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Easter Island Moai Coins

Standing Stone Giants

A Cook Islands issue displays Easter Island's intriguing ancient statues in a unique format.

This month's featured coin is a remarkable 2007 $10 Easter Island Coin issued by authority of the government of the Cook Islands. The 15 small islands that comprise this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of just 92.7 square miles, but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 700,000 square miles of ocean. The islands are named for British navigator Captain James Cook, who sighted them in 1770.

Most of the population resides on the island of Rarotonga, although a much larger contingent of Cook Islanders lives on the North Island of New Zealand. Cook Islands is a self governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, which is responsible for the islands' defense. The country's leading industry is tourism, followed by offshore banking, and exports of black pearls and citrus fruit.

In 2007 the Cook Islands authorized the issue of a proof $10 silver crown featuring the Easter Island moai, monolithic human figures carved from tuff—a compressed volcanic rock—between A.D. 1250 and 1500. Easter Island lies in the Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern-most point of the Polynesian triangle.

More than 800 moai dot the island, and hundreds still stand with their backs to the sea. Although carved as full-body statues, they are mainly referred to as "heads," because traditionally, their heads are three-fifths the size of the total sculpture. Designed in a minimalist style customary throughout Polynesia, the statues feature oversized heads, thick brows, elongated noses and distinctly protruding, pouting lips. On average, the statues are 13 feet tall and weigh 13 tons, with the largest measuring 72 feet and 150 tons. How they were produced and moved has long been a subject of speculation and marvel.

The coin's subject and two-piece design make this Cook Islands $10 unique. The reverse features an Easter Island landscape and four moai, the legends CHILE-ISLA DE PASCUA (Spanish for "Chile-Easter Island") and WORLD/MONUMENTS. The moai in the foreground is a separate, gold plated piece that fits in a recess. When removed from its resting place, this moai can be inserted perpendicularly onto the coin's surface to create a three-dimensional work of art. The obverse features Ian Rank-Broadley's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Minted from 31.1g of .999 fine silver with an actual silver weight of 1 troy ounce, the coin is 38.6mm in diameter.

Mintage was limited to 2,500 pieces, and examples are just a stone's throw away on the Internet for less than $80. This unique and spectacular issue will enhance any collection of non-circulating, legal-tender coins.