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Commems Collection: Commemoratives Vs. Thematics

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Pillar of the Community
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 Posted 01/10/2013  10:49 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
It used to be that, in a broad sense, there were two types of coins: standard and commemorative. Over time, the commemorative category was divided into "circulating" and "non-circulating legal tender." Then bullion coins were added to the mix. I think we now may need another category for what is becoming a very large trend in modern coins " coin series linked by a common theme that are not truly "commemorative" in nature.

For example, the US Mint's Statehood Quarters Program " I consider these "thematic" coins rather than commemoratives. Their individual dates of issue have no connection to any specific anniversary for each state and, in my mind, simply represent a nice series of coins linked by a "States of the Union" theme. In contrast, I consider the four Westward Journey nickels of 2004 and 2005 to be true circulating commemoratives as they were marking the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's 1804-1805 expedition.

From reading collector posts here on CCF and elsewhere, it appears very common for collectors of modern non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins to consider all of them to be commemoratives, regardless of the coin's design subject. Looking north to Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint ( RCM) appears to be on a mission to place every mammal, reptile, fish, insect or flower that is found in, has traveled through or can spell "Canada" on a NCLT coin of some sort. While a number of themes have proved popular with collectors " the RCM series of birds on colorized coins is one example " they are not commemoratives (at least in my mind). "Thematics" seems to be a good term for them, however.

Turning back to US coinage, I would consider the current series of Native American dollars to fall into the "Thematic" category, as I would the America the Beautiful Quarters. My categorizing such coins as "Thematics" is not meant to diminish them in any way, I just believe it is a more accurate way of classifying them. Thematic coins can certainly celebrate history and have historical themes, but that alone does not make such coins "commemoratives."

Commemorative coins were initiated to mark an important current event (see the many ancient Roman coins issued to mark battle victories) or a distinct, important historical anniversary regarding a person, place or event. I think coins that we call "commemoratives" should remain true to this definition and that coins that do not should be classified in some other way.

What say you?


Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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United States
416 Posts
 Posted 01/11/2013  12:04 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mailman28 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think your explanation is valid and your term "thematic" aptly describes the coins you point out. If a coin or series of coins does not commemorate a certain date or event I don't think it's a commemorative.
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Russian Federation
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 Posted 01/11/2013  06:24 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add january1may to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That's also a good way to disambiguate Russian "commemorative" coins (well the base-metal ones anyway)... the Cities and Regions series would be thematic, as would the recent "War Glory cities" series, but pretty much everything else is a true commemorative.
And yes, that "everything else" includes (so far) every single commemorative coin with a denomination other than 10 roubles

(Soviet coins are more confusing. I think they tried to commemorate something at every coin except maybe those of the "cathedrals" series, but I might be missing some; and I don't count the "rare animals" series as Soviet at all because of its completely different style.)
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 Posted 01/11/2013  12:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CoinsKelly to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very good food for thought.

Your interpretation is spot on as relates to the materials presented on the coins. From what I have learned (from you!), US commemoratives were created to help fund "something" and that thing was tied to a specific person or event (or a place tied to a person or event). So anything else would be non-commemorative; thematic is a good term for it.

In my mind there are three categories, commeoratives, medals and other minted items, a.k.a. themeatics. I have only thought of themeatics as non-circulating pieces that various mints have created to boost revenue taking advantage of current market conditions. I tend think of medals separately since they usually cannot be mistaken for a coin.

I guess it is hard for me to think of the Statehood Quarters and other programs that circulate as anything other than a regular coin. Cool images, sometimes yes, but a variety of an existing series. To me, these are different than the thematic other minted items created to make a buck since they serve a daily purpose. And along that line of thinking, I do not consider proofs of them any different than any other proof.

So in closing, I agree and disagree! Now you have me thinking about this.
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 Posted 01/11/2013  1:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think it is worthwhile to make a distinction between what is a normal commemorative issue and what is part of a thematic series.

