Liberia's first new circulation coins in a long time.
A number of mints around the world seem to have been making coins in the name of the Republic of Liberia in recent years. There have been film stars, American presidents, signs of the Chinese Zodiac etc.. But forget these ! (Well - each to his own - of course.) The real Liberian coins are those that are made primarily for the people of Liberia to spend in everyday transactions.
The most recent Liberian circulation coins to be seen in the, 29th edition, "Standard Catalog of World Coins" (Krause Publications) are apparently frozen date "1968" pieces of the 25 Cent coin that were reportedly made in 1988. So ever since I first started to take a closer look at the background to the recent coinages of Africa (around mid-2000) I have been on the lookout for new circulation coins for Liberia. By September 2000 I came across my first bit of news on this subject. It was a report from March of that year that detailed the introduction of a new series of papermoney to Liberia by the recently established Central Bank of Liberia.
The Central Bank of Liberia Act had turned the former National Bank of Liberia into a true central bank hence the new name Central Bank of Liberia. It was important for the new central bank to introduce new papermoney as before these new 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Dollar notes came into use the only Liberian notes in use were all just of 5 Dollars (with various USD bills also getting some use). To complicate this there were actually two different issues of Liberian 5 Dollar notes and their values were actually different. The first issue was that of 1989 issue (amounts paid in these notes being termed as numbers of “JJ” dollars, as the portrait of J. J. Roberts, Liberia’s first president, featured on the fronts of these notes). The second issue was that of 1991 (amounts paid in these notes being termed as numbers of “Liberty” dollars, as the Liberian Seal of Liberty featured on the fronts of these notes). There was civil war in Liberia at the time of the issue of the “Liberty” 5 Dollar notes and straight away these notes were declared invalid by the rebels and thus these notes saw no use in certain parts of the country. The “JJ” 5 Dollar notes became scarcer than the “Liberty” 5 Dollar notes and this somehow led to a dual system where each “JJ” dollar equated to exactly two “Liberty” dollars. The new papermoney of the new Central Bank of Liberia was exchanged at issue as 1 Dollar to 1 “JJ” Dollar and hence 1 Dollar to 2 “Liberty” dollars. Announced at the same time as this new papermoney was the central bank's expectation that new change coins would be issued to circulation in June or July of that year.
In early January 2001 I found one or two further clues, namely that new coins including 25 Cent and 50 Cent denominations had been issued on 20th November 2000 and were made from Nickel-plated-Steel (as opposed to Copper-Nickel as used for previous issues of these denomination). There would also be a 5 Cent denominated coin.
I continued to look out for more news on these coins and even for dealers offering these coins but nothing significant came to my attention until September 2001 when I came across a report from July 2001. It detailed how the "Liberia Marketing Association" threatened to demonstrate (albeit peacefully) if nothing was done by the authorities about a number of businesses and individuals who were refusing to properly accept the new circulation coins. Just as importantly, to me anyway, this report also mentioned that the new coins ranged in denomination from 5 Cents to 1 Dollar. So now I could be fairly safe in assuming that the coins were of denominations 5, 10, 25, 50 Cents and 1 Dollar.
As November 2001 came to a close I received (by surface mail) the November 2001 edition of World Coin News (Krause Publications). Could I believe it? There on page 68 a new coin for Liberia, a 25 Cents dated 2000, made from Nickel-plated Steel, of very similar diameter to previous issues and of the same design as that which first appeared on the 25 Cents coins of 1960 only with differences in letter sizes. Now all I could do was to "assume" that, in the not too distant future, I would come across a dealer offering a whole set of 5, 10, 25, 50 Cents and 1 Dollar, all in Nickel-plated Steel (as these denominations were all previously Copper-Nickel i.e. the same "colour") and all of very similar design and diameter to the coins of these denominations that first appeared in Liberia in 1960. In February 2002 I heard of a dealer with the 25 and 50 Cents coins of this new series. Eventually I got hold of an example of each of these and they are to be seen pictured here. As for the three other denominations, I have still seen no sign of a dealer or collector with any of these and until then I cannot be 100% sure of their existence.
Finally - you might have been wondering about the Chinese Zodiac set of Liberian 5 Cent coins these are obviously something for the collectors of the rest of the world. They are a bit of a new concept - the ultra low denomination non-circulating legal tender coin. (As also seen with the Somaliland 10 Shilling series of 12 coins with a Chinese Zodiac theme and the recent F.A.O. series "XXI Century Food Security"). The Liberians are not too happy using their new coins with bright Nickel-plating and the designs that were well used between 10 and 40 years ago - so surely they would treat these Aluminium NCLT coins as aliens.<>(Note - most images on this site are photographs and not scans so scaling it not simple - however for the 25 Cents and the 50 Cents on this page I have made the images very close to the SAME scale.)
The info above was published in the December 2002 edition of the Numismatics
International Bulletin (pages 383-384, pages numbered through the