World Coins

Pobjoy Mint shows sperm whale on coins

The Pobjoy Mint has issued collector coins showcasing the sperm whale to mark the 165th anniversary of the publication of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Coin images courtesy of the Pobjoy Mint.

To celebrate the 165th anniversary of the publication of Moby-Dick, the Pobjoy Mint has issued a whale of a coin — literally.

The private mint has released Uncirculated copper-nickel and Proof .925 fine silver crown coins, each depicting a sperm whale, the type of prey around which author Herman Melville crafted his famous tale.

The reverse of the coin features a sperm whale swimming in Antarctic waters with the sun shown setting behind the icebergs. 

The obverse features a new effigy of Queen Elizabeth II that is used exclusively by Pobjoy Mint.

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The story, first published in London Oct. 18, 1851, recounts the obsessive quest of Capt. Ahab and the hunt for the albino sperm whale that destroyed his ship and severed his leg at the knee during a previous voyage. Whaling is, of course, the focus of Moby-Dick, but it is said that this is simply a metaphor for existence.

From the early 18th century through the late 20th century, this species was a prime target of whalers. 

The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps, and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from the animal's digestive system, is still used as a fixative in perfumes.

The species is now protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), or cachalot, can be found anywhere in the open ocean and are easily recognized by their massive heads and prominent rounded foreheads, according to the Pobjoy Mint. They have the largest brain of any creature known to have lived on Earth.

They are also known to dive as deep as 1,000 meters in search of squid to eat. To accomplish this, whales may have to hold their breath for up to 90 minutes.

The British Arctic territory has released fewer than 20 coins, including these Moby-Dick commemoratives, according to the Pobjoy Mint.

Both coins weigh 28.28 grams and measure 38.6 millimeters in diameter.

The copper-nickel coin has an unlimited mintage and the pieces retail for $16.95 each.

The silver coin is limited to a mintage of 10,000 pieces and retails for $65 each.

For more information, or to order the coins, visit the Pobjoy Mint website.

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