Some legal tender world coins have been made of things like wood and
acrylic, but the vast majority are still made of metal.
The creative use of metal is a big part of making modern world
coins. Space-age metals, ringed-bimetallic compositions, and mixed and
embedded metals are just some of the tools being utilized by mints today.
Tantalum, titanium and niobium are three of the rare metals now
showing up in world coins.
From 2006 to 2014, the Kazakhstan Mint issued a series of ringed
bimetallic 500-tenge coins with a center of rare tantalum, or tantal,
and a ring of sterling silver. The space series honored the first
satellite, Vostok, Apollo-Soyuz and the International Space Station,
to name a few. For some of the issues, the gray blue tantalum was
colored or highlighted with selective gold plating.
Fiji issued a 1-ounce tantalum $10 coin in 2012, but Kazakhstan is
the nation most closely associated with the rare metal. That nation is
the home of the old Soviet space agency and tantalum is used in the
Titanium is a corrosion-resistant silver-colored metal that is
strong but lightweight. It can also be colored, which makes it ideal
The British Virgin Islands has offered several titanium coins.
The British Virgin Islands 2007 titanium $5 coin celebrates the
160th anniversary of the first U.S. stamp, which features Ben
Franklin. This coin, which measures 36 millimeters in diameter, weighs
only 10 grams, not the 20 to 25 grams of a copper-nickel coin with
The Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Austria, and Luxembourg are some of the
nations that have also issued titanium coins.
Niobium is similar to tantalum in many ways. It is gray in color but
can be colored with anodizing, is a super conductor, and has many
industrial applications. It is often used to make steel stronger.
In 2013, Palau issued a 15-gram ringed-bimetallic $2 coin with a
blue-green niobium core and a silver ring.
This coin celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Chinese Panda
silver bullion coin. Austria, Canada and Mongolia are a few more
nations that have issued niobium coins.
Embedding coins with metal relics is another trend in world coinage.
One example comes from Belarus, a 2002 sterling silver 20-ruble coin
that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of native son and
mineralogist Ignatius Domeyko (1802 to 1899). The relic inset in the
design is a piece of the metal named for him: domeykite, a grayish,
copper arsenide metallic mineral.
A 2005 Cook Islands copper-nickel dollar inserts a metal relic of
historic significance in a commemorative.
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, it
has a nail head that came from a ship in Adm. Lord Nelson’s fleet. To
keep shipworms out of the wood, the bottom of his ships were covered
in sheets of copper affixed with copper nails. A quote above the inset
copper is from Nelson: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”
The first circulating ringed-bimetallic coin was the 1982 Italian
Dozens of nations have joined the ringed-bimetallic club since then;
the coins are popular for their color-contrasting looks and because
they discourage counterfeiting.
The ringed-bimetallic concept has evolved into two types, those with
mainly separated designs on the center and on the ring, and those with
a melded design.
A 2006 Ukrainian 5-hryvnia commemorative coin is an example of the
first type. The copper-nickel outer ring with a baroque pattern is
used as a decorative frame for the main design element in the Nordic
gold (the gold-free, primarily copper alloy) center.
The center displays a tsymbaly, a stringed instrument that is played
by striking it with two small hammers or sticks. The instrument is
popular in folk music.
A 2014 Canadian commemorative $2 coin illustrates the second type of
The central design flows between the different color metals of the
ring and core without a break.
This design derives from an iconic 1940 photograph, a source of
great pride and patriotism in Canada: A little boy runs after his
soldier father who is going off to war, calling, “Wait for me, Daddy.”
The final ringed-bimetallic example is an Australian 1936 7-penny
coin. If you’ve never heard of this denomination, there’s a good reason.
It only exists as a hybrid, an altered coin made in the trench art
tradition by combining a genuine silver sixpence center with an outer
penny bronze ring. The artist who makes these hybrid coins also
creates marbles and whistles from pre-decimal Australian coinage.
Want to know about more coins in unusual metals? Coin
World has you covered!
Austrian Mint’s newest ringed-bimetallic coin
tackles universe origins
British Guiana's Penny Magenta stamp an
expensive, ugly, stamp
Canada debuts niobium for new commemorative
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