Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Strange Coins From Around the World

There's many reasons your pocket change might change in the future (see what I did there?). Perhaps inflation makes minting a certain coin too expensive. Or over time a nation may think differently about the heroes on their coins. The government might even use its coins as a kind of propaganda. In that case, as new leaders seize power, the images of the old guard are removed from the coins. Sometimes it's just a simple matter of taste and changing times. Either way, what you pull out of your pocket today may look radically different tomorrow.

Of course, there's no telling what your going to get. Bureaucracies aren't exactly known for their creativity, and the coin minting department of your nation is no exception. So its no surprise some people hate their new coins. I mean, it's a pretty small detail right? It's just a coin guys. On the other hand, you'll have to see these coins every single day, after every cash purchase you make, and you likely had no choice in the matter. If you happen to fall into this irate coin hating demographic, take heart that you didn't have to give your cashier any of these awkward coins. Below, are the 10 strangest coins in history.

1 Medusa Coins
If this coin showed up in your pocket, you might not turn to stone, but you'll likely need to change your drawers. This was apparently a very popular coin in Greek and Roman times, with many different versions produced in antiquity. The coin shows the terrifying Medusa of Greek myth, with her tangled hair of snakes, and usually sporting that psychotic look on her face.

The idea of putting such a frightening entity on a coin, is a foreign concept to people alive today. Since Medusa's spiritual meanings are open to interpretation and lost to history, we will likely never know why they put her on currency. Think of how strange that is. It was well known that Medusa could turn men into stone just by looking at them. Then those poor Greeks had to look at her every time they bought a felafel.

2 Belgian 5 Frank Baudouin
Belgium minted this brass and aluminum coin in 1986. It portrays Belgium's King Baudouin, and was last coined in 1993, the year of his death. The coin is divided in three parts, each cascading downward, and yet leading back into the next interval. No other coin in the world has utilized this design outside of Belgium, thus it likely represents the three historical nationalities of Belgium: the Flemish, The Walloon, and the German. Other than making Baudouin look like a cyborg, it's a pretty rad coin.

3 1 Ocher Grosche
No that's not Winston Churchill in drag. What you're looking at is a fine example of “Notgeld” or “Emergency Money”. Throughout World War One and into the 1920's, Germany was forced to inflate its currency to pay down various war debts. Eventually this inflation spiraled out of control leading to one of the most horrendous examples of hyperinflation. At a time when it required a wheel barrel full of cash to buy a loaf of bread, commerce ground to a halt. City's began printing their own money and minting their own coins to keep trade going at a somewhat functional level.

The Ocher Grosche is roughly translated as “Aachen Penny”. Thus, it was one of many coins produced by the town on Aachen in 1920, and is quite collectible today. It depicts the image of an older woman working as a vendor in the streets of the city (in case you couldn't guess that from the image right?).

4 Holed Coins
This one may not come as any surprise to Old World readers, but it's still a pretty foreign concept to Americans. We've never had any currency with a hole drilled or stamped into the middle. For a long time though, this was extremely common all around the world. Nowadays it's extremely rare, with Japan among the last remaining countries to have this type of coinage.

There are numerous reasons to do this, and it often varied from time and place. It's well known that Chinese coins were holed so they could all be kept on a string, but it's just as likely that it was simply part of the manufacturing process. In the west it was more common to drill out the coin to use as jewelry or charms. In Roman times, multiple holes might have been drilled to incorporate cheap coins into weapons and armor. As for the modern era, the reasons are often based on tradition, or to make the coins easier to identify.

5 1 Lats
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's an owl? Until Latvia adopted the Euro last January, they frequently updated their coins with some pretty interesting designs. That said, it's hard to believe this alien looking design (we'll get to that in a moment) is supposed to be an owl. It's what's referred to as an “owl fibula” an ancient design for a brooch.

6 Hungarian 15 Kreuzer
Depicted here is Leopold I, the Hapsburg ruler of Hungary from 1658 to 1705. Leopold didn't look flattering on any of his coins, or really any of his portraits. I mean none of them. I could probably write a whole new article titled “10 worst portraits of Leopold I”. His features were likely due to being born at the narrow end of a very incestuous royal line.

I digress. This coin is likely the worst of his. Not just because of his features, but it was obviously designed by a terrible artist. It looks as though he was trying to create a silhouette of the Emperor, and failed miserably. It gives Leopold the appearance of having some kind of mutant half head. Although maybe I shouldn't blame the artist. He had very little to work with.

7 50 Peso “CHIIE” Coin
Have you ever accidentally written a typo? Of course you have. I know I do it all the time. Shucks, their mite be some in this artikle. Let me ask you this, have you ever printed a typo onto thousands of your nation's coins? If you haven't, thank your lucky stars you aren't the manager of the Chilean Mint, who was fired in 2010 for misspelling their nation “CHIIE” instead of “CHILE” on the new coin. Citizens of Chile don't seem to mind though. The coins weren't removed from circulation, so citizens immediately began hoarding the coins, knowing full well they'll be a collectors item in the future.

8 End of Pain Coin
This eerie coin is what's known as a “Conder Token”. In the late 18th Century, Britain suffered a severe
coin shortage, mainly due to counterfeiters flooding the market with junk coins. This forced the average person to hoard their genuine coins. Since most of these genuine coins stayed within urban areas, rural areas had very few small denominated coins to trade with. So local communities took it upon themselves to coin their own local currencies.

This explains a coin no national mint would ever put into circulation. Depicted on the End of Pain coin is none other than Thomas Paine (End of Pain is a pun on his name). Given that Thomas Paine was a central figure in the American Revolution, and passionately argued for toppling the British Monarchy, he wasn't exactly popular in England. The other side of the coin Lampoons Paine's famous work “The Rights of Man” by titling it “The Wrongs of Man”.

9 UFO Coin
Strap your tinfoil on, this coin looks remarkably like a modern UFO. The type of coin is what's known as a “Jeton Token” minted in France between the 13th and 18th centuries. They were used as a method of counting similar to an abacus, or as substitute money for gambling. They frequently carried religious teachings, allegories, and propaganda. The image of this particular coin has baffled experts for years. One theory suggests that it could be an interpretation of the biblical story of Ezekiel, another story popular with UFO enthusiasts. Others believe it's a reference to the mythological Roman shield known as Ancile, which supposedly came from the heavens, and was delivered by a god to save Rome from a plague. This angle sounds suspiciously like an episode of Ancient Aliens, so maybe it's as good an explanation as anything else.

Speaking of Romans, this last entry is definitely NSFW.

10 Roman Brothel Coin
The Romans loved sex. Their public spaces and private homes were saturated with sexual artwork. They drove the Silphium plant to extinction for its contraceptive properties. So it's not really surprising that the Romans would stamp sexual acts onto their coins. Known as spintria, their purpose is still debated today. The most widely believed theory, is that the coins were actually tokens used in Roman brothels. The numerals on the back of the coins indicated cost, and the image on the front was of course a depiction of what the customer was buying. It's also been suggested the coins would be useful for prostitutes living in such a large and diverse empire. They could communicate with customers of any culture or language without confusion. Though they could also be nothing more than novelty items. Either way, Rome's penchant for public displays of debauchery is to date, unrivaled.

Bonus Entry

I desperately wanted to add this other conder token, but I couldn't find enough information to write on it. That may be for the best.

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