asian societies it is often viewed as simply being the place of the afterlife for all spirits. The Hell Bank is a fictitious bank upon which paper bank notes and paper coins are “drawn.” These notes and coins resemble the real thing to a point, but are meant to be burned as money offered to the spirits of the dead. The dead in turn will use this money in the afterlife. Asian societies at one time burned real money as offerings to spirits of deceased family members, but eventually realized there was no good reason to offer genuine money when Hell Bank notes and coins would suffice.

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On May 21, 2013 Christos Apostolidis said
Regarding the issuing of commemorative euro coins, what you are saying is valid but only for the 2 euro commemoratives. The original agreement for circulation coins was that all 8 denominations would be acceptable in all euro-zone members and each member would be authorized issuing a 2 euro coin each year as commemorative but also as part of the total allowed annual mintage. Those commemorative 2 euro coin designs must be accepted by all member states before they can be issued. Besides that though, the euro agreements regarding commemorative coins are practically very liberal... member states can issue ANY NUMBER OF COINS, IN ANY DENOMINATION EXCEPT THE 8 COMMON ONES, FROM ANY METAL AND IN ANY DESIGN THEY WANT. I don't know about a common side on commems for sure.... The catch with those coins is that unlike the 2 euro commems which are legal tender throughout the euro-zone, 20 euro coins and 100 euro coins or 1/4 euro coins are NOT.... they are legal tender only within the issuing state... this little untold secret could in fact be part of a solution for the problems of the european South but that is a whole other story which in short would mean ie issuing the gold reserve of Greece (all 111t of it) in 1/3oz coins with a face value of 1000 euro.... this would put a high value coin in circulation for use only within Greece and with barely zero inflation effects.... too bad ECB does not give the solution to the states, forcing them to borrow money from private banks with interest, on top of the 0,5-1% ECB charges the banks..... minting 2.5-25-250-1000 euro coins in various metal compositions would be a solution to the problems of limited currency circulation in those countries......
On May 21, 2013 Ossi Halme said
European Central Bank regulates euro coins. The old rule for two euro "special circulating commemoratives" was one special national-side 2 euro commemorative per year, except if there was a joint issue when all euro-zone countries are issuing a coin with same motif. Now the rule maximum two national 2EUR commemoratives (plus one joint issue, which does not take place every year). Except of joint issues, no euro-zone country is obliged to issue any 2 euro commemoratives at all, if they wish so. Finland has issue special 2 euro coins every year, but e.g. the Netherlands has rarely used the right.

There are also conventions for minimum quantities for 2 euro commemoratives. It was not a long time ago when one country using euro issued 20000 special 2 euro coins but only 5000 were available to the public. The point of special 2 euro commemoratives is that they should (at least in theory) circulate. Some countries issue full rolls of 2 euro commemoratives, others may mix the special and ordinary coins into same rolls.

Otherwise all euro-zone countries may issue commemorative coins freely, as long as they do not have same denomination as circulation coins do (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents plus 1 and 2 euro). This is why e.g. the Austrian 1 oz silver bullion coin carries denomination of 1,50 euros. The denomination doesn't even have to be in euros. One euro-zone member celebrated its 700th anniversay by issuing a commemorative coin with face value of "700 cents" (ie. 7 euro).

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