Have you got the Minnesota quarter with the loon on it? It could be the beginning of a new birding adventure.
We discuss collectors of stamps bearing bird images in today’s Home and Garden section (Wednesday). There also are collectors of coins with bird images. Like stamps, it’s an activity with broad appeal and world-wide potential.
Some collectors, like Daniel Clements of Barrie, Ontario, broaden the collection scope by including all animals. Birds have a bright spot in the collections, however.
Clements has a web site (coinzoo.net) that displays dozens of his coins life-size and in color. Bird identies are provided when the representation on the coin has sufficient detail (most of the time).
There is a Dalmation Pelican on an Albanian coin, Laughing Gull from Barbados, a Shoebill from Burundi. There are nightingales, hummingbirds, albatross, falcons, owls, and eagles — many, many eagles.
The Bald Eagle is the dominant bird on U.S. coins. There is our loon, and 13 other species within that set of quarters honoring states. There is the buffalo nickel. Otherwise, we show little imagination. Unlike our neighbor to the north.
“Canada is coin crazy,” says Clements. It has four regular circulating coins with animal motif. It also offers 102 collector coins, 32 with animals. “The Royal Canadian Mint is both coin-crazy and animal-crazy,” Clement says.
Clement began collecting coins when he was in high school. He became serious about animal coins in 2005. He attends coin shows and buys from dealers. He tries to find coins that have not been in circulation, or show the least wear.
He doesn’t buy what he calls “collector coins,” officially called non-circulating legal tender. Examples of that would include the Canadian coins with Looney Toons characters, or the one that honors (?) Superman.
Is this an expensive hobby?
“It can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be,” he said. “One of the best things about animal coins (or a focus on bird coins) is that there are many, many coins for cheap.
“A modest annual budget can build a nice collection,” Clement said. “For example, I have over 70 animal coins from the U.S. and Canada, all of which would be readily available to a U.S. collector, most for face value.
“The US has nice quarter programs (like Canada) where a collector can find what they are looking for in pocket change,” he said. The most he has spent for a coin is $80, the least 15 cents.
The country with the best animal coins? “Ireland had perhaps the best set because pretty much every single one of their circulating coins featured animals.
“Their coins are referred to as "the barnyard series" and it was the half-penny with a sow and its piglets that got me started with this collection. Unfortunately, with their switch to euro all the animals went away. They ended up with some very boring coins.”
Other countries with a large percentage of their regular circulating coins featuring animals, include Australia, Botswana, Falkland Islands, San Marino, and Zambia.
Coins themselves are about 2,700 years old, Clements said. The oldest known coin has a lion's head on it. For birds, he said, the first thing that comes to mind is the Athenian Owl tetradrachm from around 2,500 years ago.
You can find more information on world coins at the web site worldcoinnews.blogspot.ca
What keeps Clements going in his coin hobby? He said, “Collectors gotta collect.”
Below: Laughing Gull on Barbados 10-cent piece; Winter Wren on a Great Britain farthing; Canada's loony