Category Archives: Gold coins

Soccer Coins

Football (or soccer, as it is known in the US) is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world, regularly played by hundreds of millions of children and adults in all corners of the globe. It should come as no surprise, then, to find out that such an important activity has found its way onto a variety of countries’ circulating coins. I don’t think that any other individual sport has been featured on as many coins as soccer has.

Great Britain 1996 2 pound coin

My favorite soccer-themed coin of all is the Great Britan 2 pound coin from 1996. This coin commemorated the 10th European Football Championship (Euro 96), which was held in England. The reverse of the coin is designed to look like a soccer ball, and the 16 small dots surrounding the year represent the 16 teams which participated. (Germany won.)


Spain 1980 1, 5, 25, and 50 peseta coins

In 1982 Spain hosted the World Cup, and in 1980 Spain’s coins celebrated the occasion with special soccer imagery on their reverses.

Somalia 2001 25 shillings

In 2001, Somalia’s 25 shilling coin featured a uniformed soccer player on the back.

Congo 2002 50 centimes

In 2002, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 50 centime coin had a similar idea, with a uniformed soccer player heading a ball.

Here are other circulating soccer-themed coins that I know of.  If you are aware of any that are missing, mention them in the comments.

  • Argentina 1977-1978 50 pesos
  • Belgium 2000 50 francs
  • China 1991 1 yuan
  • Ethiopia 1974 2 birr
  • Germany 2011 10 euro
  • Jamaica 1982 1 dollar
  • Mexico 1986 200 pesos
  • Netherlands 2000 5 gulden
  • Poland 2002, 2006 2 zlote
  • South Africa 2002 50 cents
  • United Arab Emirates 1991 1 dirham

Update 7/4/2013: Added Spain 1, 50 peseta coins to picture.

New Singapore Coin Designs in 2013

Singapore is a small island city-state located in Southeast Asia, just off the southern tip of Malaysia (near Indonesia and Australia). It spent the first half of the 20th century as a British colony, but gained its independence and became the Republic of Singapore in 1965. Singapore’s current population is around 5 million people.

The 20, 10, 5, and 1 cent coins from
Singapore’s first series (1967-1984)

Singapore issued its first independent coins in 1967. These coins, known as the “first” or “marine series“, primarily featured images of marine life local to Singapore (including a lionfish, seahorse, and swordfish). Neighboring Australia and New Zealand had both started using coins with similar designs featuring important or well-known local fauna only a year prior (1966). And the Cayman Islands’ first coins, issued in 1972, are again quite similar.

The 20, 10, 5, and 1 cent coins from
Singapore’s second series (1985-2012)

In 1985, a new series of coins was released. This second, or “floral“, series (in use through 2012) included a redesign of the reverse to include the Singapore coat-of-arms and “Singapore” in the country’s 4 official languages – English, Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), and Tamil. The obverses contain images of local plant life, including the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid (Singapore’s national flower), Star Jasmine, and the Yellow Allamanda.

The coins of Singapore’s third series
starting in 2013 (Images from the
Monetary Authority of Singapore)

In 2013, Singapore will release their third series of circulating coins. The new coins feature images of important or iconic Singapore landmarks, such as the Port of Singapore (one of the 5 busiest ports in the world), the Changi Airport, and the Esplanade at the Theatres on the Bay center for performing arts. Singapore stopped minting a 1-cent coin in 2002, so this new series will only contain 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, and 1 dollar coins. The 1 dollar coin in the third series will be bi-metallic for the first time, and include laser-etching to make it more difficult to counterfeit. (It also features the image of a merlion, an important mythical figure for Singapore.)

For collectors, the new series is a welcome addition to the coins of Southeast Asia. We look forward both to adding this new set to our collections, and making sure to fill in any holes we might have from the first and second series coins.

Foreign Coin Exchange Values

India 5 rupees
Exchange value: $0.09 US

Recently we discussed ways that you can research the value of a foreign coin. We talked about the difference between book value, market value, and trade-in value for a coin. There’s another important value that you may sometimes find useful, but it only applies to recent coins – the exchange value.

If a coin is still being used in its home country (it hasn’t been devalued, or replaced with another currency such as when the French franc was replaced by the euro), then that coin has actual buying power in that country (in other words, you can spend it). These coins are called circulating coins, because in the issuing country they would be the coins that are currently in circulation – the coins that people use every day to buy things.

All active currencies have an exchange rate, which is how much that currency is worth in other nations’ money. You may have run into this before if you have done any international travel and had to exchange your money for that of the location you were visiting. For example, today $1 in US money is worth the same as 2 Brazilian reals, 12 Mexican pesos, or 98 Japanese yen.

