Coins of Westarctica

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Collage of Westarctica's coins

The Coins of Westarctica are a collection of commemorative coins minted by the Central Bank of Westarctica on behalf of the micronation of Westarctica. Starting in 2005, Westarctica minted 31 unique coins released in 14 different series, each commemorating a different element of Westarctican culture, history, or geography. The creation of coins by the Central Bank ceased in 2013; however, both Grand Duke Travis and the former Minister of the Treasury, Jorge Fernandez-Vidal, have expressed interest in resuming production of coins.

History

Jorge Fernandez Vidal, the Duke of Sherman

The impetus to mint coins under the name of Westarctica began with Jorge Fernández Vidal, of A Coruña, a city in an autonomous region of northwestern Spain named Galicia.

He learned about the Balleny Islands while researching unclaimed land in Antarctica. His intention was a find an area or region suitably outside the jurisdiction of other countries, that could be used as a basis for minting coins of his own design. Jorge settled on the Balleny Islands in March 2004, after closely examining the language used in the Antarctic Treaty and realizing that New Zealand's claim to the Balleny Islands could not be legally recognized by any nation, including their own. Therefore, it was highly unlikely New Zealand would ever mint coins for the islands on their own, and they were equally unlikely to assert any kind of legal jurisdiction if Jorge were to mint coins under the name of the Balleny Islands. In his own words, the islands were: “officially unclaimed. A beautiful free land to mint a coin.”

Central Bank of Westarctica

In late 2004, Jorge stumbled upon the official Westarctica website. He was intrigued by the fledgling nation and applied for citizenship. As part of his citizenship request, he shared his ideas for minting coins with Grand Duke Travis who happened to be looking for someone to lead a numismatic project to create coins on behalf of Westarctica. Jorge was promptly appointed to the post of Minister of the Treasury and given full authority to mint coins bearing Westarctica's name and symbols. The Central Bank of Westarctica was created with Jorge as it's head officer.

The initial arrangement between the Central Bank and the Grand Duke was that Jorge would assume all responsibility and cost associated with minting the coins, and would also reap 100% of the profits from the sale of any coins. The Grand Duke would be given three copies of every coin minted to be deposited in the Royal Collection. Management of the program and design of the coins would remain the sole responsibility of Jorge, while Grand Duke Travis' involvement was limited to some creative input and final approval of the coin designs.

The Balleny Islands became a colony when Westarctica formally annexed it from New Zealand on January 14, 2005. Mr. Vidal was appointed its Governor, and following the first successful minting of the Balleny Islands coin, Jorge was given the title Count of Sturge.

Series of coins released

Of the 14 series of coins released by the Central Bank of Westarctica, four sets stand out as especially unique.

$1 Balleny Islands

$1 coin of the Balleny Islands (obverse and reverse)
Main article: $1 Westarctican Dollar Coin

The Balleny Islands coins were the first coins minted by the Central Bank, they were released in early 2005, shortly after the creation of the bank itself. The obverse of the coin shows Westarctica's original coat of arms as designed by Jon-Lawrence Langer. On the reverse is a map of the Balleny Islands showing the islands Young, Buckle, and Sturge. It was released in two different metals (bronze and silver), but otherwise, the two coins of the series are identical.

$1 Balleny Islands
Year 2005
Material Bronze
Denomination 1 Westarctican Dollar
Mintage 150
Diameter (mm) 25.4

$1 Wooden Commemoratives

Collage of the wooden coin series

Westarctica's second set of coins, also minted in 2005, is the only wooden set of coins produced by the Central Bank. Two of the coins commemorate significant events in Westarctica's history, while the third coin celebrates the emperor penguin, Westarctica's national animal. Each coin is $1 denomination and all have smooth edges.

The two historical coins commemorate the 30 June 2004 creation of the Grand Ducal Mandate, which served as Westarctica's constitution from 2004 - 2010, and the 75th Anniversary of Admiral Richard Byrd's pioneering expedition into Westarctica's interior.

They were not terribly popular with collectors, and are generally sold at the low price range for Westarctican coins.

$1 Wooden Commemoratives
Year 2005
Material Wood
Denomination 1 Westarctican Dollar
Mintage 200 of each design
Diameter (mm) 38

$10 Grand Duke Travis

Color image of the 10 Westarctican Dollar coin
Main article: $10 Westarctican Dollars Coin

The third coin minted by the Central Bank and the first bearing a likeness of a person is the 2005 $10 Westarctican Dollars coin. It features an image of Grand Duke Travis on the obverse, which was created from a portrait session. The reverse provides a rare example of a color version of Westarctica's arms as they were in 2005.

Aside from being the first coin to feature a person, it is also unique in that both sides of the coin are encased in a malleable plastic to protect them from wear and damage. This makes the coin particularly resilient, leading Grand Duke Travis to comment:

Metal can rust away in a few hundred years or less, but plastic can take a thousand years to break down. Considering the fact that this coin is metal encased in plastic, thousands of years from now, some future archaeologist could find this coin in a landfill somewhere and they would still be able to make out my portrait and the name of Westarctica. This single coin ensures our nation and the dream that created it will echo into eternity.

The $10 Westarctican Dollars coin has proven immensely popular with collectors around the world and it is one of the most difficult Westarctican coins to find.

$10 Grand Duke Travis
Year 2005
Material Copper-Nickel
Denomination 10 Westarctican Dollars
Mintage 175
Diameter (mm) 39

$1 Westarctica Islands

The $1 Westarctica Islands series is especially unique due to its rectangular shape and the fact that the coin itself is actually comprised of four separate triangular coins, each in a denomination of 25¢. The coins feature the islands of Grant, Siple, Pine and Burke and can be fitted together to make a single $1 coin.

It remains the only coin created in denominations of less than one Westarctican dollar and one of the few non-circular coins in the world. The series was first minted in 2008.

Westarctica's $1 coin series (obverse and reverse)
$1 Westarctica Islands
Year 2008
Material Copper
Denomination 1 Westarctican Dollar
Mintage 200
Diameter (mm) 35x35

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