Many paleontologists agree that modern-day birds are actually avian dinosaurs. However, when most of us hear “dinosaur,” we are more likely to think “triceratops” than “red-breasted robin.” It has been 65 million years since the last nonavian dinosaur became extinct, but the world has an ongoing fascination and fondness for dinosaurs of all kinds, and for other prehistoric creatures contemporary to the dinosaurs that lived on land, on the wing, or in water.
It may just be a coincidence that the number of dinosaur-themed world coins and medals increased after the release of the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, but whatever the cause, interest shows no sign of stopping. In addition to the nations minting the coins pictured, nations that have numismatically featured the extinct creatures include these: Australia, Cambodia, China, Congo, Eritrea, Gibraltar, Guinea Bissau, Isle of Man, Laos, Liberia, Mongolia, North Korea, Sierra Leone, Togo and Vietnam. More nations are expected to join this club after the release of the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park movies in June 2015, Jurassic World.
One of the most beautiful and educational of the prehistoric coin series is “Prehistoric Life” (2013 to 2015), from Austria, with coins that highlight five eras: Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary. One side of each Proof silver €20 coins provides a detailed vignette of the environment of a European prehistoric animal from the featured period, and the other, a close-up of one species as well as a depiction of that animal’s fossil. The Triassic coin, for example, takes a look at prehistoric creatures of the sea, including the ichthyosaurus (an aquatic reptile), ammonite (a form of mollusc), and a nothosaurus (another aquatic reptile).
Prehistoric creatures that lived at sea and on land are more common on coins than those that flew.
Liberia issued a flying archaeopteryx (an early bird) coin, and Poland offered a series of silver medals that included the pterodactylus (a flying reptile). Bullion provides another option. Copper bullion collectors can find large numbers of 1-ounce pure copper rounds at online sites like eBay.com that depict a pteranodon in flight.
It’s been more than 35 years since the name “brontosaurus” was labeled a fantasy by the paleontological world, but some folks still miss it.
Happily, the giant herbivore is real, but its correct name is “apatosaurus,” a fact lost on Bosnia-Herzegovina. This nation labeled the sauropod dinosaur on its 1993 copper-nickel 500-dinar coin a “Brontosaurus.” The apatosaurus was a long-necked quadruped with a long, whip-like tail. It could reach 75 feet in length and weigh 35 tons.
At 30 feet in length with a weight of about two tons, the theropod dinosaur abelisaurus does not sound small, but scientists say that the abelisaurus looked and acted very much like a smaller version of the tyrannosaurus rex. This South American carnivore was featured on a 2013 Saharawi 200-peseta coin, although many coin collectors incorrectly assume that they are looking at a velociraptor.
For years, the title of “World’s Largest Dinosaur” was held by the giant grazing diplodocus, with an average length of 90 feet and a weight of about 16 tons. But today, this animal has slid to tenth place on the list. The largest land animal that has ever lived was an herbivorous dinosaur called argentinosaurus. It was about 100 feet long and 100 tons heavy. In 1993, Equatorial Guinea issued a 1,000-franc coin honoring the diplodocus.
One of the world’s top dinosaur museums is in Japan.