Animals have been used on coins since… well, the beginning of coins. Deer appeared on early staters—some of the first coins. Greek and Roman coins featured an assortment of animals. But choosing an animal to symbolize an entire country on a coin can leave the population of that country collectively scratching their heads or inspired. Below are ten of the most well-known animal coins from the last century that we think got it right.
1. U.S. Gold and Silver Eagle
This bullion coin was first issued as part of the Gold Bullion Act in the late 1980s. The Gold Eagle is now minted in a multitude of denomination and is available in platinum and silver. The Augustus Saint-Gaudens–designed coin features Lady Liberty on the obverse and the U.S. national bird on the reverse.
2. Chinese Panda Coin
The Chinese Panda coin has been one of the world’s most popular animal coins since it was first issued in 1982. The bullion coin comes in gold and silver in a variety of weights. The Panda features a new design each year, except for 2002, when the coin was a repeat of the previous year’s coin.
3. Australian Koala Coin
Everybody loves koalas! These bullion coins come in platinum, gold, and silver. They were first issued in 1987, and they remain some of the only platinum coins still issued. The obverse depicts the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II, and the reverse features a koala.
4. Isle of Man Cat Coins
In between England and Ireland lies a little island known as the Isle of Man. Every year since 1988, the Isle of Man has issued a coin depicting a cat. The coin features a different breed of cat each year. This year, it was the Snowshoe cat. These coins are incredibly popular with coin collectors and cat enthusiasts alike.
5. Australian Gold Kangaroos
Also known as the “Australian Gold Nugget,” this gold bullion coin has depicted a kangaroo since 1989. The coins were first issued with different pictures of gold nuggets on the obverse. After three years, it was decided that a picture of a kangaroo would replace the pictures of gold nuggets. The largest gold coin ever minted was a one-ton gold Kangaroo issued in 2011.
6. Canadian Loonie (Loon)
In Canada, there are no longer one-dollar bills. They have been replaced with one-dollar coins. Canadian one-dollar coins, known as “loonies,” feature a Canadian loon on the obverse. Created in 1987 as part of an effort to phase out one-dollar bills, the loon design was an attempt to sway the public into approving the switch from paper to coin. Two years after the loon was introduced, the Bank of Canada stopped printing dollar bills.
7. Mexican Peso (Mexican Golden Eagle and Snake)
The symbol found on the Mexican peso comes from a vision. As the legend goes, an Aztec leader will see an eagle eating a snake on an island. Where they see this sign, they should build their capital. After seeing the vision, the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Consequently, the Mexican coat of arms features an eagle eating a snake and graces both the Mexican flag and the famous Mexican peso.
8. U.S. Buffalo Nickel
The Buffalo nickel is one of the most famous coins in U.S. history. It depicts a Native American Indian on the obverse and a bison on the reverse, making this coin uniquely American. Buffalo nickels were minted for 25 years, from 1913 to 1938. In 2001, a silver dollar of the same design was issued.
9. South African Krugerrand
In the late sixties, the South African government wanted to help bolster gold ownership. So they issued the Gold Krugerrand. The Krugerrand was named after South African leader Paul Kruger, who appears on the obverse side. On the reverse side is the springbok antelope. This uniquely African coin was made of a durable gold and copper alloy, and released into circulation.
10. French Twenty Franc (Rooster)
The oldest coin on our list, the French Twenty Franc Rooster, has stood the test of time. Issued for fifteen years at the turn of the nineteenth century, this is one of many twenty franc coins issued by France. The rooster is the symbol of France, making the farmyard bird an obvious choice for currency. The obverse side of the coin features the harvest goddess, Ceres. In WWI, the French government ordered that all gold coins must be melted down. Coupled with the fairly limited release, this is a very rare and valuable French gold coin.
Liberty Coin & Currency specializes in rare coins and currency. We are a family-owned business located in Portland and Vancouver. We also buy gold, silver, diamonds, and jewelry. Visit us first for a free evaluation.