World coins speak the language of love and romance in at least three ways: Through the use of iconic symbols, through the story they tell in word or picture, and through the history of the coin denomination itself.
The latter route is represented best by the humble British Commonwealth sixpence, a 500-year-old coin that, while obsolete, remains near and dear to the hearts of brides all over the world.
Brides love the sixpence because of an anonymously penned poem that has been around since the reign of Queen Victoria. It instructs the about-to-be-wed to have on her person:
And a sixpence in her shoe.
The sixpence serves two purposes according to custom. First, it reminds the bride to strive for some financial independence in case of widowhood or divorce. Second, the sixpence, or “tanner,” is traditionally considered lucky and is supposed to bring wealth to the couple.
Decimalization wiped out the sixpence but it remains easy to find because 17 nations have minted them: Australia, British West Africa, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Great Britain, Ireland, Malawi, New Guinea, New Zealand, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Union of South Africa, South African Republic, Southern Rhodesia, and Zambia.
The heart is probably the most iconic symbol of love on the planet. Many different Danish coins have featured tiny hearts scattered throughout the design on both the obverse and reverse. There is a political reason for this. What is to us a symbol of love is also a sign of patriotism to the Danes because the national coat of arms contains nine hearts.
Flowers are a sign of spring and romance but in the form of a bouquet they also make us think of weddings. Canada put a Royal Canadian Mint-colorized bridal bouquet on some of its 2007 25-cent coins to celebrate weddings. The bridal bouquet coin was sold as part of a seven-coin Mint set and marketed as the perfect numismatic gift for newlyweds. It also includes a pull-out card for recording wedding day details.
In addition to flora, fauna can symbolize romance.
Lovebirds are small, vocal, highly social African parrots. Their name derives not just from the fact that they typically mate for life, but that they also seem to enjoy spending a lot of time with their mates, just hanging out. In 1996, Liberia featured the lovebird, or rather a pair of them, appropriately, on a dollar coin.
The crane is another bird that equals romance in the minds of many due to its elaborate courtship dances.
Some pairs will mate for life, others for many seasons. In Japan, a thousand folded paper origami cranes are traditionally given as a wedding gift by the parents of the couple to wish them a thousand years of happiness. A 500-yen coin issued by Japan in 1993 used a crane as a symbol of the wedding of Crown Prince Naruhito to Princess Masako.
The myth of the Roman god, Cupid, son of Venus and Mars, is one of the oldest stories of love.
It was said that whomever Cupid shot with an arrow from his quiver would be filled with uncontrollable desire. In recent times, Cupid’s arrow has become more closely associated with St. Valentine’s Day romance. The nation of Guernsey borrowed Cupid’s form to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on a 1972 25-pence commemorative coin.
Kazakhstan portrayed one of its marriage customs on a copper-nickel 50-tenge coin in 2009.
The ceremony, called betashar, takes place before the wedding when the groom’s family ceremonially greets the bride by lifting her veil. The new mother-in-law welcomes the bride into the family with a kiss. Then the wedding can take place.
No other family in the world has had more coins dedicated to commemorating its weddings and anniversaries that the British royal family.
An explosion of British Commonwealth coins were issued in 1981 upon the wedding of Charles and Diana. Sadly, some of the coins made the beautiful Diana look like a teenage boy.
In 2011, the oldest son of Diana and Charles, William, wed Kate Middleton and they are now expecting their first child, who is due in July.
Several nations have issued “Will and Kate” commemorative coins. An early favorite among collectors is the 2012 £2 coin from the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It faithfully recreates the well-photographed Buckingham Palace balcony kiss between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that took place on their wedding day. ■