Putting a person's likeness on a coin is a special honor usually reserved for presidents, statesmen and, in New Zealand, a queen. New Zealanders also hold some other characters pretty dear to their hearts — Tolkien's hobbits, elves and wizards.
It seems New Zealanders have grown quite fond of their otherworldly cousins, as their country has been doing a stunt double for Middle Earth for a few years now. That love is so great that they are putting these characters on legal tender coins. Even Gollum.
The release of coins and stamps is timed to commemorate the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Commemorative coins, tokens and stamps have long been a practice to honor people, places and events, but most are merely collectibles. The Hobbit, however, has made it to the big leagues — actual legal tender and mail-worthy stamps.
The coins start at $10 and run through to $1. The stamps are priced at $1.90. You'll find all the major characters there — from Gandalf to Gollum with some wise elvish saying (we assume) to boot.
Just think, these coins are going to be in circulation for years. New Zealanders could be putting Bombur, Bofur and Bifer into Coke machines for years to come, and they wouldn't want it any other way.
Even Sir Ian McKellen is thrilled, and as befits an actor of his stature he never even breaks character when he describes the honor to TVNZ, "To put Gandalf on these splendiferous coins is a wizard idea." He also seems pretty darn pleased with the stamp saying, "The pointy hat, the beard and the illuminated staff — the $1.90 NZ stamp is pure Gandalf."
Sure, there is an element of a marketing stunt to it all, but New Zealand is making a big commitment by putting their love of Middle Earth on real coins.
Just imagine if one day we woke up and found Captain Kirk or Han Solo on the back of a quarter? Then we'd be playing in their league.