What Do You Call a Commemorative Coin? A Full Guide

Ever come across a shiny coin with a unique design, celebrating a special event or paying homage to a historical figure, and wondered what is it called?

In this article, we'll look into the fascinating world of commemorative coins, why such coins are treasured in many countries and uncover their importance to coin collectors.

History of Commemorative Coins

Commemorative coins have a rich history dating back centuries. They originated as a way to commemorate significant events or honor noteworthy individuals. Aside from being called commemorative coins, they are also known as "special-issued coins".

From ancient civilizations to modern societies, the tradition of minting commemorative coins has evolved over time, reflecting changing cultural and political landscapes.

Pair of hands cupping assorted gold and silver collector coins against a yellow background

Circulating Commemorative Coins as Legal Tender

Some commemorative coins also hold the distinction of being a circulating legal tender. Unlike standard circulating currency, which serves as a medium of exchange for everyday transactions, circulating commemoratives carry additional symbolic value, representing important events, individuals, or milestones in a nation's history.

Despite their commemorative nature, these coins are still recognized as official currency by the issuing government or monetary authority and can be used as legal tender for transactions within the country of issuance. This dual role as both a collector's item and legal tender adds to the allure of commemorative coins, making them prized possessions for numismatists and collectors alike.

Commemorative Coins Issued to Mark Special Occasions in Singapore

The first commemorative coin issued in Singapore was in 1967 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. This coin, known as the Singapore Silver Lion Coin, features a lion's head on the obverse and the Singapore Arms on the reverse.

It was minted in both silver and cupro-nickel versions. The issuance of this coin marked a significant event in Singapore's numismatic history and set the precedent for future commemorative coin issues in the country.

Singapore has several commemorative coins issued to mark significant national events. Here are a few notable examples:

  1. 1965 - Independence: In 1965, Singapore gained independence from Malaysia. To commemorate this historic event, Singapore issued its first series of coins as an independent nation. These coins featured the national emblem of Singapore on the obverse and various denominations on the reverse.

  2. 1984 - 25th Anniversary of Independence: To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Singapore's independence, the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a series of commemorative coins in 1984. These coins depicted the Singapore Arms on the obverse and various designs representing Singapore's progress and achievements on the reverse.

  3. 2005 - 40th Anniversary of Independence: In 2005, Singapore celebrated its 40th year of independence with the issuance of commemorative coins. These coins featured the "Celebrate Singapore" logo on the obverse and various iconic landmarks and symbols of Singapore on the reverse.

  4. 2015 - SG50: In 2015, Singapore celebrated its 50th year of independence, also known as SG50. To commemorate this milestone, the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a series of commemorative coins and notes. The coins featured special designs representing Singapore's achievements and aspirations, while the notes depicted significant moments in Singapore's history and culture.

  5. 2019 - Singapore Bicentennial Commemorative Notes: In 2019, The Singapore Bicentennial Commemorative Note was issued to coincide with the bicentennial anniversary of Singapore's founding. This special commemorative note was released as part of the Singapore Bicentennial celebrations, which marked 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore in 1819. It served as a tribute to Singapore's rich history and cultural heritage, reflecting on the nation's journey of growth and development over two centuries.

In addition to the other commemorative coins issued marking Singapore's independence and milestones, there have been specific coins minted to honor Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

In 2015, to commemorate Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's lifelong dedication to Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a special set of commemorative coins. These coins were part of the SG50 celebrations and paid tribute to Mr. Lee's leadership and contributions to the nation.

The coins featured his portrait on one side, alongside iconic symbols of Singapore's progress and development. This issuance not only honored Mr. Lee's legacy but also served as a reminder of his pivotal role in shaping modern Singapore.

Types of Commemorative Coins

Commemorative coins come in various forms, each serving a distinct purpose. While national commemoratives celebrate significant national events and country's heritage, special particular event commemoratives mark milestones like anniversaries or festivals.

Honorific commemoratives pay tribute to esteemed individuals or institutions, immortalizing their contributions through numismatic artistry.

