Editor's note: This is the final part of a series by Jeff Starck about maps on coins and coins that are shaped like maps. The story originally appeared in the March issue of Coin World Monthly.
While many coins show maps (Albania, Belarus, Bermuda, Brazil, France, Palau and Taiwan have all issued such coins), far fewer coins are shaped like maps, with most of these rare items issued since 2012.
The first example of this phenomenon actually was issued in 2000, to mark the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Dealer Joel Anderson calls the Proof silver 5,000-kwacha coin issued by Zambia to commemorate the Olympics “one of the strangest shaped coins ever issued.”
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The coin was made in the shape of the conjoined maps of Australia and Zambia. Though Australia’s land mass is approximately 10 times the size of Zambia, the two are shown as roughly the same size on the coin.
The countries are joined together — northern Zambia attached to Northern Australia — although the countries are halfway around the world from each other, with Zambia landlocked and Australia surrounded by ocean.
A shaded area on both the obverse and reverse represents a gap between the two maps.
In 2012, the Perth Mint began a twice-annual series of map-shaped coins showcasing wildlife native to Australia.
The novelty of the shape, the colorful designs, the animal motifs and the low mintage all made those early issues popular, and the first four (showing the kookaburra, emu, kangaroo and platypus) sold out. The fifth coin, for the koala, is approaching a sellout, according to the Perth Mint.