A great sailor is the one who is fearless, who loves the unknown, someone who keeps his cool when the tides are high; someone who continues the voyage until the destination is reached. Many ancient coins with ships indicate the importance of these uncertain and sometimes life-threatening missions. From ancient times, naval expeditions haven been carried out to discover new trade routes and connect with different parts of the world.  Kingdoms and states always encouraged such activities, as flourishing trade meant more business which would then add to the empire’s wealth. Trade could also sometimes lead to colonization which was considered as a big fish in those days.

Trade was widely prevalent in the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe.  Many ancient roman coins with ships that have been discovered suggest that India was closely associated with the Rome through trade activities. These coins feature depictions of large ships that were probably used for trading purposes.


Ancient Coins with Ships

coins with ships

Ships termed as “Galleys” were used by the Ancient Romans, the Phoenicians and the Greeks. These low and flat ships with one or more sails and up to three banks of oars were mostly used for warfare or piracy. Various roman coins depicted these lovely boats on them. If you are looking to collect coins with ships, this one would be a special one to possess.   


coins with ships

Experts state that the Romans had friendly trade relations with the Satavahana dynasty who later ruled the eastern coast of India which touches the Bay of Bengal. The Satavahana coins clearly show how these ships were different from those of the Mediterranean regions. These coins with ships are considered to be some of the most unique ones.


Modern Coins with Ships

Apart from ancient coins, several modern and medieval coins have also been issued to commemorate various ships that have undertaken important historical voyages. Some were warships, some were passenger ships and others were used for trade. Let’s take a look at some of the modern coins with ships.


coins with ships

Santa Maria was captained by Columbus when he discovered America. The coin was struck for the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in conjunction with the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in the year 1893.


The English ship Golden Hind, led by Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580. Queen Elizabeth had requested to carry out this expedition to explore the coast that lay beyond the Strait of Magellan. On arrival, the Queen got her share of £160,000 out of which £40,000 was used to repay her entire foreign debt. Now this one is one of those coins with ships which have an interesting story behind it.


The Half Moon half dollar coins were issued in the year 1935 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city of Hudson, NY in 1785. Half Moon was the Ship of Henry Hudson, who was first to explore the land. This is one of most beautiful modern coins with ships.


In 1638, Swedes settled in the US for the first time through a ship named Kalmar Nyckel. To commemorate the 300th anniversary of this event coins with image of the ship were issued. These coins are a bit confusing with regards to the dates. The date on the obverse is 1936 even though they were struck in 1937, and 1938 – the anniversary date is mention on the reverse. Something unique while considering coins with ships!


coins with ships

Mayflower a ship was used by the Pilgrims to reach Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620.  To celebrate the 300th anniversary of this voyage, the Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar coins were issued in 1920 and 1921.


A Turtle Ship also known as Geobukseon was a Korean battleship used from the 15th to the 19th century. The image of the ship can be seen on 5Wons coins of the years 1967, 1970 and 1971 at least.


The Lebanon coins of 2 and 5 Piastres have Trireme on it. Trireme is an ancient Greek or Roman war galley which has three banks of oars.


coins with ships

Empress of China was the first American ship to sail from U. S. to China, opening the Old China Trade and taking the first American government representative to Canton. In 1986, China minted 5 Yuan coins to commemorate the voyage of the ship.


In 1607 three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery carried 105 people to make the first English settlement in America. The 400th anniversary of the settlement was celebrated by issuing silver coins with image on the three ships on the reverse.


Bluenose was a celebrated racing ship and fishing vessel. She became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia and an important Canadian symbol in the 1930s.  Bluenose appeared on Canadian coins since 1937, to start with, on the circulating 10-cent coin. In 2016 Canada issued 1 ounce gold of 200 dollars coins. This coin commemorates the 95th anniversary of the Bluenose.