Vintage silver coin featuring Queen Victoria, resting on a textured rock in monochrome

Precious Metal Used In Commemoratives

Commemorative coins can be minted using various precious metals, each with its own unique characteristics and value. Some of the most commonly used precious metals in commemorative coins minted include:

  1. Gold: Gold coins are highly valued for its rarity, durability, and resistance to tarnishing. Commemorative coins minted in gold are often considered prestigious and are prized by collectors and investors alike.

  2. Silver: Silver is also a popular choice for commemorative coins due to its affordability compared to gold while still offering a valuable and lustrous appearance. Silver coins are often minted in varying purities, with .999 fine silver being the most common.

  3. Platinum: Platinum is a dense and lustrous metal that is highly resistant to corrosion, making it a popular choice for high-value commemorative coins. Minted platinum coins are relatively rare compared to gold and silver coins but are valued for their rarity and beauty.

  4. Palladium: Palladium is a precious metal that shares many characteristics with platinum, including its rarity and resistance to corrosion. Palladium coins are less minted than gold, silver, or platinum coins but are occasionally used for commemorative issues, particularly in recent years due to increasing demand for the metal.

These precious metals not only contribute to the intrinsic value of commemorative coins but also enhance their aesthetic appeal, making them highly sought after by collectors and investors alike.

Commemorative Coins as Legal Tender

While these coins and commemorative notes may have a special design or limited mintage, circulating commemorative coins are generally not intended as everyday currency. Instead, they are primarily produced as collectibles or souvenirs.

Although commemorative coins and notes may have a face value denoted on them, they are often sold to collectors at a premium above their face value due to their limited availability and special designs. However, despite being primarily intended for collectors, commemorative coins and notes issued by a government or central bank are usually considered legal tender, meaning they can be used to settle debts and transactions at their face value.

It's important to note that the acceptance of commemorative coins and notes in everyday transactions may vary depending on the specific circumstances and the policies of individual businesses or financial institutions. While some establishments may accept them at face value, others may require them to be exchanged for standard currency at a bank or financial institution.

Additionally, commemorative coins and notes issued by private mints or organizations may not be recognized as legal tender in circulation and may only hold value as collectible items within the numismatic community.

Design and Production Process

The design of a commemorative coin is a meticulous process that involves careful consideration of themes, motifs, and historical context. Talented artists collaborate with minting authorities to create striking designs that capture the essence of the commemorative occasion.

The production process combines traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology to mint coins of exceptional quality and detail.

Government Bodies Issuing Commemorative Coins in The World


The Singapore Mint is the national mint of Singapore, responsible for producing coins, medals, and numismatic products for the country. It was established in 1968 as a subsidiary of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The Singapore Mint's primary responsibilities include minting circulation coins for everyday transactions, producing commemorative coins and medals to mark significant events or milestones, and manufacturing investment-grade bullion coins for collectors and investors.

In addition to its role in producing coins and medals for Singapore, the Singapore Mint also provides minting services for other countries and organizations around the world. It is known for its high-quality craftsmanship, innovative designs, and commitment to excellence in numismatics.

Over the years, the Singapore Mint has become renowned internationally for its collectible coins, particularly those featuring unique designs and themes inspired by Singaporean culture, history, and landmarks.

United States

The United States Mint (US Mint) is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States. The US Mint was established by the Coinage Act of 1792 and operates minting facilities in various locations across the country.

The US Mint produces circulating coins for everyday transactions, as well as numismatic coins for collectors, investment-grade bullion coins, and congressional gold medals. Its mission is to serve the American people by producing high-quality coins, medals, and other products in an efficient, secure, and responsible manner.


The Royal Canadian Mint is a Canadian Crown corporation that produces all of Canada's circulation coins, as well as investment-grade bullion coins, collectible coins, and medals. It was founded in 1908 and operates minting facilities in Ottawa, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Royal Canadian Mint is known for its high-quality craftsmanship and innovative coin designs. In addition to serving as Canada's official mint, it also mints coins for other countries and provides secure coinage services to central banks around the world.

Collecting Commemorative Coins Issued

For many, collecting commemorative coins is more than just a hobby; it's a passion. Whether you're a casual enthusiast or a serious investor, collecting commemorative coins offers a glimpse into history and a chance to own a piece of numismatic heritage.

