Editor's note: This is the second part of a series about maps on
coins and coins shaped like maps. The story originally appears in
the March issue of Coin World Monthly.
From ancient times to the present day, maps are a fixture on coinage.
Where coins with maps once offered information vital for defense or
staking out control, today maps more likely represent a subtle
reflection of a nation’s borders.
With euro coinage, the common reverse designs showcase various maps
of Europe, some highlighting the eurozone (the area using the Euro),
and its respective place in the world.
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When euro coin production began in 1999, three common designs were
created for all eight denominations.
The 1-, 2-, and 5-cent coins show Europe in relation to the rest of
The design used from 1999 to 2007 on the 10-, 20-, and 50-cent coins
showed the outline of each of the 15 EU member states. Each state was
shown as separate from the others, thus giving Europe the appearance
of an archipelago. EU member states outside the eurozone (the United
Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark) were also depicted. Non-EU states were
The design for the 1999 to 2007 €1 and €2 coins shows a more
cohesive landmass, though with borders still visible.
In 2007, the national sides of the euro coins were changed to
reflect the expansion of the European Union.
The new map designs were optional for 2007 for all countries except
for Slovenia, which was required to use the new design. The new maps
were mandatory for all countries beginning in 2008.
The design for the three smallest denominations remained unchanged,
but the map of the 15 states on the 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins was
replaced by one showing the whole of Europe as a continent, without
borders, to stress unity. The other common design used for euro coins,
appearing on the €1 and €2 coins, shows a map of Europe standing out
from the rest of the globe, in a design very similar to the 2007 map
design on the 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins.
For the designs that debuted in 2007, however, production demands
required some modification or distortion of the maps.
For Cyprus to fit on the coin-sized map, it’s depicted several
hundred miles out of its true position. On the €1 and €2 coins, the
island is shown directly east of mainland Greece; on the 10-, 20-, and
50-cent coins, it appears directly below Crete. In reality, Cyprus is
more than 400 miles east of Crete.
Euro coins aren’t the only coins from Europe to offer a different
cartographic view of the world.
Italy’s 1997 ringed-bimetallic 1,000-lira coin is famous for
celebrating the original 12 members of the European Union, although
the design bungles the map on the reverse. A somewhat corrected
version for the 1,000-lira coin was later released.
The reverse of the coin carries a map of the European Union. The
bungled design shows Germany as still divided between East and West
Germany, even though unification was achieved in 1990.
Coins depicting maps can sometimes become fodder in an ongoing
battle over land, symbols of a larger issue.
Ownership of the Falkland Islands is a subject of long-standing
dispute, dating back to the 1820s. Tensions notably escalated in 1982
when Britain and Argentina fought a short war over the claim. Though
Britain defeated Argentina, the South American nation continues to
dispute British claims to the region.
In 2012, to mark the 30th anniversary of the war, Argentina issued a
circulating commemorative 2-peso coin.
The coin’s obverse features a map of Argentina with its territories,
including the Malvinas (the Spanish name for the islands), while the
reverse shows the islands with partial rings superimposed over them,
surrounded by a legend referencing the war.
There are other options, of course, but these are notable recent
examples that might be a starting point for a new collection.