Bird Coins from Around the World
- Canadian birds are featured on the Birds of Prey Series, including the Peregrine Falcon and Great Horned Owl.
- The Gold Double Eagle is one of the most popular coins in the world.
- Several U.S. states chose to include birds on the designs of their 50 States Quarters.
Since the very beginning of man-made currency, birds have been a favorite depiction on coins. While you frequently find our feathered friends among the designs on paper money, governments and engravers alike have also been drawn to the Aves class as a symbol that deserves a place on Precious Metal coinage. Centuries ago, birds were thought to communicate with the gods because they could fly high into the air. Particularly in the Western Hemisphere, birds are a symbol of freedom, famously represented by the American bald eagle in the U.S. Here are a few examples of coins both old and new that feature beautiful artwork inspired by the birds of the world.
Greece Old Style Tetradrachm (Circa 450 B.C.E.)
Dating back to ancient history, the Greeks depicted birds on coins known today as Old Style Tetradrachms. These early tokens of monetary exchange featured the striking Owl of Athena. Some historians believe this distinctive owl, with a single-prong tail and brilliant eyes, was chosen as a symbol of wisdom, since owls have night vision. Others think it is popular imagery due to the dense population of owls in the region. Either way, this is one of the oldest known coins to have used a bird on the reverse.
2017 Cook Islands Silver Royal Delft™ Peacock
A bird that has served as a symbol of prestige and royalty for centuries is the peacock, beautifully shown on this 2017 Cook Islands Silver Silver Royal Delft™. Made from .999 fine Silver, this commemorative coin is formed with an earthenware stone hand painted with a blue feather eye. While a high relief peacock swoops around the right side of the reverse, Queen Elizabeth II graces the obverse. The male peacock embodies prestige and self-expression.
Royal Canadian Mint 1 oz Silver Birds of Prey Series
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint began a four-coin series that pays tribute to distinctive fowl native to the country. The first issue of the Birds of Prey series features the peregrine falcon soaring through the air. While the coin has a face value of 5 Canadian dollars, it was worth much more due to the .999 fine Silver composition and the spectacular bird imagery. Other Canadian birds in the series are the great horned owl, red tailed hawk and bald eagle.
50 States Quarters
Over a 10 year period that began in 1999, the United States Mint issued a series of 25 cent pieces known as the 50 States Quarters program. Each state in the union was given the opportunity to choose a design to represent them on the reverse of a quarter, with five designs released annually for the term of the program. While some states chose famous citizens or historic landmarks, several used birds. The Oklahoma quarter has a picture of the scissortail flycatcher, the official state bird. The design selected by Louisiana features a pelican and Idahoans chose the peregrine falcon.
$20 Liberty Gold Double Eagle
The Gold Double Eagle, a $20 coin issued by the U.S. Mint, is one of the most popular numismatic coins in the world. Each coin has bullion value but the series is also representative of several milestones in American history. This legacy gives the Liberty Gold Double Eagle exceptional collectible value. Featuring Lady Liberty surrounded by 13 stars on the obverse, a distinguished bald eagle is struck on the reverse. This particular coin is symbolic of San Francisco during the Wild West era and the Gold Rush. The design is prized for its artwork created by James B. Longacre, as well.
France Gold 20 Francs Rooster
The Greeks were drawn to the owl for its wisdom and Colonial Americans to the bald eagle for its authority. The French, however, claimed the Gallic rooster as their unofficial icon. Some historians have drawn a line between the roosters of France and the god Mercury, while others say the association has more to do with Latin homonyms. In either case, the 20 Francs Gold coin eatured a brilliant rooster, also known as “le coq gaulois,” on the reverse. Struck by the Paris Mint, these bullion coins have been popular among collectors for many years.