Whales, dolphins and porpoises are infinitely fascinating to human beings.
From the earliest days of seafaring, tales have been written about
these intelligent creatures, and in recent times they have been the
subject of many a scientific inquiry. It’s why Americans pay millions
of dollars every year to go on whale-watching tours at sea and to
visit dolphins at aquariums. The world’s nations know that
commemorative coins featuring whales and dolphins are more certain to
enjoy strong sales than those featuring many other animals.
Highly intelligent and social, killer whales are actually a type
of dolphin and are more commonly referred to nowadays as orcas. They
hunt in packs feasting on fish and large sea mammals like seals. They
are not considered a threat to humans in the wild, but in captivity
several orcas have attacked human trainers. Just as humans group into
families, neighborhoods, towns and states, orcas congregate in
matrilines, pods, clans and communities. These marine mammals have a
lifespan similar to humans as well, living up to 90 years in the wild.
A substantial orca population lives off the cost of British
Columbia in western Canada. In 2011, that nation honored them on an
unusual gold-plated, square-shaped .925 fine silver $3 coin. This is
one of six different orca-themed coins issued by Canada since 1992.
The Isle of Man, Palau, North Korea, Tokelau, Australia, Marshall
Islands, Congo and Uganda also have issued coins featuring the orca.
The Maui Chamber of Commerce started the Maui trade dollar tokens
program in 1992 to raise funds for its nonprofit foundation and to
highlight the native Hawaiian wildlife. The trade dollar tokens have
been very popular with tourists and exonumia collectors. The
dollar-sized tokens are purchased for $2 (or for $5 from the chamber’s
website) and can be spent in Maui, but most are kept as souvenirs.
Whales and dolphins have been popular animals depicted on these
copper-nickel tokens, including a humpback whale featured in 1998.
Formerly known as “Canadian trade dollars,” Canadian municipal
trade tokens are created for nonprofit fund-raising just like the Maui
trade dollars. These have been issued by various Canadian cities and
provinces since 1958 and have a temporary local value ranging from 5
cents to several dollars. The ringed-bimetallic tokens are especially
popular with collectors, such as the $3 token issued in 2005 from the
city of St. Andrews by the Sea in New Brunswick. It features a North
Atlantic right whale with calf.
The Galapagos Islands, as a part of Ecuador, do not issue separate
coinage, so the 2008 silver-plated rectangular $8 Galapagos “coin” is
actually a medal or a fantasy coin. Struck for tourists, it is just
the right shape to showcase a breaching (jumping) humpback whale, an
activity all baleen whales enjoy.
Porpoises are not small dolphins but a unique type of cetacean
that are related to dolphins and whales. The harbour porpoise is the
smallest porpoise of all and lives in many places, including the
Baltic Sea. They may even be found in rivers. In 2004, Poland issued a
2-zloty coin honoring this small species as part of its series
“Animals of the World.”
Dolphins are often found on more circulating and commemorative
world coins than whales and porpoises combined, and have been commonly
seen on coinage since ancient times, including ancient Greek drachmas.
Denmark has a history of dolphin coins going back to the 1870s. The
graceful curved body of a dolphin was typically used as part of a
“frame” on lower denomination ore coins, like wheat stalks were used
on Lincoln, Wheat cents.
Dolphins are frequent visitors to the Bay of Gibraltar and on the
coinage of this Commonwealth nation. Gibraltar’s seven-sided 1999
50-pence coin has a clever design featuring five dolphins swimming or
even dancing in a circle.
The Atlantic Ocean is the western boundary of Portugal, so the
bottlenose dolphin is a familiar animal to the Portuguese. Two years
before the euro was introduced in Portugal in 1999, the country issued
a ringed-bimetallic 200-escudo coin that was an instant hit with
collectors of bimetallic and animal coins. The copper-nickel center
within the copper-aluminum ring shows a pod of swimming dolphins on
one side and ocean waves on the other. It was designed to commemorate
the 1998 Lisbon World Expo.
Topical coin collectors will always have new issues to look
forward to within this category. Dozens of nations have minted
cetacean coins in modern times, and the world continues to
“porpoisely” honor these amazing ocean mammals on coins, medals and