Concealed in darkness for a fraction of the year, quite possibly the most dangerous terrain and bearer of the most vicious elements, Antarctica has long been the viewed as a land unknown. Explorers have been seeking understanding and knowledge well before Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen either died trying to stake claim or succeeding in doing so for their country in the South Pole. Yet these harsh conditions and the little scientists have stumbled upon throughout the decades, has created a love and fascination beyond boundaries for even the most novice of nature lovers. The love one man held for this nationless region inspired what is hands down the most beautiful of all paper currency known to the modern world.
In 1992, David Hamilton, a mountaineering and expedition expert sprouted what proved to be a fruitful fundraiser for the researchers in the frozen mass. The notes are the beholders of some of the beautiful vistas and extraordinary inhabitants Hamilton had encountered during his trips to Antarctica. 80% of the proceeds are donated to the scientists and humanitarians towards their efforts to gain as much knowledge as possible in a land with so much to be discovered.
Releasing the notes through the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office in collaboration with the United States, Great Britain (amongst others), the first series was placed on the market in 1996. In total six different denominations would be produced ($1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $100), each one providing a glimpse into a winter wonderland in which the masses would otherwise continue to dream of.
Scenes of Adelie penguins nesting with their offspring or diving into the frigid waters, Emperor penguins donning their notable yellow and orange markings, or the crabeater seal basking in the warmth of the suns rays. Along with Antarctica’s natural inhabitants collectors and admirers are also transported for a moment in time to this whimsical ice frontier with images of the fjords and recreations of Antarctica’s history.
While each denomination is sold at face value and redeemable through the AOEO for United States equivalent, so long as they are exchanged by their expiratory date, they otherwise hold no value in the monetary world. Yet throughout the better part of 2 decades, the 80% of proceeds gained through sales and then donated to the brave scientists and their efforts has been undeniably large. We know more now than ever before due in part to one mans brilliant idea and seamless execution of production.
Bellevue Rare Coins has recently had two notes passed into their hands and they are truly a must see. Both from the 1999 series, one being a $1 note; the obverse hosting details of Peterman Island and a colony of penguins absorbing as much heat from the days sun as possible at the waters edge, all around them the snow covered rocks peaking out of the frozen ice. Two of the said fowl in the middle of the group are shown with necks outstretched; seemingly communicating with one another in the manner for which they are known.
The other a $2 note reflecting on a mother Adelie penguins love and protection of her offspring as they gaze out into their surroundings from the comfort of the rocks or nest. On the reverse is the flag of Antarctica along with the flag of New Zealand located on the bottom left corner. The intricate detail and exquisite designs make for fine items to add to any collection.