The exchange value of a foreign coin is how much that coin is worth in your currency, based on the current exchange rate between that country’s money and your own. You can look up current exchange rates at places like CNN, CoinMill, and Yahoo (along with many others). The exchange value doesn’t care about condition, age, rarity, or anything else that affects the value of a coin as a collectible.

However, it only applies to current, active currencies which can still be spent in their home country. For example, much of Europe has changed over to the euro. The old Spanish pesetas, French francs, German marks, Italian liras, and Greek drachmas (to name a few) aren’t active currencies anymore – they can’t be exchanged, and have no exchange value at all. (If you’re unsure whether a coin that you have is a current circulating coin, you can use Web sites like Numista to find the coin and see if it is listed as demonetized – this means that it is no longer an active currency, and has been replaced with something else.)

A good example is money from the United Kingdom (Great Britain), which is consistently one of the highest-valued currencies in the world. A recent exchange rate for the Great Britain pound to the US dollar was $1.54 (1 pound = $1.54 USD). So if someone asked about the value of a 2010 1 pound coin in US dollars, you would have these “values” to choose from:

  • Book value: $3 (for a coin in uncirculated condition)
  • Market value: $1-$1.50 (approximately)
  • Trade-in value: $0.25 – 0.50
  • Exchange value: $1.54 (dependent on the current exchange rate)

In this case, the exchange value gives you the highest estimated value of the coin (unless you happen to have a coin in really great condition). This means that to get the most money for your coin, you’d need to exchange it for US dollars somewhere.

Australia 1 dollar
Exchange value: $1.02

And that is the problem with the exchange value – it is one of the hardest to capitalize on because it is not easy to exchange foreign coins for US dollars. Most large banks will exchange foreign bills (paper money) at a rate close to the daily exchange rate, but they usually don’t accept coins.

Instead, you’ll have to look for a currency exchange in your town. Currency exchanges are businesses which buy and sell foreign money. They are frequently used by people who have either returned from foreign travel (and have unused foreign money they want to get rid of), or people who will be traveling soon (and want to get some foreign money for their trip). Exchanges are sometimes found at bus stations (especially near Canada or Mexico) or airports (especially airports which have international flights). Cities which have a lot of international travelers (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Victoria B.C.) may have exchanges located all around town to serve the many travelers who visit. Individual exchanges may or may not accept coins, so you may want to call first to ask.

At either a currency exchange or a bank, don’t expect to get an exchange rate exactly like the rate that you find online. These businesses need to be able to make some profit for the service that they provide, so they will typically buy foreign money at less than the current exchange rate, and sell it for more than the current rate.

Besides using a currency exchange, you can also try to sell your foreign currency to someone (a family member or business acquaintance) who is traveling to the country that the money is from. That way the money can be returned to its original country and spent. Or you can try selling your extra coins online through a service like eBay – people who are traveling to that country might buy your coins so that they can spend them on their trip (but you may or may not get values close to the current exchange rate).

Exchange value is one of several ways to measure the value of a coin, and it is a good value to be aware of when trading or selling coins (you wouldn’t want to sell 25 British pounds for $1.50 when the exchange value is closer to $37). But don’t let it restrict your trading, either – trading an Australian dollar ($1) for a Chinese yuan ($0.16) is a good trade if it adds something new to your collection. As with all measures of value, let it guide your trading, buying, or selling activity and help you make informed decisions.

Square Coins

Square coins are my favorite unusual coin shape. Being from the United States, a square coin is very different from the money I’m used to – it seems quite exotic, the epitome of a “foreign” coin. The square shape seems somewhat impractical – it doesn’t roll, and it seems like getting a vending machine or coin sorter to handle square coins would be problematic (though I’m sure that countries that have square coins have these problems figured out). Because of their shape, they are easy to spot in a coin dealer’s “junk” box.

Square coins come in 2 different alignments, which I call “edge alignment” and “corner alignment”.

A square coin with edge alignment

On an edge-aligned coin, the design is lined up with one of the coin’s edges so that when the coin is held right-side up it looks like a square.

A square coin with corner alignment

On a corner-aligned coin, the design is lined up with one of the coin’s corners so that when held right-side up the coin looks more like a diamond (though it’s really just a square standing on its point).

For each type of square coin alignment, the obverse and reverse can then be medal-aligned (front and back face the same direction) or coin-aligned (front and back are rotated 180 degrees). (For more on medal and coin alignment, see my previous post about terminology).

In the last century, several different countries have used square coins. These are the countries that I am aware of that have had square coins, but this is probably not complete.

World Square Coins

Bailiwick of Jersey
Burma (Myanmar)
Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
East Caribbean States
Malaya & British Borneo
Netherlands Antilles


Looking for square coins to add to your collection?
Check out our Square Coins Set.

