November 1 marks various holidays revolving around the similar concept of remembering lives lived. Many recognize the first day of November as All Saints Day, honoring saints and martyrs throughout the history of Christianity, and just as well the day is marked as the Day of the Dead – Día de los Muertos, as it is known in Mexico and in other Spanish-speaking parts of the world.
While both holidays immediately follow October 31, which is traditionally known as All Hallows Eve, and are frequently associated with each other for their similarities in honoring the deceased, each day has its own personality. All Saints Day usually carries a solemn ambience and is revered as a feast day in the Catholic Church and in other Christian followings, and Día de los Muertos is a more vibrantly festive occasion where family and loved ones remember their dearly departed by sharing happy memories, meals, and other lively tidings. Both holidays are observed by many millions around the world, and both can be numismatically observed by way of coinage, too.
Throughout the centuries, many coins have paid homage to saints and religious figures, and a variety of coins feature skulls, which are a central theme for those honoring Día de los Muertos. For the collector, the question becomes what imagery do they prefer to use in representing the multifaceted significance of November 1? The question can be answered in any number of ways.
Consider, for example, this circa 1339-42 Venetian Grosso with depictions of Saint Mark and the Doge on the obverse and Christ holding the book of gospels on the reverse. Then there is the 1587 Thaler from Salzburg featuring Saint Rudbert seated with a salt barrel and crozier, or hooked staff. Hailing from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the mid-1600s New Jersey St. Patrick Farthing and Half Penny – colloquially known as “The St. Patrick Coppers” and depicting one of the most celebrated saints of all time.
Turning our attention to coins of more recent vintage struck in homage of Día de los Muertos, one finds a variety of novel specimens that perfectly capture the more jubilant vibe of this November 1 holiday. Two of the most apropos are the 2018 Palau $1 and $5 La Catrina Skulls, which bear similar designs covered in decorative ornaments including flowers and hearts and prominent cross element. This fascinating coin is one of a series of skull coins from Palau, which has struck such interesting pieces as the 2016 $5 Antique Finish Skull and 2017 Golden Pirate Skull.