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Commemorative coins are coins that were issued to commemorate some particular event or issue. Most world commemorative coins were issued from the 1960s onward, although there are numerous examples of commemorative coins of earlier date. 
Such coins have a distinct design with reference to the occasion on which they were issued. Many coins of this category serve as collectors items only, although some countries are also issuing commemorative coins for regular circulation. 
Vast numbers of thematic coins are continuously being issued, highlighting ancient monuments or sites, historical personalities, endangered species etc. While such thematic coins may or may not commemorate any particular event or jubilee, the distinction between commemorative coins and thematic coins is often blurred or ignored.


Historically, the coins issued by any state have always reflected the current political or economic situation. Many ancient and pre-modern coins certainly commemorate events in contemporary times. For instance, Roman Coins often have references to military campaigns and the defeat of foreign powers. These reverse types often symbolically represent the subordination of recently conquered territories to Roman authority. Such coins are examples of ancient political propaganda. The Roman Empire may be represented by a proud warrior 'raising' an undersized figure, representing the defeated enemy. 

During the era of the formation of the European nation states, the issuance of special coins explicitly commemorating various events became increasingly common. These coins were frequently devised to establish a public notion of nationhood, and also to honor the ruling monarch and his dynasty. During the economically exhaustive Napoleonic wars, a one sixth rigsdaler was issued in Denmark from voluntary contributions from the public, intended to finance the creation of a new fleet. Another notable coin is the Prussian thaler of 1871, commemorating the victory of the Franco-Prussian war, opening the gates for the Prussian king to be crowned as Emperor of the unified German nation. After the (political and monetary) unification of Germany, some German states continued issuing separate coins on special occasions, such as the jubilee of a ruling monarch. The issuance of these royal jubilee coins became common throughout Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. In some cases, these became collector items already at the time of their minting. 


Before World War 2, commemorative coins were always made of precious metals. The base metal coins were probably not considered appropriate for, or worthy of, honoring the nation or the ruling dynasty. However, during the 20th century, the use of precious metals for circulating currency became increasingly scarce. World War I and the world economic crisis of the 1930s brought about temporary or permanent abolition of the convertibility of bank notes to silver and gold coins. Gradually, the issuance of precious metal coins became increasingly restricted, and definitively abandoned about 1970. While the commemoratives of these decades continued to be issued predominantly in precious metals, their use as circulating currency became scarce or ceased entirely. Thus, the commemoratives developed into a separate class of coins with no immediately recognizable link to the coins and notes used in everyday transactions. This class of coins were collectors items, or in some cases objects for economic investment. With the ascendance of coin collecting as a hobby for larger numbers of people in the decades after World War II, commemorative coins came to be seen as treasured items, their beauty and impressive appearance readily appealing to many.





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