A new collector set features coins that are denominated in U.S.
currency and read “United States of America,” but they are not
official American coins.
A financially troubled Native American tribe in San Diego County
has issued the series of seven coins through a private European distributor.
The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Indians, which in most reports is
listed as the Sovereign Nation of Santa Ysabel, issued its first coins
with the collaboration of a European distributor, Numiscom, which
issued coins for another regional tribe, the Los Coyotes, in 2011.
Native American tribes have the sovereign right to issue their own
coinage, according to Numiscom, and in recent years perhaps a dozen
tribes have issued noncirculating legal tender through or with the
assistance of businesses in the coin hobby.
The Santa Ysabel coins were issued sometime in July. Coin
World learned of the issue through Numiscom. U.S.-based
distributor Joel Anderson, www.joelscoins.com, began
offering the coins in mid-August.
The designs depict images representing the tribe’s heritage on the
obverse and the tribal symbol, an oak tree, on the reverse. Obverse
images include a medicine man (1 cent), basketry (5 cents), fire (10
cents), ancestors (25 cents), crafts (50 cents), sage ($1) and a
rabbit with an elderly women ($5). The tribal names for these items
appear with their English identifications.
According to Numiscom’s Nina Kaminski, a sales manager with the
firm, the coin sets are being issued “to bring the culture and history
of Indian tribes to a greater range of people worldwide.”
Each design was approved by the chief and the tribe, Kaminski said
when the coins were first released.
Kaminski, in announcing the series to Coin World, acknowledged
that the firm had heard some criticism of native tribes for selling
their name, but said that “this is not the case with the Los Coyotes
and Santa Ysabel! The Indians are very keen to show their heritage,
they want to be proud of their coinage and they want it to be real. So
these are [not] fantasy coins where a company just put a nice motif
under a bought name. These are really the coins of the Indian tribes
with their motifs, their history and their culture.”
The 1-cent coin is composed of copper and the 5-, 10-, 25- and
50-cent coins are all made from copper-nickel. The $1 coin is struck
in a copper-zinc-manganese-nickel alloy and, according to Anderson,
the ringed-bimetallic $5 coin has an aluminum-bronze center and a
The coins have varying weights and diameters but none match
specifications for equivalently denominated U.S. coinage.
The timing of the launch nearly coincided with the tribe’s July 3
filing seeking bankruptcy protection for the casino it began operating
nearly five years ago on its remote reservation in northern San Diego County.
Kaminski said the coins do not have a mintage limit and each of
the about 300 members of the tribe received a set of the coins, which
were struck by Osborne Coinage, a private mint in Ohio.
Anderson offers a set of all seven Uncirculated coins for $29.50,
and $3 shipping and handling. To order, visit his website or telephone
him at 805-489-8045. ■