Numismatics and Football

It is Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately, aside from privately made medals there is no numismatic recognition of American football. Instead, I will do a survey of the numismatics of real football which will be addressed by its American name, soccer.

Despite the fact that it is the most popular sport in the world, soccer does not have a large numismatic footprint. Many countries, particularly the host nations, have issued commemoratives for the World Cup or the Olympics but there are few general circulation pieces that depict the game.

I have been a referee for many years and have traditionally used a soccer themed flipping coin. (The exception to this was 2018 when I used the medallion from a British WWI Merchant Marine Service Medal). I have given many of them away and have only two coins left.

One is this commemorative fifty cent piece for the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. I was unable to attend any of the matches that summer as I had just started a new job and work demands kept me home. Four year later and 6,500 miles away I attended my first full international when I saw Australia v. Saudi Arabia and Brazil v. Mexico in the King’s Cup in Riyadh. (This was an interesting experience on many fronts not the least of which was the absence of two things we take for granted at sporting events in the United States — alcohol and women.)

The other coin is this English fifty pence commemorative marking the 2012 London Olympics. It is my favorite soccer related numismatic item. While most sports related coins depict an action shot, the English chose a graphic depiction of the offside rule for the reverse of the coin. Illustrations of the offside rule take up more pages in the rule book than any other the laws of the game. The Royal Mint could have issued an entire series of coins depicting the many different permutations of the rule.

There are a few banknotes depicting soccer. The above two notes are from Congo and Kenya and depict the national stadiums in each of those countries.

The Ulster Bank depicted Irish footballer George Best on this 5 pound note from 2006. Best is regarded as one of the greatest to have ever played the game. He died in 2005 from complications from a liver transplant.

The Bank of Russia issued a commemorative 100 ruble note marking the 2018 Men’s World Cup. While I despise its vertical format, it was one of the most striking notes issued that year. The face of the note depicts Soviet-era goalkeeper Lev Yashin. The note is one of the first banknotes to feature a QR code. Scanning the code leads to a website that explains the security features of the note.

The final piece is a hand engraved medal depicting a footballer in action on one side. The other side contains the inscription “Tjimahi ’42”. Tjimahi was the site of a Japanese run internment camp in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during WWII. The significance of the medal is unknown.

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