Rarity, condition, and historical significance are key factors that influence the value of commemorative coins in the collecting market.

Caring for Commemorative Coins

Proper care and maintenance are essential to preserve the beauty and value of commemorative coins. Storing them in a controlled environment, using archival-quality materials, and handling them with care can prevent damage and deterioration over time.

Regular cleaning and maintenance routines can help maintain the luster and integrity of commemorative coins for generations to come. Coin issued to commemorate events should be kept in good condition, given its nature as being a collectible and not used in everyday lives as legal tender.

Caring for commemorative coins involves specific practices to maintain their condition and value. Here is a short list of tips:

  1. Handle with Care: Always handle coins by the edges to avoid fingerprints, oils, and dirt. Consider using cotton gloves.

  2. Clean Properly: Avoid cleaning coins unless absolutely necessary, as cleaning can damage them. If cleaning is essential, use mild soap and distilled water, and pat dry with a soft cloth.

  3. Store Safely: Store coins in a cool, dry place to prevent tarnishing and corrosion. Use coin holders, capsules, or albums specifically designed for coin storage.

  4. Avoid Exposure: Keep coins away from direct sunlight, high humidity, and extreme temperatures. Avoid contact with chemicals like PVC, which can cause damage over time.

  5. Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect coins for signs of deterioration or damage. Early detection can prevent further issues.

  6. Proper Labeling: Clearly label and catalog coins to keep track of their origin, purchase date, and any other relevant information.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your commemorative coins remain in pristine condition for years to come.

Selling Commemorative Coins

If you're looking to part ways with your commemorative coins, there are various avenues available for selling them. From online auctions to specialized numismatic dealers, finding the right platform and marketing strategy can maximize the value of your coins.

Understanding market trends and demand dynamics is crucial for a successful sale. Selling commemorative coins can be a straightforward process if you follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate Value: Research and assess the current market value of your coins through price guides, online marketplaces, and professional appraisals.

  2. Documentation: Gather any documentation and certificates of authenticity that came with the coins, as these can increase their value and appeal to buyers.

  3. Choose a Selling Venue:

    • Online Marketplaces: Platforms like eBay, Etsy, or specialized coin-selling websites.

    • Auction Houses: Consider reputable auction houses that specialize in coins.

    • Coin Dealers: Visit local or online coin dealers for direct sales.

    • Coin Shows: Attend coin shows or conventions where collectors gather.

  4. Set a Fair Price: Based on your research, set a competitive price. Be prepared to negotiate with potential buyers.

  5. Market Effectively: Take high-quality photos and write detailed descriptions highlighting the coin’s condition, rarity, and any special features.

  6. Secure Payment: Ensure you use a secure payment method. For online sales, services like PayPal or escrow services can offer protection.

  7. Ship Safely: Package coins securely to prevent damage during transit. Use tracked and insured shipping methods to ensure safe delivery.

By following these steps, you can effectively and safely sell your commemorative coins.


In conclusion, commemorative coins serve as timeless reminders of our shared history and cultural heritage. Whether you're a collector, investor, or simply curious about numismatics, exploring the world of commemorative coins is a rewarding journey filled with discovery and appreciation.

So, the next time you come across a commemorative coin, remember its significance and the stories it tells.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are commemorative coins?

Commemorative coins are special coins issued by governments or organizations to honor and remember significant events, people, or places. They are not intended for general circulation but are rather meant as collectibles or keepsakes.

What does commemorative mean in coins?

In the context of coins, "commemorative" refers to the act of honoring or remembering something significant through the issuance of a special coin. These coins often depict historical figures, important anniversaries, or significant events.

What is the meaning of souvenir coin?

A souvenir coin is a type of commemorative coin that is typically purchased as a memento or keepsake from a specific event, landmark, or tourist destination. These coins often feature iconic symbols or landmarks associated with the place or event.

What is a remembrance coin?

A remembrance coin is a type of commemorative coin designed to honor and remember a particular person, group, or event, often with a focus on military or civic service. These coins may be distributed to commemorate milestones, anniversaries, or acts of bravery, and are often cherished by recipients as symbols of honor and remembrance.