In 2011, Samoa produced a new design series
. The government had surveyed public opinion, which apparently thought that the old designs
were old-fashioned and needed to be updated. Puzzled, I checked the old designs and thought they still looked high-quality and modern. However, the design themes suggest a purely agriculture-based economy: breadfruit, pineapple, coconut, banana tree, etc. – presumably not the image that the country wants to project these days. Interestingly, Tonga still uses circulation coins that are very clearly FAO-themed, and has done so since 1975. The country is due to issue a new design series later this year, and I expect there will be no FAO-themed designs or depictions of agricultural produce.
Looking at the circulation coins of other countries, it is obviously still acceptable to depict your local wildlife, whether animals or flowers and plants. The 5 rupees coin of the Seychelles features a palm tree, but the designs as a whole convey the impression that the country is a paradise of exotic beauty. Sub-Saharan African countries routinely depict their wild beasts on their coins: rhinos, zebras, lions, etc., but these are proudly presented as an aspect of their beautiful national heritage. You still find the occasional agricultural themes in modern design series, such as the cotton plant and tractor-driver on the Mozambican series (issued in 2006)
, but these are balanced by the designs featuring modern buildings, a rhino and a cheetah.
The message for the 21st century is: don’t feature agricultural produce on your coins (or do so only sparingly). I therefore expect FAO-themed circulation coins to die out, though there will still be the occasional commemorative issues. Worldwide, more people now live in cities and towns than in the countryside. This trend will continue until we are surrounded by hi-tech gadgets but have nothing to eat, at which point we will take to our time-machines to forage for yesterday’s food.