Update 11/20/2011: Added Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar)
Update 4/21/2012: Added Swaziland, Maldives, and Oman


Questions and Answers 1

I sometimes get coin collecting questions from customers, friends, or I run across them on the Web. I wanted to take some time to discuss a couple of recent questions that I think will benefit others who are getting into coin collecting.

What are the 2 sides of a coin called?

Most people know the 2 sides of a coin as “front” and “back”, or “heads” and “tails”. But the proper numismatic terms for the 2 sides of a coin are obverse (heads/front) and reverse (tails/back).

Venezuela obverse (left) and
reverse (right)

Telling the obverse from the reverse isn’t always easy, though. In some countries, such as the United States, Great Britain (along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.), and Venezuela, there is a person on the obverse (which is why we often call it the “heads” side). Some countries put a national symbol or seal on the obverse, such as Russia, Ukraine, and India. In contrast, on the Euro it is the reverses which mostly look the same (except that the denomination changes), and some countries (like Italy and Austria) have a completely different picture for each obverse.

Singapore – which side is the “front”?

For some other countries, it isn’t easy to tell which side should be considered the obverse, and which the reverse. Older coins from Singapore, for example, had the denomination on one side and a picture (animal or plant) on the other. There was no common picture or symbol to offer a good clue as to which side should be considered the “front”. In those cases, I usually consider the side that has the country’s name on it to be the obverse.

I’ve not yet run across a situation where it mattered which side of the coin was the obverse, so I wouldn’t be too worried if you can’t decide which side is which. When displaying coins in a collection, I prefer to put the side I like better in the front – it doesn’t matter if it’s the obverse or the reverse.

How should I organize my coin collection so I can easily add to it?

One option is to keep your collection in coin boxes which are specially made to hold 2-inch-by-2-inch flips upright (like files in a filing cabinet). This makes it easy to add new coins anywhere you want.  But coin boxes aren’t as nice a way to display your coins as binder pages, and it isn’t as easy to flip through your collection looking for specific coins.

Keeping your collection in binder pages definitely makes it harder to add coins if you are trying to keep the coins organized. If a new coin needs to go in between 2 coins, you have to remove each coin and move it one square forward to make room for your new coin. Here are some tricks that I use to help reduce the amount of coin shuffling that I need to do when I have a new coin to add to my binder pages:

Leaving empty space at the
end of each country
  • Start each country on its own row. Binder pages (standard, 2×2 size) are made up of 5 rows with 4 coin pockets in each row, to hold a total of 20 coins per page. I start each country on a new row of the page. This lets me add coins to a country by only moving the coins in that country (at least until I have too many and they run into the country on the next row). You can also take this to the extreme and start each country on its own page – so even if you only have 3 coins from Bulgaria, you’ve got 17 more spots to fill in with more Bulgarian coins in the future.
  • Leave strategic empty spaces. One of the reasons that starting each country on its own row helps is because that usually leaves you a few spaces on the end to grow into. If you have 5 coins from Chile, they take up 4 spots on one row and 1 spot on the next – leaving you 3 more spots to add coins from Chile. Even if you want to add a new coin to the front, you only have to move the 5 coins you already have, not every coin on the whole page. If you have 4 or 8 coins, leave the entire next row empty to grow into.You can also leave empty space at the beginning of a country, so that coins can be shifted either forward or backward, and even in the middle of a country (especially if you know that there is a coin you don’t have, such as a 5-Euro-cent coin from Ireland, that could go in that spot). Yes, leaving empty spaces in your collection means that you’ll use more pages than are absolutely necessary, but you’ll save yourself a lot of time shifting coins later on.
  • Don’t be afraid to start a new page. If you have 3 Saudi Arabia coins on the last row of a page, and you get 2 new ones you need to add, it is sometimes easier to start a whole new page (and maybe move all the Saudi Arabia coins to it) instead of shifting everything on the next page to make room for one new coin. It requires less coin shifting, and leaves you with strategic empty spaces to grow into.
  • Use binder pages with thumb cutouts. All binder pocket pages should have openings in the top (or sometimes on the side) to slide your flips into. Some also have a small cutout (sometimes called a “thumb-cut”) on the opposite side of each pocket. This cutout is used for pushing a flip out of a pocket so that it is easier to grasp and remove, and it is a definite time- and finger-saver when you need to shift coins around in your pages. If your binder pages don’t have thumb-cuts, you can add your own with a sharp knife or scissors by cutting a small rectangle or triangle out of the bottom of each pocket (but please be careful – this should be done by adults only).
  • Wait until you have several coins to add. Because it takes time to shift coins around in binder pages, you might want to wait until you have several coins that need to be added before tackling the job. For example if you wait until you have 3 coins from Japan to add, you only have to do the shifting once.
Even with these tricks, it’s still a time-consuming process to add new coins to binder pages. I like the way the binder pages display coins, so I’m willing to put in the time to keep it organized.
Is it better to collect older or newer coins for a specific KM number?

