All Philippine Coins #6: The Flora and Fauna Series

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Introduction and Rise of the Flora and Fauna Series; End of Franklin Mint Philippine Coinage:

In 1983, the coinage of the Philippines was significantly revamped, partially to abolish the now rather hated “Ang Bagong Lipunan” motto, but also to compensate for more inflation (or high metal prices, depending on how one looks at it).  Up until this point, only the 1 Sentimo had been minted in aluminum (starting in 1967 with the Pilipino Series), and the 5 Centavos/Sentimo coin being struck in various alloys of yellow brass from 1958 onward, with all higher denominations being struck in cupronickel (or pure nickel in the case of the 5 Piso) or silver or gold for the high fantasy commemorative denominations.  Now, all of 1, 5, and 10 Sentimo denominations began to be struck in aluminum, the 25 Sentimo in yellow brass, and the 50 Sentimo at last revived (with Marcelo H. del Pilar again adorning its obverse) as the lowest cupronickel denomination.  The Franklin Mint was also taken out of the loop, with both (P) and (U) equivalent coin types being minted by the British Royal Mint, by this time wholly relocated in Llantrisant, Wales.  The proofs are particularly rare, being struck in only 750 sets, and some of those appear to have been opened as well, since they too don’t seem to have been optimal places to store the coins.  The brilliant uncirculated (U) equivalent coins from the Royal Mint for that year are more common, apparently struck in the thousands, judging from the comparatively easy availability, usually as a set.  The remaining coins (including some mint sets) were struck in the Philippine mint.
To distance these new coins from all political pressures, a new theme, a new series was introduced featuring the distinctive native Flora and Fauna of the Philippines, in which each denomination would commemorate a different living creature native to the Philippines.  For the 1 Sentimo, it was a sea shell, Voluta imperialis; for the 5 Sentimo, it was the rare Waling-waling orchid, Vanda sanderiana; for the 10 Sentimo, it was the pygmy goby, the smallest freshwater vertebrate fish in the world, Pandaka pygmaea; for the 25 Sentimo, it was butterfly, the Graphium idaeoides; for the  newly revived 50 Sentimo denomination, it was the Monkey-eating eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi; and for the 1 Piso it was the Tamaraw, Anoa Mindorensis, a wild black buffalo.

2 Peso Denomination Returns After More Than a Century:

Another denomination, the 2 Piso, was also reintroduced, after an absence of over a hundred years.  For its face, it featured Andres Bonifacio, who founded the “katipunan” revolutionary movement that helped overthrow the Spanish, and for the reverse, it was the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, on this rather large and 10-sided cupronickel coin.  The last time this denomination had been minted, in 1875 (and dated 1868), it had been a dime-sized gold coin with Spanish Queen Isabel II on it.  What a change 110 years makes!  While the 2 Piso denomination was being reintroduced, the 5 Piso denomination was quietly suspended.  That denomination had barely circulated, was redundant to the readily circulating 5 Piso note and unpopular for political reasons, and most Filipinos had been altogether unaware of its existence.  But as inflation was making the Piso worth less and less, some larger coin denomination was required.

Ancient Philippine Text for “Pi” Adopted On All Philippine Coins:

Another change was the replacement of the “BSP” mintmark with an ancient Philippine script for “Pi” which looks like a serif “V” merged with an “F” with a dot  over it, and which many mistake for some sort of designer’s monogram.  This symbol is found under the neck of the person, other than for any commemorative coins for which it might appear anywhere in the design.  So at this point, even the ancient script, not seen since the ancient Piloncito, finally made a (small) reappearance.

Details of Proof and Uncirculated Sets Issued for 1983, and Commemorative:

For 1983 only, one more new commemorative was struck, both in frosted proof (P) and brilliant uncirculated varieties (U), by the British Royal Mint, to commemorate the Philippine University.  This coin marked the introduction of a 100 Piso denomination, which would only be otherwise seen on a couple mid-1990s commemoratives, struck in silver.  There were 2,000 of the proof version of this coin struck, 750 of which went into the proof sets, and the remainder were sold individually.  The brilliant uncirculated version is somewhat more common.  As there had been so many commemoratives struck during the Bagong Lipunan era, and now finally this one more in the first Flora and Fauna era, no commemoratives were struck in 1984 or 1985.  After 1983, the Royal Mint was no longer enlisted to produce any special coins for the Philippines for some years, though it may have been the source of some few regular issues of the current BSP Series.

