World Coins

This Day in History: March 31

Gold plated medal from 1889 celebrates the Eiffel Tower, which was opened on March 31 that year. The May 6 date on the medal coincides with the opening date of the 1889 World’s Fair.

Medal image courtesy of Cayon Numismatics; Eiffel Tower image CC-BY-SA, Christophe Meneboeuf, and

A monumental flop with the critics when it opened on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower in Paris today is no less than an enduring symbol of the City of Light.

The wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars is named for its creator, Gustav Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. It served as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair (which opened on May 6 that year), and remains the tallest structure in Paris.

During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. 

The tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world, and nearly 7 million people ascended it in 2011.

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So many coins and medals show the tower, including French coins issued in 1989 for its centennial and 2004 for the 125th anniversary. 

Medals issued in 1889 can be found with little effort, in various metals, and these souvenirs sometimes indicate that they may have been included with admission or were sold to those who climbed the more than 600 steps to the second level (today elevators whisk visitors up for a short ride up the 1,063 feet height).

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