Not too many coins can make us jump out of our skin when we look at them, but the newest offering from the Cook Islands might qualify. Ravana, king of the demons in the Hindu pantheon, is the subject of the newest issue from the Islands, and presents a visage fierce enough to keep many of us up at night.
There won’t be all that many kings of the demons haunting collections, as this coin has a limit of 500 pieces, each of which is numbered as it leaves the Royal Mint. The obverse sports the familiar image of Queen Elizabeth II, states “Cook Islands,” gives the date, and provides indication of a face value of $20. But since this issue is made of gilded silver, the cost will always be significantly higher than any face value. The reverse is the demon king, shown with nine faces and almost all of the twenty arms he is reputed to have.
Ravana’s place in Hinduism is one of conflict with the god Vishnu, as he appears in the 7th reincarnation, as the hero Rama. Since Ravana stole Rama’s wife, according to the Sanskrit writings, it’s no big leap to see that the two would get to a major fight. Despite having plenty of weaponry for his twenty hands, Ravana ends up taking a mortal wound from one of Rama’s arrows. Good wins this round of the greater fight between good and evil.
For the collector who wants the entire series of which the King of Demons is a part, last year the issue was the Madonna of Bruges, the original of which was sculpted in marble by none other than Michelangelo, and most recently made famous in the movie “The Monuments Men,” where it is retrieved from Nazi looters. The year before that it was Lord Ganesha, and in 2018 it began with Shakyamuni Buddha, making three of the four coins in the series images from the great, eastern religions. All have low mintages, and some hunting might be in order to chase down an entire set.