Misspelling of Animal Names:

In that first year of the Flora and Fauna Series, two of the creature names were misspelled.  For the 10 Sentimo, it read “PANDAKA PYGMEA” where it should have read “PANDAKA PYGMAEA,” and for the 50 Sentimo, it read “PITHECOBHAGA JEFFERYI” where it should have read “PITHECOPHAGA JEFFERYI.”  Later in the year, the spellings were corrected for both coins in their regular BSP Mint circulation issues.  The erroneous spellings turned up on the regular Philippine BSP Mint issues which were the very first put in circulation and also included in the official Mint Set for the year.  This BSP Mint Set is easily distinguished from the brilliant uncirculated “Mint Set” from the British Royal Mint in that the coins were contained in a somewhat thicker plastic holder with each coin in some (usually triangular) section all to itself, whereas the Royal Mint coins were contained in a green cardboard framed holder that openly proclaims its Royal Mint origin, and within which the plastic that contains the actual coins only has pockets for the coins exactly as sized and shaped by the coins themselves.  The regular mint’s coins are also typically not quite as shiny as it contains regular business strikes.  Because the BSP Mint Set was the easiest place to find the only mildly rare variant spellings, especially in high grades since the circulated coins were already often showing some degree of wear once the misspellings was noticed, many of these (rather few to begin with) BSP Mint Sets were cut open to provide the coins.  As a result, a fully intact BSP Mint Set for 1983, with its two coins that have misspelled words, is quite rare, while the standalone misspelled word coins themselves (which were also somewhat available from circulation) are actually quite common, even more commonly found on ebay than the correct spelling coins from the BSP for that year.

Last Known Franklin Mint Offerings of Philippine Coins, But Commemoratives Resume:

In addition to the Royal Mint proof and brilliant uncirculated sets and the BSP Mint Set (with erroneous spellings), there is one other set of (mostly) 1983 coins, once again from our good friends at the Franklin Mint.  In this case however, the coins were not minted by the Franklin Mint but simply by the regular Philippine Mint.  In early 1984, the Franklin Mint was coming out with its “Coin Sets of All Nations” collection (not to be confused with their “Coins of the Realm” which they struck themselves), featuring the standard circulation variety coins for a nation at that point in time, all mounted in a brown cardboard holder (for other countries the holder would be in various other colors, but otherwise very similar and always the same overall size), and with a Philippine stamp, cancelled on May 1, 1984.  These coins were obviously obtained by going to a bank (in the Philippines?  Or perhaps even just some local currency and coin exchange such as at an airport?) and buying the current coins by the roll.  Except for the 25 Sentimo for which the current 1984 year had been released, the other denominations were all in their original 1983 year release.  Then they packaged the coins in their custom cardboard holder with stamp and sold them.  It is unlikely that these “sets” will ever be worth much more than the coins (and cancelled stamp) they contain, but they do provide one source of really nice high-grade coins from (mostly) 1983, all regular BSP business strikes, and without the misspellings.  This would be the last Franklin Mint Philippine coin offering for a couple years.  In 1987, for some unknown reason, the “PANDAKA PYGMEA” misspelling would again show up on some of the 10 Sentimo pieces.  Both regular and misspelled versions for that year seem to be roughly equally easy to find.

