by Al Doyle
Special Contributor to CoinWeek …
American coin collectors are naturally attracted to one-year type coins. This category includes the incredibly affordable 1883 Liberty no-cents nickel, the very rare (mintage 6146) and costly 1796 Draped Bust small eagle reverse quarter and a smattering of other issues.
Likewise, the world coin field offers an assortment of one-year wonders. Why do nations go to all the trouble of creating and producing new designs only to discontinue them within months? Revolutions and economic hardship are the main causes, but a small nation may not need another run of coinage for years or even decades if a large quantity was initially struck.
Collectors who gravitate to this segment of numismatics can vastly expand their options by pursuing the one-year type coins that were made beyond the United States. Here are some of the short-lived silver and base-metal pieces of the 1800s and 1900s.
Bolivia’s 2 centavo of 1883 (mintage 250,000) bears more than a casual resemblance the the Argentine 2 centavo of the 1880s and 1890s – and that’s not a bad thing, as it’s an attractive design. This copper is also reasonably priced, often for less than $20 depending on grade.
Canadian collectors are aware of the 1858 20-cent piece, which came with a large (for that time) mintage of 730,392. More than 150 years after debuting, this .925 fine/sterling silver issue remains the only circulating coin of this denomination by Canada. The “double dime” was replaced by the quarter in 1870.
France’s contribution to the one-year coin list is the 1852A 50 centimes. Just over 1 million pieces featuring the bust of Napoleon III were struck, and they saw extensive usage in commerce. That means anything in Extra Fine or better is going to be somewhat more costly than lower-grade survivors.
How about some affordable silver? The Guatemalan 1 real of 1899 had an alloy of .600 fine silver, and that lower than normal precious metal content is noted on the coin. The quetzal with its flowing tail is the national symbol, and the jungle bird can be found on the reverse. Circulated examples go for less than $10.
American numismatists who look at the 1889 Haitian 5 centimes for the first time may feel a sense of deja vu. That’s because the rays surrounding the number 5 on the obverse serve as a reminder of the 1866-67 Shield nickel with rays. Haiti’s coat of arms covers the reverse. The original mintage was 120,000, and this one-hit wonder sells for $25 to $200 in circulated grades.
Want tiny and rare in the same package? Check out the 1848 Netherlands 5-cent silver, which contains just .0141 ounce of the precious metal in a .640 fine alloy. It would take 70 of these dinky coins to nearly reach an ounce of silver. The mintage is unlisted, and circulated examples sell in the low four figures.
Scarcity isn’t a challenge with Japan’s 1871-dated silver 50 sen, as nearly 2.65 million were struck. Unlike later sen pieces, all of the legends are in Japanese. The traditional dragon obverse is paired with a rising sun reverse.
The Prince Edward Island penny is another 1871 product. Why weren’t more coppers struck after the sole year of production?
A mintage of 2 million for an area with a population of just 95,000 guaranteed that a second batch wouldn’t be needed for years to come. Prince Edward Island was a British colony at the time the coins were struck, and the Delaware-sized island became the seventh member of the Canadian confederation in 1873. That meant the adoption of the Canadian dollar and the end of the need for distinctly “PEI” coinage.
This is both an attractive and affordable (as in $5 to $20) piece of history. The obverse features an uncrowned portrait of Queen Victoria flanked by the legend “VICTORIA QUEEN” and the date at 6:00. The reverse carries the island’s logo of a pair of trees.
How about multiple one-year coins from the same nation? Paraguay released 1, 2 and 4 centesimos coppers in 1870 just after the conclusion of the utterly ruinous War of the Triple Alliance. All three pieces are reasonably priced in circulated condition. As an odd denomination, the 4 centesimos also appeals to collectors who like the offbeat.
Puerto Rico’s 5, 10, 20 and 40 centavos along with a crown-sized peso were all one-shot deals. The 20 centavos and peso carry an 1895 date, while the 5, 10 and 40 centavos were struck in 1896. This is the only decimal coinage made for Puerto Rico under Spanish rule. The island became a U.S. commonwealth following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Plan on spending serious money for the 40 centavo and peso. All of the Puerto Rican issues are .900 fine silver.
Why assemble long date sets of essentially identical pieces from the same series when one-year type coins offer such variety? These are the kind of items that won’t be found in every collection.