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Video Game Coins: More Than Just Quarters & Tokens!

By Mark Harvey - July 8, 2022

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A… If that code is still burned into your brain like it is mine some 20 to 30 years after last using it, you probably spent many an afternoon, and evening (and, let’s face it, late night) playing video games. Growing up during a time when many different systems were released, and with a 100% chance of attending multiple birthday parties at the local arcade for a few years, it’s hard to remember a time when retro games were hotter than they are right now. Even the field of numismatics is seeing celebrations of several different titles that were released over the last 40 to 50 years.

The first two coins reviewed here pay tribute to games that pretty much everyone has heard of, and it’s safe to say, would go on a list of most played games of all-time, Pac-Man and Tetris. Both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man received 40th anniversary commemoratives from Niue in multiple denominations in 2020 and 2021. With countless variations it should come as no surprise that Tetris has also been honored on gold, silver, and colorized coins.

Pac-Man fever lives on in the 21st century with this Niue Two Dollar. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.
Click image to enlarge.
The $250 Tetris gold pieces were limited to a mintage of 100. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Outside of Final Fantasy (because as anyone who has played entries from that series can tell you, those games never end), it’s very likely that the most time logged on my Super Nintendo was dedicated to Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. Both are still seeing console releases to this day and there is a sequel to the 2021 Mortal Kombat film currently in the works. So, of course both of these iconic fighting franchises would be immortalized in coin form. Street Fighter has seen a greater variety of numismatic offerings with gold and silver pieces featuring Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, Bison, and my personal archnemesis, Vega. Three of the aforementioned characters also received Chibi proof versions.

The final boss is seen on this Fiji Half Dollar. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.
Appropriately the mintage of these colorized Mortal Kombat coins were limited to 2020 pieces. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.Click image to enlarge.

The vast majority of coins honoring pop culture and entertainment come from outside North America, though a number have come from Canada. However, video game pioneer and owner of U.S. Patent No. 3,728,480 Ralph Baer was honored in 2021 on New Hampshire’s American Innovation Dollar. Baer was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010. He is primarily known for his role in developing games for the Magnavox Odyssey Home Video Game System in the early 1970s.

The American Innovation Dollar series was first launched in 2018. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

It’s not just vintage games that are receiving coins. The Halo series, which was first released in 2001, saw coins celebrating the franchise’s 20th anniversary. There’s certainly been no shortage of gaming innovations and games that have transcended into the global consciousness via live and/or animated series, movies, and even simply wild popularity. It will be interesting to see what console, title, or character will be commemorated in coin form next.

Work Cited

“Ralph H. Baer.” National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Article provided by PCGS at
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