Easter Island Moai Coins
This month’s Non-Circulating Legal Tender (NCLT) column features a remarkable coin Easter Island Moai Coin issued by authority of the government of the Cook Islands, a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands in this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of 92.7 square miles but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 700,000 square miles of ocean. Most of the population lives on the island of Rarotonga, although there is a much larger population of Cook Islanders living on the North Island of New Zealand. Tourism is the country's number one industry, and the leading element of the economy, that also includes offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports. The islands’ defense is the responsibility of New Zealand.
In 2007 the Cook Islands authorized the issue of a Ten Dollar Proof silver crown featuring the Easter Island Moai, monolithic human figures carved from compressed volcanic rock called tuff, between 1250 and 1500 AD. Easter Island is one of the Polynesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern-most point of the Polynesian triangle. The statues' production and transportation is considered a remarkable intellectual, creative, and physical feat.
Traditionally, moai had heads that were three-fifth of the size of the total sculpture. Although carved as full-body statues, they are mainly referred to as “heads”. Designed in a minimalist style traditional throughout Polynesia, the statues feature the oversized heads, thick brows, elongated noses and distinctly protruding pouting lips.
What makes this legal tender coin unique, is the design as well as the subject. The reverse of the coin features a landscape of Easter Island depicting four moai, the legend “Chile - Isla de Pascua” (Spanish for Chile – Easter Island) and “World Monuments” as well as the Ten Dollars denomination. The moai in the forefront is a separate gold-plated piece that rests in a recessed depression on the surface of the coin. When removed from its resting place, the metal moai can be inserted perpendicularly onto the coin’s surface, creating a three-dimensional work of art. The obverse of the coin features the Ian Rank-Broadley image of Queen Elizabeth II, the legend “Cook Islands” and the year “2007.”