A new world coin takes the concept of animal ownership to a whole new level.
In early 2014, the German firm Numiscom released a 2,000-franc coin
for the Democratic Republic of Congo that includes actual DNA of a cheetah.
The coin is the world’s first to embed DNA, and the animal itself
was not harmed, according to Nina Kaminski, product manager with Numiscom.
Kaminski arranged with a zoo in Brunswick, Germany, to collect
saliva from a cheetah named Abay. The saliva was then unraveled at a
laboratory in Germany where it was colored and encapsulated in tiny
vials that are glued onto the coin after it is struck. Color was added
because otherwise DNA is “a little bit foggy,” Kaminski said.
It took several days to collect enough saliva to extract the DNA
used for the 999 coins.
Kaminski was allowed to enter the pen containing Abay and meet the
cheetah closer than she ever imagined.
“[The keeper] told me to come on in. He had real thick fur. I
scratched him below the ears and he began to purr loudly. It’s a big
cat — you could feel the muscles — and he let me touch his belly.”
It required about seven months and 46 prospective designs to develop
and produce the coin, Kaminski said.
Numiscom also engaged the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia
during the project, which will receive some monies to further efforts
to protect the endangered animal.
The Proof 2-ounce .999 fine silver coin is the first in the Elements
of Life series, which will include two coins per year, all featuring
endangered animals. The program is dependent on cooperation from the
Brunswick Zoo and other sources, but the success of the first issue
has paved the way for the rest of the program, Kaminski said.
In working on the project, Kaminski found folks who have blue whale
and woolly mammoth DNA in their freezers, but she makes no promise
about what may be featured in the series next, other than to confirm
that it is a program with legs.