Dr. Sol Taylor

World's Largest Coins

World's Largest Coin
Canada's 100-kilo gold coin, on display at the American Numismatic Association's 2007 convention.
By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, October 25, 2008

round 1942, I visited the basement museum of the Chase Bank in downtown Manhattan. The door was propped open with a large stone wheel with a hole in the center.
    This large stone was not a door stop, but a form of money used by Micronesian Islanders known as "Yap" money. These large stone "coins" were and still are used for a symbol of wealth by the Yap islanders. They vary in size from about two feet in diameter and about 100 pounds to more than six feet in diameter and about half a ton.
    These stones are gathered in raw form on a nearby uninhabited island and shaped into wheels — to make moving them easier — and are kept for such matters as dowries, exchange of goods such as pigs, or as a special present.
    For a while in numismatic circles they were referred to as the "largest coins." In reality they do not fit the definition of coins; rather they are are a form of primitive money such as wampum, sea shells, tea blocks and animal skins.
    In 2007, the title of the world's largest coin was bestowed on the Royal Canadian Mint for its production of five gigantic coins with some $2 million (100 kilos) worth of .999 fine (24 carat) gold. These pieces have no specified value and are being offered for sale at whatever the gold value would generate. The Mint prepared these giants to illustrate the RCM's varied capabilities.
    A replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel stands in Dynamic Earth in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Although not a Mint-made coin, it is the largest "coin" at 30 feet in diameter and illustrates the nickel mining industry of the Sudbury area of Ontario.
    In 2004, the Austrian Mint held the title for making the world's largest coin: a 100,000 Euro coin of .999 gold. It is 31 kilos (68 pounds) in weight and commemorates Vienna's rich musical history. A total of 15 of these coins were struck and are offered for sale by the Austrian Mint for 330,000 euros each. A euro is about $1.50 U.S.
    In 1915 the United States held the distinction of having minted the largest coins. In commemoration of the opening of the Panama Canal, a set of coins was issued including two different styled $50 gold pieces, one round and the other octagonal. There were 483 of the round and 645 of the octagonal pieces struck. Just under three ounces each (83 grams) of .900 fine gold, these pieces were offered at $100 each.
    During the Gold Rush era, several private minters in the West issued their own version of $50 gold coins; Kellogg and Wass Molitor are best known. Some gold ingots of varying weights up to several hundred ounces are also known — but they are not considered coins.
    Going back to the 17th and 18th centuries, many of the German states issued large silver coins known as quadruple thalers. Some were almost four inches in diameter and had a value of four silver dollars. They were the largest coins of their respective centuries. Smaller triple and double thalers were also issued on a relatively smaller scale.
    In the same time period, one of the Indian native states issued a single giant gold coin weighing about 30 kilos as a tribute to the ruling emperor. Not meant as money, it eventually came up for auction some years ago and sold for several million dollars.
    For now, Canada holds the record for minting the world's largest coin.