KM numbers are a coin numbering standard created by the Standard Catalog of World Coins, where each different coin for each country gets a number. For example, the 3-pence coin from Great Britain from 1937 to 1948 has a KM number of 849. In 1949, the 3-pence coin was changed (the obverse, reverse, and even the edge changed), so in the catalog it has a new KM number (873). KM numbers allow coin collectors to refer to a specific coin with more precision than just country, year, and denomination might allow. When collecting, you may only want to collect one of each KM number – the 1940 and 1941 3-pence coins are identical, except for the year, so do you really need to have both of them in your collection?

(Note that when using KM numbers, you need to specify the country – KM# 849 for Germany is different than KM# 849 for Great Britain.)

Since KM numbers can span multiple years, the question becomes: of the coins with the same KM number for a country, is it better to have an older coin or a newer coin? For Great Britain KM# 849, which is the 3-pence coin from 1937 to 1948, would it be better to have one closer to 1937 or to 1948?
There is no consistent rule that says that it is always better to have an older or a newer coin in this situation. Let’s say that you have a 1937 and a 1948 3-pence coin, and you’re trying to decide which to keep and which to trade.  In addition to the coins’ age, you also want to consider:

  • Condition. Having a coin that is in better condition is usually more important than having one that’s a few years older. If there is a significant difference in the quality of the 2 coins, the better-looking coin is probably the one you should keep. If the age difference is large (20 or more years), then the older coin, even though it is in worse condition, is probably better.
  • Mintage. Mintage is the number of coins that were made in a particular year. This information can usually be found in the Standard Catalog of World Coins and some online coin collecting sites. A coin from a year with a lower mintage can be slightly more valuable than from a year with a higher mintage because it means there were fewer of those coins made. For our example coins, the mintage for the 1937 3-pence coin was 45 million and for the 1948 is only 5 million, so there are 1/9th as many 1948s as 1937s. In reviewing the mintage information in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, it’s been my experience that the first year of a new design – in our example, the 1937 3-pence coin – often has a very high mintage compared to the years after, so it is often less desirable to have the first coin of a new design. If you have a way of reviewing mintage numbers, then for a particular KM it’s usually better to collect the year that has the smallest mintage – but keep in mind that low mintage doesn’t always mean higher value.
  • Value. If you have access to a coin catalog like the Standard Catalog of World Coins, then you should also consider the coin’s estimated value when determining which coin you should keep. According to my 2004 catalog, the most valuable year for Great Britain KM# 849 is1946. Of the 1937 and 1948 we’re trying to decide between, the 1948 coin has the higher estimated value. Even though the values given by the catalog are from 2004, it still lets you compare the relative value between coins – if one coin is estimated to be more valuable than another, it will probably stay that way.

If you don’t have easy access to the mintage or value estimates for your coins, then my suggestion is to aim to collect better-looking coins instead of older coins for the same KM number.


When I was 9 years old, my uncle gave me a handful of coins from Australia.  I had never seen money from another country before, and up to that point it hadn’t even occurred to me that everyone doesn’t use the dollars and cents I was used to.  I kept the coins in my desk, curiosities that were too interesting to just throw away but not yet interesting enough to store properly.  When I was 11, I found a Mexico 5-peso coin in the dirt, and was convinced that I had found treasure.  My father took me to a coin shop, where I found out that the coin was neither rare nor valuable.  In the drawer it went.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I found the coin shop at the town mall, with its “junk” box of foreign coins – 10 for a dollar.

From that point on, I was a collector of world coins.  I found out about coin folders (“flips”) and binder pages, and started storing my coins properly, labeling each with a pencil I reserved only for that purpose.  I found out about the Standard Catalog of World Coins, which could help me identify my coins (this was before the Internet) and give me ideas of their value.  I found out about coins made of silver and other precious metals, and how just because a coin is gold in color doesn’t mean that it is made of gold.  But mostly I found out about coins and their countries – how Australia’s coins have animals on them; how Japan has a coin with a hole in it; how Great Britain puts a picture of their current king or queen on their coins (unlike the United States, which only uses older presidents on coins); how countries may come and go, but their coins can still be found in the backs of junk drawers or the bottoms of chests.

Now, as an adult, I want to help others not only get started with coin collecting, but to enjoy it.  I created Portland Coins as a site that both informs the beginning or casual collector, and also sells the kinds of products I wished were available when I was young.  In this related blog, I will be sharing tips, stories, and news to help new collectors, or even non-collectors, get more out of this fun hobby.