Nations reel in collectors with coins showing fish as food, sport fishing, native fauna and conservation

Going Topical column from the June 2, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 05/19/14
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Animal coins with sea mammals on them, such as whales and dolphins, get a lot of attention, but fish coins have a following as well, and this column features some particularly beautiful ones.

Ocean mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals have long enjoyed a strong following among animal coin collectors. However, fish are growing in popularity as more and more nations feature them on coins. Fish appear in contexts such as food, sport fishing, native fauna, and as symbols of national pride and conservation.

In 1975 San Marino used salmon on a 50-lira coin in a unique way: To symbolize “love for one’s native country.” The official government description of the design reads: “Five salmons are swimming in the same direction. They have spent the rest of the year in the sea; now they are returning up the river they came down soon after birth. They are using every energy they have to go upstream against the strong-willed current to thus obey that mysterious call ... which draws them to their birthplace.” The other love symbols in the animal coin set include sea horses, spiders, marmots, birds, dogs, cats, seagulls, and hedgehogs.

The Portuguese love the sea, source of food, transportation and adventure, and this shows in their coinage. Seascapes, sailing vessels and fish are often found on the coins of this coastal nation to symbolize its strong connection to the Atlantic Ocean. A “fish and ship” design graced its 50-escudo coin from 1986 until 2002, when the nation adopted the euro.

The vital role that fish play in the food chain was highlighted in a simple design on the one-year-type 1977 Maldives 5-rufiyaa coin.

The bonito fish is part of the tuna family and is sometimes substituted for tuna in recipes. The Greeks enjoy it pickled but it is typically eaten grilled. The bonita’s role as a food fish is why this coin was part of the FAO’s “Grow More Food” coin program.

Oct. 16, 1981, was World Food Day.    

In honor of that occasion, Cyprus issued a 1981, one-year-type 500-mil coin featuring a swordfish and grain. The swordfish is not only a sought-after catch with anglers, it often shows up on lists of the world’s tastiest fishes.

For many fish fanciers, nothing’s better than a swordfish steak. But these huge fish are also fascinating to watch. They don’t use their swords to spear prey but rather to injure them by slashing to make the smaller fish easier to catch.

The swordfish has made a great comeback in U.S. Atlantic waters but is endangered in most other parts of the world.

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