The hybrid offspring of coin and spoon collecting traces its roots
back to the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Visitors took
away a new item, the souvenir spoon, and a worldwide collecting
phenomenon was born. Stores catering to tourists carried a variety of
engraved silver or enameled spoons celebrating the nearest city,
celebrity or big event. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago,
souvenir spoon collecting rose to the level of a national craze.
The coin spoon is just one type of souvenir spoon. Coins were
found to be the ideal raw materials for local crafters to use for
spoon making. A coin spoon will have a finial, handle, bowl or more
than one section made from a legal tender coin. Many of the spoons are
silver since that metal is easy to work with, but coin spoons come in
a variety of metals. Coins may be cut, carved, rounded, rolled and
twisted to make spoons.
By World War II the popularity of coin spoon collecting waned, but
the hobby has not disappeared. The U.S. Mint, for one example,
manufactured coin spoons in conjunction with the 50 State quarter
dollars program beginning in 1999. And there are do-it-yourself opportunities.
Manufactured spoon blanks are available that contain open finials
designed to accommodate various size coins.
Coins of all ages show up in spoons, even ancient ones. An older
example contains a one-year-type silver 1792 Saxony 2-groschen coin (a
1-mark piece). The simple but elegant twisted handle is also made of
silver and common for spoons made in the 19th century. Typically, a
coin’s value is lowered after being altered but that is not the case
with this well-made item. A spooner, as spoon collectors call
themselves, would pay as much or more for the spoon made from the
Saxony 2-groschen coin as a coin collector would pay for the coin
alone in its pre-alteration grade.
Souvenir chopsticks, not spoons, are popular with tourists
visiting Asia, so it can be difficult to find a coin spoon from that
part of the world. One do-it-yourself collector addressed the need by
placing a Japanese cash coin made between 1626 and 1759 into a modern
silver-plated spoon blank designed to hold a U.S. quarter dollar.
Mexican artisans have used coins as raw materials in a variety of
souvenir items since the late 1800s, including ashtrays, coin jewelry
and spoons. One common design uses two silver coins. The illustrated
spoon features an 1877 25-centavo coin as the bowl and a 10-centavo
coin decorating the handle. The smaller coin has been cut out by the
artist and no longer has its date but was probably made around 1900.
Travelers to Africa in the late 19th century could find coin
spoons for sale, too. An Ethiopian example has a bowl fashioned from a
silver 1897 (1889 on the Ethiopian calendar) quarter birr with another
coin that has been cut out for the finial.
A bronze spoon from Great Britain is made with three farthings
from the reigns of two different monarchs. The terminal is a cut
Victorian coin with no date visible. The coin twisted into a handle
has a readable 1909 date and the bowl is a 1906 farthing.
Brazil has advertised its gemstone wealth with souvenir spoons for
more than a century. Tourists can purchase spoons with gemstone
finials made of amethyst, emerald, topaz and more. Some of these have
bowls made from Brazilian coins. A coin spoon topped with a chunk of
Brazilian aquamarine uses a one-year-type silver coin for the bowl, a
1913-A 500-real piece.
Spoons enameled in bright colors have always interested
collectors. A coin spoon from Chile continues the tradition of
enameling on the coat-of-arms finial while the bowl is fashioned from
a 1946 copper peso.
A unique coin spoon designed to celebrate the culture of Australia
features a bowl shaped from a 1956 Kangaroo penny. It is topped with a
1911 half-pence finial that has been mechanically reshaped to resemble
a soldier’s slouch hat. The two different monarchs on the coins are
Queen Elizabeth II and King George V.
The orchid is the national flower of Venezuela, as advertised by a
silver coin spoon with a delicate orchid and pearl finial, and a
twisted handle. The coin bowl is a silver 1960 50-centimo piece. These
were mass-produced for the tourist market until production of silver
circulation coins was ceased in the late 1960s.
Spoons with Canadian coins have been made for the last 125 years
from every denomination up to the modern Loon dollar. One inexpensive
example is a Canadian 1976 Beaver 5-cent coin that has been attached
to the finial. This souvenir is not so much made from a coin as with a coin.
Counterfeits are a problem in this area, as with traditional coin
collecting. Buyers should be cautious about purchasing mass-produced
coin spoons made in China. Some of these contain replicas that are
marketed as genuine coins.
The golden age of coin spoons was 1875 to 1945, although many
examples are available. It is not too late to start or expand a
collection of spoons featuring the fascinating coins of our world. ■