When does a coin cease to be a coin?
I was thinking about this question as the judging begins to determine the 2011 Coin of the Year winners.
Everybody knows that a round disk officially issued by a government and given a legal tender value meets the definition of coin. These disks don’t have to be metal.
However, as coins become less useful in daily life in the United States, we see coins for collectors in increasing variety.
Other countries have issued multi-pieced coins that fit together. Canada in its early days once used playing cards as money and now the Royal Canadian Mint has issued coins that look like playing cards.
There is such a thing historically as a box coin, which is a hollowed out area of a coin that can hold small items. We have coins now that are made by mints to hold small things like gemstones.
There are coins that change color or image when held in a reaction to body heat. Others release smells.
There are pop-up coins that have designs that break above the level of the coin’s surface.
None of these items are practical for use in commerce, but they seem ideal to sell to collectors.
How far can we go?
Will we get coins that can play music like greeting cards?
What about taking a pop-up coin that shows a national flag and combining it with a feature that plays the matching national anthem?
How long will it be before coins go beyond holograms and actually show short videos when you hold them?
How far can we go with novelty and as we progress down this road, will the new products still be considered coins?