Saying farewell, and adieu, to coins: Going Topical

Collecting coins that mark changes in world currency
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 12/28/16
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As one year comes to a close and a new one begins, some people sing the line from the old Scottish ballad, “Auld Lang Syne”: “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” 

When it comes to coins, however, collectors never forget the old. When a coin type is discontinued, they collect farewell issues and coin sets.

Some reasons to say farewell to a coin denomination include: decimalization, reunification, political changes, and seigniorage issues, including inflation. World mints and third-party companies often roll out farewell coin sets when a denomination goes extinct or is renamed. The 1971 Irish farewell sets are a classic example. 

Decimalization in Ireland

The original Irish Barnyard coin designs were issued in 1928 to welcome independence. The hen with chicks, and other delightful vignettes continued right up until decimalization in 1968. Two of the animals — the salmon and bull — even survived the transition. 

One example of an encased third-party farewell set with old and new denominations and designs has 11 coins dated 1968 to 1971. 

Denominations pre-decimalization were penny, threepence, sixpence, shilling, and 

florin, and after 1968, half-, 1-, 2-, 5-, 10- and 50-penny coins. 

Canada, Australia, and France are just a few of the nations that have done away with the circulating 1-cent coin, issuing some of their final cents in precious metal as a tribute. 

France issued a solid gold centime. The .750 fine gold 1-centime coins, with a diameter of 15 millimeters, were minted in 2001. The circulation centime had not been minted since 1987 so the “last centime” was due more to the euro’s adoption in 2002 than to inflation.

To say farewell to its gulden in 2001, the Netherlands held a national design contest that was open only to children. 

A 12-year-old named Tim van Melis won with a design of a lion standing on his hind legs, similar to the lions in the national crest. The lion is waving good-bye to the gulden and waving the flag of the Netherlands at the same time. 

Coins inside coins

In 2002, the Democratic Republic of the Congo helped Germany say good-bye to its final mark, minted in 2001, by placing a duplicate of the German coin in mint-colored appliqué form in the center of its 2002 5-franc coin. This was likely designed to stir up commemorative coin sales from the many collectors residing in Germany because Congo’s history is tied to a different European nation. Congo was once called the Belgian Congo.

A mule is a rare error coin accidentally struck with designs that are not meant to be paired together. If there were such a thing as an “intentional mule,” one could point to a 1999 silver commemorative 2,000-dobra series from Saint Thomas and Prince Island as an example of a mule from two different nations. 

These coins were made with an insert of an outgoing small denomination coin from one of the new eurozone nations: Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, or Germany. 

The German version has a genuine 5-pfennig coin inlaid in the middle of the reverse side. This is a rare case of two legal tender coins of two different nations combined into one coin — and done so purposefully.

‘Bye bye’ to denominations

There was little collector interest in the dull designs of East German coins until reunification in 1990. Once it was known that they would be exchanged and then melted down, there was suddenly a demand for the soon-to-be-extinct issues. East German coins sets were compiled for collectors, often containing a variety of dates and denominations.

The Royal Canadian Mint issued several versions of Canada’s final 1-cent coin, minted in 2012, including magnetic, nonmagnetic, silver, and gold-plated silver issues. 

But Canada went one step further. To honor the iconic Maple Leaf cent of Canada, a victim of a seigniorage shortfall, Canada issued a silver $20 coin showing two maple leaves as they drop off the tree and fall to the surface of the lake. Farewell and adieu to the Canadian cent.

Durable coins can be much more economical for governments than paper money in the lower denominations. But history tells us that the paper equivalent must cease production to encourage acceptance of the coin replacing it. 

Australia wisely did this very thing in 1984 when the paper dollar was retired and the dollar coin debuted. Third-market sets containing the old and new dollars were created and sold that year. 

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