By Richard Giedroyc
Looking for a new area to collect? How about coins of the British Antarctic Territory, Chagos Archipelago, Howland Island, Midway or of South George and South Sandwich Islands? Let’s go one step further. What about coins of Middle Earth, The Shire or of Westeros? There are coins in the shape of ingots or of cannabis as well.
These unusual coins will probably appear in a future edition of the Unusual World Coins Krause catalog. Collectors of traditional coins that have been actually used as money will likely look on these issues with horror. Collectors of modern world or fantasies may be pleased. Yes, the coin goblins are about again, issuing coins from places that barely exist if at all.
While collectors of new coins may delight in these oddities, some poor archaeologist may a thousand years from now be scratching his head trying to determine why anyone might have wanted to issue coins for the British Antarctic Territory or for Westeros. Westeros appears on maps even less often than does Atlantis or Bermania.
Take the British Antarctic Territory as an example. The place is a rock, a very cold rock situated too close to Antarctica for the comfort of most of us. This hasn’t stopped some enterprising private mint from issuing 2016-dated coins comprised of either titanium or copper-nickel in pound denominations on which emperor penguins or Moby Dick appear.
Then there is the “National Bank Chagos Archipelago” in whose name a pie-shaped 2015 100-franc coin reminiscent of a 4 bit in shape was issued. (The 4 bit is a quarter piece of a Spanish Colonial American 8-reale coin.) A sea turtle floats aimlessly above a shark that will likely make the turtle its lunch on one side, with heraldry above “Outer Islands of Mauritius” on the other.
This privately issued piece might be suggesting the shark represents Great Britain. The British control the Chagos Archipelago (they call it the British Indian Ocean Territory), while Mauritius claims it as its own. The British forced the natives off Diego Garcia, where a military base was then built during the 1970s. To ensure the natives couldn’t return, the British created a marine reserve within which it is illegal to fish. Objections to having made the area a marine reserve are being heard in international courts. In the meantime, the 2015 100-franc coin with a startlingly small mintage of 250 pieces has been issued on silver-plated brass.
Unusual non-conventionally shaped coins have been struck at least since the time of ancient Bactria. If this is your collecting subject, you might want to obtain the 2011 dated 100-franc coins of Benin. I’m not certain what the coins are supposed to commemorate, but they are shaped as a seven-pointed Cannabis Sativa plant, better known as marijuana. This “coin” is struck of silver-plated copper-nickel and has been advertised as smelling like cannabis when rubbed. Does this suggest a circulated example might have more value than the proof in which the coins were struck?
At least British Antarctic Territory, Chagos or the British Indian Ocean Territory, and Benin actually exist. What about the coins of Durin, Holly, or Sauron? Such places may sound familiar to you if you’ve read the J.R.R. Tolkien series The Lord of the Rings. The Shire Post Mint, which really exists, went out of its way to issue a copper Axe of Durin coin mined in Moria during the first age of Middle Earth, whenever that is or was or will be. Elves allegedly made a broadleaf-shaped Fall Leaf of Holly, while minions of the Dark Lord are claimed to have used the iron Eye of Sauron coinage. There are five coins in all issued by the Shire Post Mint, none of them dated to anything we earthling collectors might be able to comprehend.
And then there are the issues of Bermania. Bermanian coins and tokens are real, but no one is certain if King Alanus I of Bermania (sometimes known as Connecticut coin dealer Allen Berman) is. According to an official Bermania statement, “It is not the easiest country to get to. All the maps to it are erased on a daily basis by the Bermanian Society of Secret Cartographers for reasons of national security. But if you’re destined to pay us a visit, we know you will find a way.”
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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