New New Zealand Currency: Coins From Tolkien’s Middle-Earth

Hobbits, dwarves, elves and Gandalf grace legal tender to be released Nov. 1

A scene from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (Photo: AP) A scene from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." (Photo: AP)

Planning a trip to Middle-earth? Better make sure your purse contains plenty of the coin of the realm. As of the first of November, New Zealand will be happy to assist you with that, whether it’s a pure gold coin bearing the image of Bilbo Baggins the hobbit or Gandalf the wizard, or more modest coinage in silver or in a gold-colored alloy of aluminum, zinc and bronze that carry the likenesses of dwarves or Radagast the Brown.

AFP reported late Wednesday that government mail service New Zealand Post is issuing legal-tender coins that commemorate characters and scenes from director Peter Jackson’s latest epic, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three films bringing the book by J.R.R. Tolkien to life. The film is set for release at the end of November, with its world premiere in New Zealand.

Numismatists, gold-hoarders (like Smaug the dragon) and currency collectors might want to finance a trip to the country that has remade itself as Tolkien’s Middle-earth with actual legal coins—or add them to their hoards. Not to leave out philatelists, the Post will also issue official stamps to commemorate the occasion.

While the face value of the coinage is somewhat modest, ranging from NZ$1 ($0.82) to NZ$10 ($8.18), collectors will pay substantially more for the coins, which will likely never cross a tavern’s bar to pay for a pint of ale, either in Wellington or Hobbiton. The NZ$10 coin is made from one ounce (28.3 grams) of pure gold and will cost acquirers NZ$3,695 ($3,020); the lowest-denomination NZ$1 coin, made from the alloy, will set buyers back NZ$29.90.

Other images set to adorn the currency are the visages of Thorin Oakenshield, king of the dwarves, and three of his dwarf companions; the wizard Radagast; Elrond, lord of Rivendell; and of course Gollum—who will no doubt regard the coins as “precious.” Some of the coins will bear the message, “Middle-earth—New Zealand”—and in the true sign of a global economy, the words will be in Dwarvish as well as in English.

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