One could build a large collection of world coins concentrating
solely on the fine arts. World coins celebrate art, sculpture,
architecture, dance, drama, music, and other forms of live
entertainment. They also depict buildings of cultural importance like
theaters, ballet and opera houses, and fine arts academies. Finally,
there is the art medal, the production of which is a fine art in and
All fine arts are visual in nature and are judged for their beauty
and meaning. So while music is auditory, for example, the visual
component of an opera or live concert transforms music into a visual
A series of Danish medals celebrates some of the fine arts enjoyed
by the public at the Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest
amusement park, opened in 1843. These silver and bronze high relief
art medals produced between 1976 and 1983 are a fine art commemorating
a fine art, resulting in a double dose of culture.
The 1976 medal was designed by the Austrian artist Helmut Zobl (born
in 1941), who focused on Tivoli’s Pantomime Theatre. Both sides show
the open-air theater that is famous for a curtain that unfolds like a
peacock’s tail. The theater features pantomime, ballet and modern
dance productions. Other medals in the series depict a display of
fireworks, a performing orchestra, and an acrobatic show.
As a fine art, ballet is most closely associated with France and
Russia, although it is enjoyed all over the world.
Ballet is very important in Russian culture, and the coins and
medals of the nation bear witness to that. One silver 3-ruble coin
issued by Russia in 1993 commemorates the Bolshoi Ballet, of Moscow,
founded in 1776. The famous dance company began life in 1773 as a
dance school for orphans.
Humans not only enjoy listening to music, they like watching it
performed, too. All musical instruments can be divided up into five
groups. Three of these are represented on a Bolivian 1979 200-peso
coin: a drum (membranophone), a panflute (areophone), and a charango,
a small 10-string guitar (chordophone). Struck for the International
Year of the Child, this is one very musical world coin.
The drum is featured more often on world coins than any other
musical instrument, because drums in many forms have always been an
important part of human musical history. A drum native to the island
nation of Trinidad and Tobago takes center stage on a Proof
copper-nickel 50-cent coin that was minted by the Franklin Mint in 1976.
Painting is a visual feast for the eyes. Titled “The Art of
Painting,” this creative 2011 Netherlands €5 coin uses both sides to
show this and to honor the Dutch masters Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van
Gogh. Queen Beatrix (then the ruling monarch) is seen on the obverse
looking at the View of Delft, the 1661 Jan Vermeer painting. The
reverse is an exterior view of the same scene, with the painting now
forming the background and a closed window in the middle.
Like ballet, opera is a European fine art that has spread around the
globe. Its roots date back to the late 1500s to Italy.
Ever since opening in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has been a center
of many visual arts. As with the famous Vienna State Opera House, it
is a fine art architectural masterpiece on the outside that fosters
the arts inside. Australia has issued several Sydney Opera House coins
and medals including a 1973 Grand Opening medal that also features a dancer.
Thailand often commemorates its governmental departments and
academies on its coinage, including those that teach and promote the
In 2014, a coin was issued on the 100th anniversary of the School of
Arts and Crafts, and in 2011, it was a ringed-bimetallic 10-baht coin
dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Department of Arts. It
features the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha on the reverse. Ganesha
is both the emblem of this department and the patron of arts and sciences.
Art medals or table medals are a fascinating fine art.
Many world art medal collectors are familiar with the work of Kauko
Räsänen. Born in Finland in 1926, he is known for his bronze medals
that inspire and surprise. One example created in 1967 to commemorate
Finland’s 50th anniversary of independence from Russia is struck in
extreme high relief. An imprint on one side of a human fist symbolizes
the strength of the people, and an animal track in the snow on the
other side symbolizes Finland.
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