Definitely something to ponder and discuss.
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 Posted 01/11/2013  2:21 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add matthewvincent to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I am reminded of the term "topical" used by stamp collectors: birds, trains, fish, famous people and even coins!
But "thematic" is an equivalent term and I like it.
We "commemorate" a specific event.
We "celebrate" National Parks, etc., UNLESS the year is an anniversary of the establishment of a particular park.

1934 - National Park Stamps

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 Posted 01/11/2013  6:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ghostrider to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The way that I understand the ATB Quarters is that it would be hard to classify them as a NCLC. Granted they may not be as many as we would like to see in circulation, they are definitely out there and were (except for the latest San Francisco circulating strikes) always intened to out among the brethern. They Kennedy half is now considered to be NCLC but also NIFC (Not Intended For Circulation) and yet were do find them from time to time popping up rolls of half dollars. And as you definition would infer the Kennedy half could also be a "thematic" also.

So this one coin really fulfills many roles. Something that the ATB Quarters I don't see doing.

The ATB's were intended to replaced the old Washington/Eagle and the State & Territorial quarters that have been in circulation since the '30's, and is scheduled to be replaced in turn by another quarter design.

Really since the introduction of the first State Quarter through the latest ATB they are circulating and more properly could be called circulating legal tender commerative coins (Ciltcomic). It could be pronounced like Kiltcomics.

The Kiltcomics are going to be with us for quite awhile as they were actually intended to modernize our coinage.
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 Posted 01/11/2013  7:00 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@ghostrider: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, but I think there might be some confusion. My suggestion for classifying certain coins in a new way has nothing to do with whether the coins circulate or not - it is simply an attempt to better categorize coins that some call commemoratives when, in fact, they do not commemorate anything.

My use of the word "thematic" was meant to identify coin series that share a common theme vs. mark a specific current event or historic anniversary. This definition would apply equally to circulating coins such as the Statehood and ATB Quarters as well as to coins not intended for circulation such as Canada's Dinosaur Fossil coins, Australia's Birds of Australia series or Tuvalu's Great Composers coins. I see the Statehood and ATB Quarters as circulating thematics vs. circulating commemoratives.

Also, I don't believe my definition suggests that the Kennedy half-dollar should be considered a thematic. It is a regular issue coin and falls outside of the commemorative vs. thematic classification discussion. Of course, the Kennedy Presidential dollar that will eventually be released would be considered to be - at least by me - a thematic coin as it is part of a themed series of coins honoring US presidents.


Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
01/11/2013 7:04 pm
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 Posted 01/11/2013  7:09 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add yotie to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Are the 2009 cents considered a commerative coin?
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 Posted 01/11/2013  7:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@yotie: Yes, I would consider the four 2009 Lincoln cents to be commemoratives as they were issued to mark the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.


Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 01/11/2013  7:24 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@matthewvincent: Nice stamps! I really enjoy the look of "classic" US postage stamps. Great artwork!


Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 01/12/2013  11:10 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CoinsKelly to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Commems, do you think the new category would enhance the commemorative landscape? It sounds like there are discussions elsewhere and I am wondering what the effect of a new category would be on collecting.
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 Posted 01/12/2013  9:13 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add yotie to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I think Thematics may be what will define the ultra modern era with commems being the red headed step child like normal
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 Posted 01/12/2013  9:54 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CoinsKelly to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Funny, I thought it would be reverse! (with Theamtics being the red-headed step child)
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 Posted 01/14/2013  7:24 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Not sure how I missed this thread ... perhaps way too much work and worried about a sick father.

Anyways ... thought provoking discussion by commems ... as usual his insights into the world of commemorative coinage inspire many of us.

David
Take a look at my other hobby ... http://www.jk-dk.art
Too many hobbies .... too much work .... not enough time.
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United States
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 Posted 01/14/2013  7:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add blackjack to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
David, good luck and good health to your dad. My thoughts are with you.
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