World Coins

Imagine a world with John Lennon coins

A unique gold coin depicting John Lennon was presented to Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, who sold it to raise money for charity. A Proof silver version sold out quickly.

Images courtesy of Yoko Ono Lennon, Bonhams and the Royal Mint.

Editor's note: this is the fourth 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.

One of four lads from Liverpool, John Lennon rounds out our look at famous musicians commemorated in coinage.

Lennon was born Oct. 9, 1940, and died Dec. 8, 1980, at the hands of a crazed gunman outside the musician’s New York City apartment. He was famous for his collaboration in the Beatles, as well as for his work as a solo artist.

He is probably most noted for his song-writing with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney, one of the most famous writing partnerships of all time (take that, Gilbert and Sullivan!). 

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In 2010, the Royal Mint cooperated with the nation of Alderney to issue£5 coins for Lennon, timed around what would have been his 70th birthday. 

Lennon was chosen as the newest honoree in the “Great Britons” series, beating out five other historical figures in an online poll earlier in 2010. Lennon received 92 percent (27,874) of the more than 30,000 votes by the public, according to the RCM, besting Jane Austen, Sir Walter Raleigh and others. 

A portrait of Lennon appears on the reverse with a cameo inset illustrating the strings of his guitar. 

Ian Rank-Broadley’s effigy of Queen Elizabeth II graces the obverse. 

After a rapid sellout, the Royal Mint issued copper-nickel versions of the coin, but one other version is unique: the Royal Mint presented a single .999 fine gold version of the coin to the John Lennon estate. His widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, promptly announced that she would sell the coin to raise money for charity, Alder Hey Hospital’s Imagine Appeal. 

The unique gold £5 coin realized £72,000 or about $96,600 in U.S. funds, including the 15 percent buyers’ fee, during a June 29, 2011, auction by Bonham’s in London. It was a pretty penny for the singer of “Penny Lane” and other great hits from the 1960s.

The lineup of musical talent on money is far larger than what we could present, a veritable Bonnaroo of bucks and Lollapalooza of lira, as it were. 

Like music itself, the scope of such a collection could be vast or narrow, and allow for many improvisations along the way.

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