Rectangular coins: history, usage, value

Rectangular coins: history, usage, value

We are all used to round coins, but there are many that are rectangular. Learn what they are and their history.

Cash is used less and less, and even less metal coins, but did you know that there are rectangular coins? In the age of information and communication technologies, it is plastic cards and not bills or coins that take up space in our wallets. Even with the expansion of mobile payment methods and cryptocurrencies, the time will come when wallets will also become anachronistic objects. Despite all this, different types of currencies are still being produced. However, not so much for everyday use, but to commemorate dates or celebrate historical figures. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that these coins are not always round, but also rectangular.

When did rectangular coins come into being?

Coins were introduced as a method of payment around the 6th century BC. The invention of coins continues to provoke controversy. According to Herdotous, coins were first minted by the Lydians, while the Greek Aristotle claims that the first coins were minted by Demodike of Kyrme, the wife of King Midas of Phrygia. On the other hand, numismatic experts believe that the first coins were minted on the Greek island of Aegina.

There is no exact date for the emergence of rectangular coins. Generally, coins were round, because it made them easier to handle. However, in 1599, Japan issued a rectangular gold piece, known as Gaku Ichibu, which has gone down in history as one of the most convincing evidence for the existence and use of rectangular coins.

These rectangular pieces were sometimes referred to as “bar money” and were minted until 1869, when Japan’s old monetary system was replaced by the yen.

What are rectangular coins used for?

Today, rectangular coins are more common than one might think. From the Vatican to major issuing houses, different editions of rectangular coins are released every year to commemorate an event or celebrate the life of a personality. Not infrequently, these coins are even legal tender.

What were the first rectangular coins in Spain?

The first rectangular coin in Spain dates back to 1586 and was promoted by King Philip II. This monarch gave the budget to install, in Segovia, on the banks of the Eresma River, a mint that he called “Real ingenio de la moneda”. The workers there used the energy of a waterfall to move the water wheels that facilitated the production of coins. It was there that the rectangular gold ounces were minted, which were 43 millimeters wide and 38 millimeters wide, weighing between 37 and 40 grams.

What are the latest rectangular coins in Spain?

The Fábrica Nacional de La Moneda y Timbre-known around the world after the success of the Netflix TV series “La casa de papel”-accords rectangular coins. These are made with silver or gold and pay homage to some character. They have no legal value in Spain, but are highly sought after by numismatic collectors.

In 2016, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter Bosch, one of the most famous artists in history, the Royal Mint issued a series of three rectangular silver coins, dedicated to the famous triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. These coins, made of 999 thousandth silver, were sold in a special case and were accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Royal Mint.

The rectangular coin on the left showed “The Garden of Eden”, the central coin the “Garden of Delights”, while the one on the right showed “Hell”.

In 2021, the National Mint released three types of silver rectangular coins-8,000 pieces in total-to celebrate the 275th anniversary of the birth of the brilliant painter Francisco Goya. On the obverse of these coins they placed fragments of classic works by Goya such as “Perro semihundido”, “La cometa” and “El quitasol”.

In addition, the National Factory participated in FIFA’s program to create collector coins about the World Cups. The Factory issued two coins, minted in silver and gold, which had the face of King Felipe VI on the obverse. Meanwhile, the reverse side showed scenes of a soccer match. These square coins were distributed and marketed worldwide.

In 2022, the Fábrica Nacional de La Moneda y Timbre presented two rectangular coins, in homage to another painter, Salvador Dalí. One of them has a non-real value of 10 euros, while the other is worth 150 euros; although, in reality, the price of both is much, much higher. On the Mint’s website they are priced at over 1,200 euros.

Have the Russians ever had rectangular coins?

The Central Bank of Russia took advantage of the context of the Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, in 2014, to launch three rectangular coins. One of them was silver, worth three rubles. A total of 300,000 of this type were issued. The other two rectangular coins were gold coins, worth 50 and 100 rubles. On the face of all three coins was the figure of a white bear, which was the mascot of those winter games. All coins were legal tender in Russia.

When did the rectangular gold coin appear in Australia?

The Australian company Perth Mint has, since 2018, a rectangular coin, in two versions: gold and silver. Both forms are legal tender in that country. They call it “the dragon coin”, because on the obverse a Chinese dragon can be seen; while, on the reverse a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II of England was shown. In 2023 this will change and the face of King Charles III will appear. The face value of the silver coin is one Australian dollar, while the gold coin has a value of 100 dollars.

What do the Vatican rectangular coins look like?

In 2021, the Vatican joined the trend of creating rectangular coins. Two €25 coins, both made of silver, were presented at the Holy See. One celebrated the 450th anniversary of the birth of the painter Caravaggio. The other commemorated the 700th anniversary of the death of the famous poet Dante Alighieri. Only 1,300 of these rectangular coins were produced. The initial value of each was set at 139 euros; but the interest of collectors was so great that they were resold for up to 750 euros each.

This 2022, the Vatican will release four new rectangular coins, on special dates: Christmas, Easter, 125th anniversary of the birth of Paul VII and the 25th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Why did Italy launch a rectangular soccer coin?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Italy’s third World Cup title. The “Azzurri” won the 1982 Cup, held in Spain. To commemorate this triumph, the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato issued a rectangular coin. The obverse of the coin shows a goal, with a ball inside. Above are the three stars (one for each world title) with the colors of the Italian flag. On the reverse side of the coin is Paolo Rossi, who was the great figure of that team. The leader of the “azzurra” is in the foreground. On the left is the face value of the coin: 5 euros.

What prompted Canada to launch a rectangular coin?

In 2017, to commemorate the centennial of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Royal Canadian Mint released a rectangular coin. This one was specifically centered on the Toronto Maple Leaf team. Its value was 25 Canadian dollars, although the company sold it for $139 and today its value is even higher for collectors.