World Coins

Map-shaped coins are just the beginning

Editor's note: This is the final part of a series by Jeff Starck about maps on coins and coins that are shaped like maps. The story originally appeared in the March issue of Coin World Monthly

While many coins show maps (Albania, Belarus, Bermuda, Brazil, France, Palau and Taiwan have all issued such coins), far fewer coins are shaped like maps, with most of these rare items issued since 2012.

The first example of this phenomenon actually was issued in 2000, to mark the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Dealer Joel Anderson calls the Proof silver 5,000-kwacha coin issued by Zambia to commemorate the Olympics “one of the strangest shaped coins ever issued.”

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The coin was made in the shape of the conjoined maps of Australia and Zambia. Though Australia’s land mass is approximately 10 times the size of Zambia, the two are shown as roughly the same size on the coin. 

The countries are joined together — northern Zambia attached to Northern Australia — although the countries are halfway around the world from each other, with Zambia landlocked and Australia surrounded by ocean.  

A shaded area on both the obverse and reverse represents a gap between the two maps. 

In 2012, the Perth Mint began a twice-annual series of map-shaped coins showcasing wildlife native to Australia.

The novelty of the shape, the colorful designs, the animal motifs and the low mintage all made those early issues popular, and the first four (showing the kookaburra, emu, kangaroo and platypus) sold out. The fifth coin, for the koala, is approaching a sellout, according to the Perth Mint. 

The ninth and newest issue in the series is due for release March 1, but its theme remains under embargo at press time. Coin World will report on the coin when it becomes the latest map-shaped coin in the marketplace. 

In addition to Australia and Zambia, Andorra and Somalia also made their mark with map-shaped coins, issuing a series of coins in 2013.

Andorra’s coins highlight animals found in that Pyrenees Mountain nation (the chamois, eagle and marmot, among others), while Somalia’s coins are geared to a worldwide audience.

The six-coin set from Somalia reflects the outlines of six different nations, and each coin is decorated with a design from the represented nation’s flag.  

According to Joel Anderson, “It appears they picked the countries with the largest numbers of active coin collectors.” 

Issued are coins shaped like Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Russia and the United States (without Alaska and Hawaii). The multi-colored coins are denominated $1. 

Though not to the production quality of a major mint like Perth, the coins offer the only chance (so far!) to collect a coin in the shape of the United States.

Poland’s ultimate map coin

The ultimate map coin, however, might be the 2015 Seven New Wonders of the World 7-ounce .999 fine silver $7 coin.

The coin was struck by the Mint of Poland using new technology allowing for the creation of spherical (globe-shaped) coins. And what are globes if not the ultimate map?

The coin features a design based on a 1638 hand-drawn world map, Nova totius terrarum orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula, created by eminent Dutch cartographer Willem Janszoon Blaeu. The map is in the collection of the Boston Public Library.

At different positions on the design’s historical map are seven Swarovski crystals, one for each of the Seven New Wonders of the World. The ”wonders” were announced July 7, 2007, after a global contest to select them.

The list features Chichen Itza (Mexico), Christ the Redeemer statue (Brazil), the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu (Peru), the ancient city of Petra (Jordan), the Taj Mahal (India), and the Roman Colosseum (Italy).

To create a spherical coin, the Mint of Poland first prepared and evaluated a three-dimensional-model of the coin using Delcam’s modeling software ArtCAM. To assure the coin’s ideal spherical shape and map the images, engineers created a special six-piece die setup, with hammer (top) and anvil (bottom) dies joined with four collar dies on the sides. 

The Mint of Poland developed multiple strategies and technologies to strike the coin, which has thus far been a “one-off” issue (i.e., no other globular coins have been issued).

The world of coins depicting maps and shaped like maps continues to evolve, and the options are only increasing. Now might be the perfect time to chart a new course forward in your collecting journey.

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