I think American coins are ugly. American currency is, too.
It wasn't always this way. It wasn't until 1909 that we first started putting dead presidents on our coins, for example. Until then, any humans on our coins were either representations of Lady Liberty or were Native Americans. I want to remove all dead presidents from our coins.
Washington and Lincoln made appearances on our paper money in the 1800s, and later even non-presidents did: Hamilton, Lincoln, and Chase, for example. But our paper money wasn't always so ugly. Even though it's long been green and black, we used to have beautiful images on our currency. This "educational series" note is one of the most famous and most beautiful. And though that note has Martha and George on the reverse, I'd still be all for removing George, Abe, et al., from our currency.
Even our commemorative coins today are uninspiring, which is unfortunate given their themes.
There are plenty of countries around the world that produce beautiful coins. If you want to see some genuine outside-the-box thinking on coins, though, you need look no further than to our friend to the north, Canada.
Just browsing the Royal Canadian Mint's web site turned up these three commemorative coin subjects: Star Trek, DC Comics, and Star Wars. Note that these are actual commemorative legal tender coins, not coin-like medals made by a private mint.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that our coins should be about pop culture. But travel the world and you'll see all sorts of representations on even circulating coins, from animals, to sports (really!), to plants, to national crests and symbols, to historical representations, to landmarks, etc. And foreign currency gets even more creative. Have you ever seen, or felt, Australia's polymer, not paper, notes? Imagine trying to counterfeit a note with a see-through spot on it!
Money is a tangible ambassador for its country of origin. Ours is less than satisfactory. Perhaps I should run a series of posts with pictures of very cool coins and currency that I have collected over the decades....