World Coins

Coins of Jamaica honor 'black Bob Dylan'

Editor's note: this is the third part of a story by Coin World Senior Editor Jeff Starck about musicians on coins. The complete article originally appears in the June monthly issue.

Described as a “black Bob Dylan” in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biographical sketch, Robert “Bob” Marley developed and spread the popularity of reggae beyond Jamaica to the world. 

He achieved international recognition and acclaim, including the Order of Merit awarded to him by Queen Elizabeth II of England. Marley’s career was cut short by his premature death from brain and lung cancer May 11, 1981.

Marley began recording in the early 1960s with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh as the vocal group the Wailers. 

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Other artists also recorded songs Marley wrote. John Nash recorded Marley’s song “Stir It Up” in 1973. Eric Clapton recorded Marley’s song “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1974.

A special concert honoring Marley on the 10th anniversary of his death was performed in Jamaica in 1991, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

The origins of reggae are not known, but the music is of Jamaican origin. The music combines indigenous styles with elements of rock and roll and of soul music. Reggae is performed at moderate tempos with the accent on the offbeat. Marley’s style of reggae included the influence of Rastafarianism, the Jamaican religion that blends Christian and African teachings.

Naturally, Jamaica has featured the late singer on several of its coins, all of which were reportedly struck at the Royal Mint in Britain. 

In 1996, the Bank of Jamaica issued a Proof silver $50 coin and gold $100 coin (dated 1995) to celebrate Marley’s 50th birth anniversary.

The common reverse of the 1995 coins depicts Marley’s portrait — dreadlocks and all.

The same basic design was revived in 2006 on a 2005-dated coin to honor the singer’s 60th birth anniversary, but with a twist.

The image of Marley on the 2005 coin is highlighted in .958 fine gold plating. The legends are slightly modified to make note of the new birth anniversary as well. 

The obverse depicts the country name, denomination, date and Jamaica’s coat of arms. 

Jamaica returned to the Marley design again in 2008, issuing a Proof gold $100 coin for Marley. The coin is dated 1995, however, and there is apparently no way to distinguish it from the earlier issue. 

The final subject of our review helped alter the landscape of rock-and-roll more than 50 years ago.

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