Mint-colorized coins are a worldwide phenomenon that has yet to
come to the United States Mint.
The United States has never minted a colored coin, but more
nations are doing so every year since the first issue 21 years ago.
Plenty of the coins now exist to make this a topical specialty. Most
are commemoratives but some are bullion and circulation issues too.
Uneven quality remains a problem. At the top end are the issues
from nations like Canada, China and Australia that are advancing the
technology while using creative and culturally logical designs. There
are also unique, hand-colored issues, like the 1994 flora and fauna
series of Cuba and the Bulgarian Fairy Tales series that began in
2011. These pay homage to the ancient system of enameling by putting
different colors into cells on the coin’s surface. The result is a
true miniature painting.
A quality color coin is a marriage of color and metal, not a
weekend holiday. Some world mints take shortcuts with the process,
using plasticized appliqués that appear to perch atop a coin instead
of fusing color to surface. Of course, the whole concept is only 21
years old, young by any standard.
Coin Invest Trust, a private mint in Liechtenstein, developed the
original process for coloring coins and applied this for the first
time in 1992 to the first-ever coins of Palau, a Pacific island
nation. (Technically, however, Palau was not independent from the USA
until May 1994.) Palau has issued color coins annually ever since.
In 1993, Uganda and Equatorial Guinea offered their first
Coin Invest Trust’s website currently lists the names of 28
different nations for whom the firm is currently selling commemorative
coins, many of which have at least one color series.
Canada was the first nation to issue a colorized circulating coin,
the Poppy 25-cent piece, in 2004, and in 2013 is offering a dozen
colored commemorative coins. Since 2001, its annual colored Maple Leaf
silver bullion coin has been popular because of realistic and bold
color palettes. The 2001 Autumn Leaf coin features rust, orange and
Australia has also been creative with technology and issues many
color coins. In 2011, Australia used color and silver to enhance a
commemorative 50-cent coin made to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.
By varying the engraving depth and the finish of the precious metal,
the environment around the colored rabbits was greatly enhanced in its detail.
Animal series are very popular as subjects of color because
animals are colorful and are popular topics.
The 2000 Parrot copper-nickel issue in the Wildlife Protection
series from the Congo paired an animal coin with a hologram, or
“prism” as some world mints call them. Hologram animal series are
still being made 13 years later (e.g., for the Cook Islands), even
though a single holographic creature has yet to be located in the wild.
Color can look great on every kind of metal, and every major type
of coin metal has been colorized.
North Korea has made a specialty out of coloring aluminum
commemorative coins including a 2001 1-won piece designed to honor the
Shanghai China Coin Show and Chinese Panda coins. This panda-less
nation was not just flattering a trading partner with this coin, it
was pandering to Panda coin collectors.
In the last decade, colored coins with appliqués that resemble
color photographs have become increasingly common. They present a
relatively inexpensive way to add color to a coin.
In 2010, Malawi issued a silver-plated 10-coin color photo-type
series showcasing endangered frogs from around the world. The
amphibious rainbow included frogs of blue, purple, red, orange and
Color collectors have to be on guard about aftermarket
colorization, which is an alteration and not a design enhancement.
Altered coins are damaged. This crucial difference created some
hesitation for collectors wanting to buy a handsomely enameled Bald
Eagle coin issued by Liberia in 2000. The unlisted color silver-plated
$10 coin was sold and distributed only through a third party called
“Collector’s Showcase International” with a certificate of
authenticity that was unclear about where and when the enamel work was
completed. The good news is that this eagle is definitely mint-colored.
To determine if a coin is mint-colored, collectors can confirm
from the mint specifications or certificate of authenticity card that
comes with most commemoratives, or check a world coin catalog or ask a
world coin dealer.
Since 2004, plenty of people have snapped up the various
odd-shaped enameled coins of Somalia.
The most popular are the first ones, the electric guitars like the
famous Yellow Klein. These were followed by dollar coins shaped like
automobiles, motorcycles, large land mammals and various national