In 1986, commemorative coins would again start up, this time being different for each year, but there would always be something, except for the year 1993, clear through to the end of the Century.  For 1986, the overthrow of Marcos and establishment of the Corazon Aquino presidency (and her friendship with the US) was celebrated with a silver 25 Piso (the last of that denomination) and a gold 2,500 Piso coin, both struck at the Franklin Mint (but the gold coin has no “f” mintmark).  For 1987 it was a 200 Piso silver coin for the World Wildlife Fund; for 1988 it was a cupronickel 10 Piso and a silver 500 Piso for the People Power.  1989 was the first year in which both a regular and a commemorative 1 Piso coin would be struck, the commemorative honoring Philippine Cultures.  For 1990, there was a 2 Piso coin made to standards consistent with the 2 Piso coin at the time, to honor Elpidio Quirino who served as president after the death of Manuel Roxas, and a 200 Piso silver coin for the Save the Children Fund.  For 1991 it was a 1 Piso commemoration of Waterfalls, Ships, and Flowers, a 2 Piso for Jose Laurel, who served as the puppet President of the Japanese Regime during the war, but who did much to protect Philippine interests even while collaborating with the Japanese, and who was exonerated of any wrongdoing, and a silver 150 Piso commemoration of the Southeast Asian Games.  Just as the Bagong Lipunan Series divided so neatly into two separate sub-periods of four years each, the Flora and Fauna Series did likewise, albeit into two sub-periods of unequal length, the first being eight years and the second being four years, totaling 12 for the Flora and Fauna Series era.  For the second part (the last four years), the coin denominations from 25 Sentimo on up were all reduced in size.  This time the designs would stay the same (other than in size), but the size would become much smaller.  The 25 Sentimo shrank quite a bit, and the 50 Sentimo changed alloy from cupronickel to yellow brass similar to that of the 25 Sentimo, and became even smaller than the previous brass 25 Sentimo had been.  The 1 Piso also became much smaller, even slightly smaller than the 1 Piso of today, though also retaining its design.  The 2 Piso also shrank, and more importantly lost its distinctive 10 sided shape to become a simple round coin.

5 Peso Denomination Returns After Eight Year Suspension; all Coins Shrink:

The biggest event for the final four years of the Flora and Fauna Series was the reintroduction of the 5 Piso denomination, but this time in yellow nickel brass, and about the size of an American quarter.  For its face, it featured Emilio Aguinaldo, and for the reverse, it was the leaves and flowers of the “Narra” tree, Pterocarpus indicus, which was the Philippine national tree.  By this time, the 5 Piso denomination no longer represented quite such a consequential amount of money, and the denomination finally began to circulate a bit.  But after only four years, it was replaced with the current 5 Piso which is about the same size, but no longer features the Philippine national tree and has a smaller design of Aguinaldo.  The aluminum denominations were not changed in size or alloy, but only the 10 Sentimo continued to be produced clear to the end of this Series era.  By all accounts, the 1 Sentimo was last struck for 1993 and there are no 1994 1 Sentimo coins.  The 5 Sentimo faced an even worse fate, in that there were no 5 Sentimo coins struck in either 1993 or 1994, making 1992 its last year in production for this Series.

Beginning with 1992, the commemoratives that were continuing to come out began to conform to the new smaller standards, with a 1 Piso to commemorate the Battle of Kagitingan, a 2 Piso to commemorate Manual Roxas, who was the first post-war President of the Philippines, and a 5 Piso to commemorate the 30th Chess Olympiad.  Also struck for that year was a 10,000 Piso gold coin, the largest denomination ever struck in a Philippine coin, to commemorate seven years of (or since) the People Power revolution.  In 1994 the Leyte Landing was commemorated with a 5 Piso (again to the usual current standards for that denomination), and 100, 500, and 1,000 Piso denominations in silver of various (increasing) sizes.  Silver coins of 100 and 200 Piso and gold coins of 2,500 (struck at the Pobjoy Mint in England) and 5,000 Piso were also struck that year to commemorate the upcoming 1995 visit of John Paul II to the Philippines.

But in 1993, the one year there were no commemoratives, the Bangko Sentral Philippines was reorganized into its present structure, which lead to the introduction of the what is, as of this writing, the present series, of which the coins were first released in 1995, and which continue to this day.  This reorganization would result in the introduction of a new seal which would be featured on all new coins (starting with 1995 issues) with one lone and rather anomalous exception.

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