The World’s Most Unusual Coin Shapes and Designs

In South Africa, we’re used to seeing ‘regular’ shaped coins on a daily basis (like our current series below), and it’s not often that we come across specimens that have a peculiar shape or emblem stamped onto them.

That’s not to mean they’re not out there. As it turns out, there are quite a few ‘different’ coins vying for a place in the category of ‘most unique or unusual.’ We’ve researched what we think are some of the most interesting commemorative and legal tender issues. Of course, if there are others that you feel should be here then we’d love to know about them. 


1. The silver proof 5000 Kwacha (Zambia)

This coin was first issued to commemorate the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Have you figured out the shape yet? It’s the combined maps of Australia and Zambia. Despite Australia being around 10 times the size of Zambia, the two countries are shown as being the same size. For a coin, it’s big, measuring 49mm x 42mm and containing approximately one troy ounce of silver.

2. The 2002 $10 (Republic of Nauru – an island republic in the Pacific Ocean)

This one certainly wins the award for most intricate shape. The .999 silver coins were issued to commemorate the introduction of the Euro, and depicts the outline of all the nations that make up the European Economic Union.

3. 2005 Oval silver Proof $10 coin – Liberia

The tragic story of the RMS Titanic is one that most people are familiar with. In 1912, the steamship struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sunk with a massive loss of life. The shipwreck was located in 1985 and during an expedition in 2000; pieces of coal were recovered from the wreck. In order to commemorate the Titanic and the recovery, the oval proof was issued, depicting the ship along with a small piece of coal. Only 5000 of these coins were minted.


1. 2004 $1 – Somalia

This is by far the coolest coin we’ve come across. Technically it’s a commemorative coin, but it’s also legal tender, although it’s unlikely that any of them are actually in circulation given the extreme instability of the country over the past decade. Each one is modelled on a different Gibson guitar and measures 45mm. Their multi-colour design and historical significance has made them incredibly popular worldwide. They were issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rock ‘n Roll and the designs include:

• A red and white Gibson Les Paul
• An American Stars and Stripes flag Gibson Flying V
• A black Gibson Flying V
• A pink star guitar used by a number of different rock stars
• A blue Gibson X-Plorer and
• A yellow Gibson Klein

As a matter of interest, Somalia also issued a series of multi-coloured $1 motorcycle and famous classic sports car shaped coins.

2. 2007 3-D $10 Proof Silver Crown – Easter Island

Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the SE Pacific Ocean famed for its monumental statues, known as Moai. The mysterious statues, which date back to between 1250 and 1500AD, were created by the Rapanui people. The tallest of the Moai measures 33 feet high and weighs in at 75 tons. For their time, they are considered to be a remarkably intelligent, creative and physical feat. To commemorate these statues, this $10 legal tender coin was minted in such a way that the gold plated Moai can be inserted vertically into a slot on the coin to create a 3D view.

3. ‘Scalloped’ coins (a.k.a. flower-shaped and sun-shaped)

Not as outrageous, and yet surprisingly common (and practical to say the least!), scalloped coins have a ‘wavy’ edge that goes all the way around a coin. While their design might seem purely aesthetic there is a reason behind it. Firstly (and perhaps most obviously), it makes them easier to distinguish from other coins. Scalloped coins can have 8, 10 or 12 points, which means people who are visually impaired are able to identify which coin is which. It’s an initiative many countries have undertaken, in an effort to make their coins identifiable purely by touch.

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