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Design longevity


Finn235
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I was just thinking about this the other day: What is the one design that has been or was in use for the longest period of time?

 

For the sake of simplicity, we will only count permanent, significant changes to the design. A shift like the change from the wheat penny to the memorial penny in 1958-59 would count as a design change, whereas minor changes (large mint mark of the war nickel/Lincoln's smaller head in '69) or one-time commemoratives (American bicentennial/Canadian centennial) would not. One key factor would be the likelihood of a coin to be "discovered:" a 1938 Jefferson nickel would easily be passed over by an average individual, whereas a 1937 buffalo nickel would be visibly "out of place" even to a child.

 

I'm not particularly savvy on coins elsewhere in the world, but here's what I know about American coinage:

Washington Quarter: 67 years; 1932-1999

Roosevelt Dime: 65 years; 1946-present

Jefferson Nickel: 65 years; 1938-2003

 

I'm not sure about the coins of Britain and the Commonwealth... Canadian coins have been largely unchanged since 1937... except for the royal portrait on the front (QEII has had 4 separate portraits since 1952). Same goes for the pre-decimal penny, which was hardly changed from the 1700s through 1967. Thoughts?

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I'm not sure about the coins of Britain and the Commonwealth... Canadian coins have been largely unchanged since 1937... except for the royal portrait on the front (QEII has had 4 separate portraits since 1952). Same goes for the pre-decimal penny, which was hardly changed from the 1700s through 1967. Thoughts?

I don't think you can really take the British penny series back any further than 1860 -- before that, the penny was copper and weighed almost twice as much as the 'modern' pre-decimal bronze version, and was 3mm larger in diameter. Still, that's 107 years of the monarch on the obverse and Britannia on the reverse.

 

I think if you're going to allow for monarch changes, then you should allow for the reverse changes on the Lincoln cent, though.

 

I'd add to your list the Coronet quarter eagle, essentially unchanged from 1840 to 1907, for 67 years. One year longer than the Washington quarter, which ended in 1998.

 

But if you want serious longevity, look at Swiss francs and rappen. Discounting the change from silver to base metal, the 2 franc piece has been in service essentially unchanged since 1874 -- 137 years to date, and still in production. As a silver coin, it was minted for 93 years unchanged from 1874 to 1967. The half franc and franc are only a year younger. The five and ten rappen designs date to 1879; the 20 rappen to 1881.

 

Any advance on 137 years for one essentially unchanged design? :)

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Since the advent of "fiat" money, well no one will likely outdo the ancients. The Athenian tetradrachm is a prime example of a coin that was minted for a couple of hundred years in an unchanged design - and then finally did evolve into the so called "new design" ca. 280BC.

 

atena.jpg

 

And back then coins tended to circulate long after they were minted - sometimes for generations afterwards - which is why they can be found pretty distant to where they were minted - and why they also got imitated in Arabia.

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Washington Quarter: 67 years; 1932-1999

Roosevelt Dime: 65 years; 1946-present

Jefferson Nickel: 65 years; 1938-2003

 

 

Kind of forgot that in the 70's the Washington Quarter was changed to the Bicentennial thing. Although they went back to normalicy, that was a break in continuity.

As to the Jefferson Nickel. Designers initials added to the Obverse in 1966, Mint mark moved to Obverse in 1968. Dies were modified to strenghthen design in 1971 although that really didn't make a significent change.

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If discontinuities are allowed, the FRF sower design by Roty was used for some time - Ar835 from 1890s (?) to 1919 then in Ni99 from 1960 to Euro changeover (2001?).

 

Ditto for the 50 centime / 1/2 franc, but a few years less due to use of the brass 50 new centime / 50 old francs in early 60s.

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Well, I am between Scylla and Charybdis here. Differences of opinion make a horse race; and Saor Alba really knows his stuff.

 

The Athenian Owl might be stretched (ouch! angry bird!) as the design from before 450 BCE was continued to 294BCE. However, the fabric and artisanship is so dramatically different that the coins 350-294 are a different series, entirely. And there is the lacuna or hiatus, the open era, 404-350, when none were produced, apparently. Also, the classic Owl is 454-404, with the earlier artwork being attributed to a different series. So, you have a 50-year run, impressive, but not a record-breaker.

 

I offer the Hall heller silver penny (or half-penny), perhaps not the record-holder, but impressive. In the European Middle Ages, this coin was struck from about 1180 until about 1280. Unfortunately, authoritative records and modern histories are vague.

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There are some English Medieval coin designs that remained virtually the same across a whole span of monarchs. The gold Angels in particular come to mind, first minted in the 1460s/70s and continued through to the late 1620s.

 

The Maria Theresa Thaler? (Okay not a circulating coin in the strictest sense but apparently still used for trade and barter in the Middle East).

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