Today the coins you find in your change are all produced by the Royal Mint. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if coins, and the metal to make them, disappeared.
When people have had to go to extreme lengths in the face of emergency, it has produced some of the most intriguing and interesting currencies around. And here are six of the most unusual currencies ever issued, and what drove people to create them.
The coins made from a drinking cup
In 1646 in a town under siege, with no incoming money, the people of Newark needed to find a way to pay soldiers for protection. So they reached for whatever metal they had available to make coins – and that meant their cutlery! Silver cups and plates were surrendered, cut up into small diamond shaped pieces, and had a denomination stamped onto them.
Because of the way these coins were made, you could sometimes see the pattern of the cup or plate from which the coins were made. Understandably these coins, which surely belong in a museum, are hugely desirable among collectors and are rarely available.
The notes that were issued to be devalued
It seems odd that a government would issue money just for it to be devalued. But during WWII when the American army was based in North Africa this is exactly what happened. The American government was concerned that if the Germans were to mount a successful attack, they could take over the currency. Therefore, all notes used to pay soldiers based in North Africa had a yellow seal added to them. This meant that should the Germans take over, the notes could be easily identified by their yellow seal and instantly devalued.
The Russian stamps used as German propaganda
During WW1 the Russian government found it increasingly difficult to issue coins. Instead, they turned to ‘currency stamps’ printed on thin cardboard instead of normal stamp paper. Using stamps instead of coins was a way of saving precious metal for the war effort.
Several denominations of ‘currency’ were issued, with a statement on the reverse stating that each stamp had the circulating equivalent of Silver coins. However some of these stamps soon landed in the hands of Germans who counterfeited them but with one clever detail – the statement on the reverse was changed to an anti-Russian message. The idea was to destroy confidence in the Russian government and devalue the currency.
An unusual English denomination
George III’s reign is known for the vast number of interesting numismatic pieces issued, and the Bank of England emergency tokens are no different. Conflict in George III’s reign had caused financial panic, and thousands of people hoarded silver coins out of fear.
The Royal Mint’s limited ability to issue coins posed a problem as they could not make enough coins for the demand, so eyes turned to the Bank of England. An agreement was made that allowed the Bank to issue emergency currency. However technically speaking these were tokens and not coins, which is why they appear in the unusual denominations such as 1s 6d or 1 Dollar.
Why money was burnt in revolutionary France
In revolutionary France in the early 1790s, the government issued paper money, known as Assignats, backed by the value of clergy property. The government continued to print money, and faced with an influx of counterfeits from Britain, the value of these Assignats soon reached a massive 45 Billion Livres, despite the value of clergy property only being 3 Billion Livres.
In 1796, the notes had lost all of their value and were publicly burned, to be replaced with a new paper money. Any of these surviving notes are incredibly rare as most of them were destroyed, making them very desirable among collectors.
How a Civil War turned a stamp into currency
It’s hard to imagine a small paper stamp, issued over 80 years ago, being used to pay for goods and services. But in Spain in 1938 that’s exactly what happened.
The Civil War caused the public to hoard coins out of fear, and so they all but disappeared from circulation. Because metal was in limited supply, the government turned readily available stamps into ‘coins’. Unlike Russian emergency stamp currency, these stamps were welded onto a special board with the coat of arms printed onto the reverse. The stamp value gave these new ‘coins’ a denomination, and they were released into circulation to help towns and cities trade.
With such a delicate nature and small number, it’s no wonder that these coins are scarce and difficult to track down today.
Nowadays the Royal Mint is well suited to meeting our coin demands so it’s unlikely we’ll ever need to use stamps or cutlery in place of coins! Emergency currency is always a fascinating area for collectors, with some of the rarest and most unique issues having appeared out of difficult and troubled times. It’s not often that these emergency issues appear on the market – but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for them!
If you’re interested…
Today you can own one of these unusual and fascinating numismatic issues – a Spanish 15 Centimos ‘Coin’. There are only an extremely limited number of these issues available worldwide, and considering the fascinating story behind these issues, our stock is likely to be snapped up fast.
From Tiny Dancer, to Rocket Man, there’s no denying Sir Elton John has produced some of the most recognisable and popular hits the world has ever seen. His music catapulted him to global stardom in the 60s and 70s, and he is now one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
And now, the Royal Proclamation issued on the 14th of February 2020 confirms that a range of Elton John coins will be released this year. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate his legacy and contribution to British music than with a UK coin!
Not many details have been released yet by The Royal Mint, but if you want to be the first to know when they’re released simply register your interest below.
In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the Royal Proclamation to see what’s in store for this exciting new coin range…
Next Music Legend?
This news comes following the exciting release of the first coin in The Royal Mint’s Music Legends coin series – the Queen £5 – earlier this year.
I think we can safely assume that Elton John will be part of this series and we’re sure that collectors and Elton fans alike will be feeling the love for this new coin.
At the moment, the designs are still top secret but the reverse is said to feature Elton John’s boater hat, glasses and bow tie set against a union flag and the inscription “ELTON JOHN”.
It also looks like this commemorative Elton John coin will be issued in a variety of base and limited edition precious metal specifications and denominations. This includes a Brilliant Uncirculated £5 coin and a 1oz Silver £2 coin that will be the only coin in the range to feature a special edge inscription – “a decorative star pattern and in incuse letters the inscription “ELTON JOHN”.”
Register your interest
It goes without saying that Elton John has leagues of fans worldwide, so I expect these new commemorative issues to be amongst the most anticipated new issues in 2020, and as such will be in high demand. That means when the coins are released you’ll have to act quickly to secure yours!
If you want to be kept up to date and be the first to know when these coins are available then simply register your interest below and we’ll email you as soon as we have more information.
Earlier this year we received some incredible news, something that we would have never anticipated so soon, we hit another incredible company milestone.
Through the sales of commemorative Remembrance and Poppy-themed coins, collectors have helped raise an incredible £1.1 Million for The Royal British Legion!
This is an achievement that everyone is immensely proud of, and we are hugely thankful to collectors for helping raise such an amazing amount.
£1.1 Million raised means you could have funded 45 specialist case workers dedicated to meeting the unique needs of the UK Armed Forces Community.
We are delighted to see that our 16 years partnership with The Royal British Legion has raised such an amazing amount to support the Armed Forces community and their families.
This of course is no doubt in-part due to the fantastic reception that the 2019 Remembrance Day coins received when they were issued last year, including the First Official Remembrance Poppy £2 Coin.
We are all excited to see our longstanding partnership continue later this year when we’ll launch our brand new range of Poppy commemorative coins. If you’re interested in finding out about when they go on sale then make sure you like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram, where we announce all of our latest release news!
If you’d like to find out more about the fantastic work that The Royal British Legion do and why we are so proud of this milestone £1.1 Million that has been raised for the charity, then read on…
The Royal British Legion provides lifelong support to serving and ex-serving personnel and their families. People need help for many different reasons. They may be facing employment issues or financial difficulties, or may need help related to housing, homelessness or living independently. They may face mental and physical health challenges, need care in later life or need help building local community connections. Whatever issues people face, the Legion’s staff and volunteers are trained so they can direct enquiries to the most appropriate service. And, if there is ever a reason that they can’t help, the Legion’s vast network of partner charities and organisations means that they will know someone who can.
To find out more about The Royal British Legion, please click here.