By Al Doyle for CoinWeek....
Unique and short-lived items are eagerly sought in any collectible field, and coins are no exception. This overview of the one-year type coins (not commemoratives) of the 20th century includes silver and base-metal pieces, and many of these short-lived designs are available for modest prices. No zinc, aluminum or plated steel coins are listed here.
Even the most stable nations can have a one-year design, and Australia took the hat trick with the 1910-dated three pence, six pence and shilling. Those sterling silver (.925 fine) issues carry the portrait of King Edward VII, who passed away on May 6, 1910.
Austria's 1934 50 groschen gave way to a different design the following year. This artistically pleasing copper-nickel coin starts at $20 in the "collector grades" of Fine and better.
The 1943 Belgian Congo 2 franc passes the "Wow, that's cool!" test. Combine an elephant with a six-sided (or hexagonal) planchet with an odd denomination, and brass coinage never looked so good. Lightly circulated examples shouldn't cost more than $20.
Aside from being one-year type coins, what's noteworthy about the 1910 Bulgarian 50 stotniki, 1 lev and 2 leva? They are the same size and fineness (.835 silver) as the Swiss 1/2, 1 and 2 franc pieces.
World War II led to much improvisation in coin production, and the Canadian 5-cent piece of 1942 was made from a "tombac" brass alloy instead of pure nickel. Fewer than 3.4 million of these 12-sided pieces were struck before the familiar beaver reverse was replaced with a V for victory from 1943 to 1945.
The free city of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) was an independent entity from 1919 to 1939. Among the coins issued during this time were the .750 fine 1923 silver gulden and the 1932-dated pure nickel 1/2 gulden complete with the fractional denomination on the reverse.
Deuces were wild in Ecuador from 1909 to 1928. Check out the 1909 copper-nickel 2 centavo, the 2 1/2 centavo of 1917 and the redesigned 1928-dated pure nickel 2 1/2 centavo. The 1917 is the scarcest and most costly of the trio.
Check out Greece's 1912 10 lepta for something novel. This pure nickel coin with a hole in the center features a nicely detailed owl on the reverse, and it's a low-cost item in circulated grades. The denomination was revived briefly in the 1940s, but the 1932 Guatemala 2 centavo is a one-year wonder with an eye-catching appearance.
What would 1/24 of a shilling buy in 1909? That's the very unusual denomination of a copper piece that circulated on the British crown dependency of Jersey. The 45-mile square island is closer to France than Britain. The mintage is 120,000.
Ships and boats are a popular theme for topical collectors, and Lebanon's 1961 10 piastres combines an old-fashioned sailing vessel with a Lebanese cedar tree. It's very affordable in all grades.
Copper enthusiasts can choose from a vast assortment of designs, and the 1906H Liberian cent is an interesting object. The 10-cent and 25-cent pieces of that year are just a little smaller than their American counterparts.
Lithuania was an independent nation from 1918 until the Soviet occupation of 1940. The .500 fine silver 1 litas of 1925 is a nice example of Lithuanian artistry. The 1936 bronze 2 centai has more flair than the average low-denomination coin.
A square planchet makes the 1940 Malaya 1/2 cent appealing to collectors who like something unusual. What's missing from the 1935 Mexican 50 centavo which looks like the rest of the coins of that denomination struck from 1919 to 1945? Every other date carries the .720 silver fineness on the obverse, while the 1935 was made with a .420 fine planchet.
The first postwar Netherlands 25-cent piece was struck in 1948 with Queen Wilhelmina I on the obverse. The mintage of 32 million means this pure nickel coin isn't scarce.
Panama has several one-year wonders. The 1907 1/2 centesimo was struck in a copper-nickel alloy, while the 1 1/4 centesimos of 1940 is one of the more eccentric 20th century denominations. Then there's the famed "Panama pill", a dinky 1904-dated 2 1/2-centesimo piece with a .900 fine silver planchet.
A lion is paired with a Phrygian cap on the 1903-dated 5, 10 and 20 centavos from Paraguay. The copper-nickel pieces are reasonably priced in circulated grades but are more elusive in Mint State condition.
Older and modern Polish coins display considerable artistic talent. Check out the elaborate engraving on the 1923 10 and 20 groszy along with the larger 1929 1 zloty. All three made in Warsaw pieces are pure nickel.
Inscriptions in French and Arabic along with a center hole makes the 1920 Tunisian 5 centimes anything but a generic item. Plan on spending at least $30 to obtain this one in Extra Fine.
The national coat of arms and a crowned hornbill bird can be seen on Zambia's 1964 shilling, while a reedbuck (African antelope) appears on the 2 shillings of that year. The pair can be obtained for $10 or less in uncirculated condition.
If variety, art and an appreciation of history are among your priorities, one-year world type coins are a field worth exploring - and the cost of the journey can be very reasonable.