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Coin Gifts Traditional Around World
By Kerry Rodgers, Holiday Gift Guide
December 10, 2013

‘tis the season to be giving …

The giving of coins as gifts has a long history across many cultures. It is a tradition prevailing among the rich and not so rich.

The giving may be related to a season or a festival. Hindus give coins during Diwali. Chinese children receive red lai see packets of coins as part of their lunar festivities. The Maundy monies distributed by the English monarch to aged subjects on the day before Good Friday fall into this category.

Heads of state have long been in the habit of giving coins simply as presents. Russia’s tsars and Ottoman caliphs were among many who did, sometimes by way of public thanks to a subject for services rendered but often to impress another ruler. On occasions they gave superbly struck examples of existing coins. At other times specially designed and struck pieces were presented. President Andrew Jackson’s 1836 gift of a U.S. proof set to King Ph’ra Nang Klao of Siam is the stuff of numismatic legend.

Rome’s emperors gifted largesse big time. It was political. Silver denarii might be handed out to civilians in an act of calculated imperial generosity. Gifts of coins to the troops could be regarded as performance bonuses – and helped ensure loyalty.

At the mundane level of hearth and home gifting coins may all start by crossing a baby’s palm with silver. Traditionally a silver coin is used. When the baby grips it – as they do – their future wealth is assured.

And it is at home where we still can find the Christian tradition of giving coins at Christmas. The custom replicates the Magi’s gifting the baby Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Legend holds that it was silver coins St. Nicholas first placed in one small girl’s stocking at Christmas. It was this single gesture that grew to become the whole St. Nick tradition.

It was silver coins too that were once part of the Christmas Box given by landed gentry to their staff, a practice that has given its name to Boxing Day on the day after Christmas. And it is silver coins that might be stirred into a family’s Christmas pudding to bless a recipient with their wish come true.

Certainly giving a collector a choice coin at Christmas is a way to their heart. But a word to the wise: try to ensure it is one in their chosen collecting area. Regard it as a bonus if it also fills a long empty gap in their set.

Photo credits: Top three, Bottom, Wikipedia Commons.


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