The skeleton of a certain type of sea urchin is known as a sand dollar, and now the island nation of Palau has created dollar coins in the shape of sand dollars, including impressions of the lunules, the holes that help the creature stay on the sandy bottom where it feeds.
Private firm Coin Invest Trust on March 7 issued a Proof .999 fine silver dollar and a Brilliant Uncirculated .9999 fine gold dollar, each of which is shaped like the sand dollar it celebrates.
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Each obverse is inscribed REPUBLIC OF PALAU, 2017, $1, and SAND DOLLAR. The gold edition’s obverse features an outrigger canoeist and canoe above the shield of Palau. The silver coin’s obverse features an underwater scene of a mermaid and dolphins.
The reverse is modeled on the skeleton of the sea urchin, and is convex, like the surface of a sand dollar. On the gold version, the five lunules go through the concave obverse.
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Sand dollars are among the most popular tourist souvenirs. Beachcombers can find the sun-bleached skeletons of the sea urchin from the suborder Clypeasteroida on the beaches of nearly every ocean. The sand dollar owes its nickname to its resemblance in shape and size to the old Spanish and American silver dollar coins.
The Palau coins are struck using what the issuer calls “Smartminting” technology for the silver coin and “Big Gold Minting,” special technologies that allow detailed relief without requiring extra metal.
The silver coin weighs 31.1 grams and measures 50 millimeters in diameter. The gold coin weighs 1 gram and measures 13.92 millimeters in diameter. Both coins have a mintage limit of 2,017 pieces.