World Coins

Book explores present circulating coinage demands

The third edition of the “Directory of Circulating Coins” is now available.

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Despite increasing demand for digital payments, the future — and certainly the present — of circulating coins looks stable.

That’s the conclusion of Astrid Mitchell, publisher of Currency News, a UK-based industry publication geared toward mints, banks and cash handling companies.

Currency News publishes Directory of Circulating Coins, published in its third edition in late 2019, following a first edition in 2014 and second edition in 2016.

The latest book reflects significant change since the second edition. 

Since 2016, one or more coins were either withdrawn or ceased production in 12 countries. However, the same number of countries introduced higher denomination coins (both scenarios don’t necessarily apply to the same countries).

In addition, since the second edition, two countries have reintroduced or issued coins for the first time, and 18 countries changed their whole series of coin designs.

Though demand for coins has decreased 20 percent since the second edition, the number of coins in circulation has increased, according to a white paper by John Winchcombe that was published by Reconnaissance International, parent company to Currency News.

It is coins at the higher end that are being hoarded as a store of value, according to Winchcombe, just as bank notes act as a store of value.

Higher denominations

The expansion of higher denomination coins has led to the increase in issuance of ringed-bimetallic coins, because that type of coin offers security at a low cost.

In addition to ringed-bimetallic compositions (and even trimetallic), security features are also being added. The Royal Mint, for example, has introduced a high-security machine-readable feature to allow counterfeits to be out-sorted automatically and this is used in the new £1 coin.

Coins in use around the world

Around the world there are 1,077 circulating denominations, and annual coin demand is estimated at 43 billion pieces, according to Winchcombe. 

Recirculation of coins is a constant challenge for issuing authorities and mints.  The Dutch National Bank believes that 60 percent of coins are used only once, according to Winchcombe, who said, “If this could be changed, the savings would be significant.” 

Creating systems to encourage recirculation of coins will help reduce demand for new coins, not necessarily a bad thing, since in many countries a slight majority of coinage production is dedicated to coins that create negative seigniorage, i.e., cost more to produce than their face value. Recirculating coins is cheaper than making new coins at a loss. 

Despite this, countries like the United Kingdom and the United States have declined to withdraw the lowest denomination coins because “scrapping ‘iconic’ coins can be politically problematic,” wrote Winchcombe. 

Which countries use coins?

The book tracks 189 countries that issue coins, including members of currency unions like the eurozone where the designs vary across each country.

Countries and states that are not members of the eurozone but that still use the euro and have coins with national sides (like Vatican City) are also included in the book. 

Countries not listed either do not use coins or do not use their own coins, or are part of currency unions where the designs are the same across the union. The West African States franc (which composes one listing in the book) actually circulates throughout eight independent nations, for instance.

For more information about the directory, visit the directory's website.

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