You might be familiar with micronation coins from the British comedian Danny Wallace’ series How to Start Your Own Country. Numismatists might be aware of them from their misguided inclusion in Unusual World Coins. If you are lucky enough to have read one of my personal favorite books by Erwin Strauss, then you already know how fascinating, collectible and worthwhile micronation coins can be. If not, allow me to convince you.
How To Start Your Own Country is a tongue-in-cheek guidebook in all seriousness on how one is to start their own country. The guide – written by a science fiction author and absent minded professor type – paints a dull picture of the quest for statehood. Nevertheless, the entertaining attempts that comprise most of the book are a case study of how many have tried. Some have never left their bedroom, others have nearly completed their mission of with land, royalty and minting of their very own coins. All have more or less failed but their quirky stories have made great business and will remain in the eons of pop culture.
Two of the greatest stories to come out of How to Start Your Own Country are Sealand and the Hutt River Province or Principality of the Hutt River. Both examples have had excellent opportunities at proving statehood – engaging in international relations, have strange laws in their favor – one is a former WWII turret of the British coast the other is a large wheat farm in Australia, and both get serious with their numismatic issues.
Sealand is a former pirate radio outpost that was originally a convenient way to circumvent the law, as time went on, the turret platform was turned into a royal house for one of the smallest micronations ever. The “country” even had an opportunity to test its military, firing upon a British vessel. It’s numismatic issues are some of the prettiest, reminiscent of a Caribbean country.
The okra whale dons the obverse of the Sealand dollar, the most prominent release. The coin comes in uncirculated and proof examples in both clad and silver. The release was largely ignored, much like stamp collectors ignore cinderellas. Thus many have made it to the junk bin but not that many were made.
The Hutt River Province refuses to be dubbed a micronation. The royal family told me “it has nothing to do with that social movement.” Statements like these represent their campaign to be taken absolutely seriously. Long after the battle over wheat quotas, this micronation (opps, I shouldn’t have said, that) has diversified and become a wonderful tourist destination in Australia.
Their numismatic issues are wide, varied and sometimes confusing, most reminiscent of commemorative issues. The Heroes of Baseball issues are not very popular with numismatists and only sell for a few bucks. The designs are rather mild. The issues commemorating Bill Clinton and Desert Storm are each artistically appealing and will likely seek attention from U.S. collectors. My favorite issue though is the brightly colored notes.
Sealand and the Hutt River Province are two of my favorite micronational issues but there are many more examples highlighted in the How To Start Your Own Country book and various documentaries on the topic. Others examples include the Conch Republic in Florida, Celestial Gold coins making headlines thanks to a few influential numismatists mentioning them recently, and the Republic of Minerva – a utopia project that vanished before it could materialize.
Many other micro-national numismatic issues are frauds. Some are designed with an imagination, hoping to sell a wonderful story that couples with an artistic issue. Many are produced without the knowledge or consent of various ethnic and religious groups seeking self-determination from a coercive state. As of now, these are still novelty pieces, with little to no interest and no catalyst for the future.