In 2016, to commemorate the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, coins of 5rupees were issued to create awareness about the salient contributions of Indian migrants against biased immigration laws of Canada. The Japanese steamship Komagata Maru carried 376 Indians who wanted to migrate to Canada but weren’t allowed because of the racist laws.
The Great French Ships series from the Paris mint will pay tribute to a sailing ship, a warship and an ocean liner, yearly for five years. The series contains coins of 10 and 50 euro.
coins with ships

Canada has issued series of coins called known as Lost in Canadian waters. This series of coins depicts ships that were lost in Canadian waters. The above featuring H.M.S Erebus and H.M.S Terror commemorate the two vessels and the 129 men who were lost.


Part of the series Lost in Canadian waters, in 2014 Canada issued 20 dollars coins and 20 cents coins commemorates 100th anniversary of the day when RMS Empress of Ireland sank, which is the biggest disaster in the history of Canadian navy.


The third and final coin in the series is that of S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. The wreck of S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 quickly grew to represent the great risks still taken by the crews of modern ships. The coins were issued in 2015, 40 years after the wreck.


In 2015 Canada issued coins of 30 dollars commemorating the significant efforts by 12,000 people who served during the Battle of the Atlantic which was a military campaign in World War II, which went on for several days.


On July 27 1866, the S.S. Great Eastern sailed to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, to transfer messages between the Old World and the New. Coins were issued in 2016 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that transatlantic telegraph cable, which revolutionized communications.


In April 1912, RMS Titanic after hitting an iceberg and sank on during her maiden voyage from England to Us. In 2012 to commemorate her 100 years Canada issued 10 dollars coins depicting the ship and also the nautical coordinates at which the Titanic sank.


Cyprus issued coins which depicted a Kyrenia ship, a trading vessel dating back to the 4th century BC. The ship is a symbol of Cyprus’s seafaring history and was significant to improve trade relations. In 1965 the wreck of the ship was discovered by a Greek-Cypriot diving instructor Andreas Cariolou. Since he lost the exact position of the site he carried out more than 200 dives till he rediscovered the site in 2967.


Since 2011 Armenia has issued coins with Noah’s ark depicted on them. They depict the ark because after the great flood Noah and his family along with the world’s animals were stranded and saved on Mount Ararat. The area was a part of Armenia till the 20th century.


In 2008, a special series of coins were issued fraturing sailing ships by Belaurs in eastern Europe. The first depicted a ship called Sedov, named after the Russian polar explorer H.Y. Sedov. The Sedov is listed in the “Guinness Book of Records” as the largest of the surviving sailing ships, in 2011. The ship celebrated 90 years since its construction. The second coin was issued in 2009 and depicted The Dar Pamorza which won the Cutty Sark trophy in 1980.


The next coin featured Amerigo Vespucci, which got its name from the explorer Amerigo Vespucci. This stunning active tallship belongs to the Italian Navy and used as training ship for the Navy cadets, during their first year in Naval Academy. The fourth coin was also released in 2010 featuring the ship Constitution – the oldest sailing ship in the world still afloat. President George Washington named it in honor of the U.S. Constitution.


The fifth release in this charming series featuring the clipper, Cutty Sark, built in 1869 at Dumbarton, Scotland. Cutty sark was a vessel was destined for the tea trade, then an intensely competitive race across the globe from China to London. The ship was reopened in Greenwich after a $78 million restoration project.  The coins were issued in 2011. The last coins in this series feature a training ship called Kruzenshtern. She was launched on June 23 in 1926 and is named after the famous Russian explorer and an admiral Ivan Kruzenshtern. Today the ship belongs to the Baltic Fishing Fleet State Academy of Russia, which is used for exploration as well as training. In 2011 a coin featuring this ship was issued in the series.


For the 100th anniversary of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition the Pobjoy Mint issued coins for the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands. Both the coins have the image of the ship called Endurance used by the explorer Ernest Shackleton for the expedition.


Vasco-da-gama is another Sailor who was known for his fearless expeditions that connected the western world to the east. Many stamps, notes and coins have been issued featuring this great man. Click here to read the complete blog.


The voyage continues, many more coins with ships have been issued. It could certainly  become an interesting theme for coin collectors.


To know more about coins of India, log on to Mintage World.







2 thoughts on “Coins with Ships- Endeavours Beyond Seas
  1. Greetings! Quite helpful guidance on this article!
    It truly is the small changes that make the largest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

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