KAIRUKU PENGUINS. ART BY CHRIS GASKIN

With the continued interest in prehistoric life on coins, it falls to the New Zealand Post to find a subject yet to grace a numismatic, a giant penguin. With bones first collected in 1977 by Dr. Ewan Fordyce, a paleontologist from the University of Otago, New Zealand, it wasn’t until 2011 that a reconstruction was undertaken and details about the animal more forthcoming.

The penguin was dubbed ‘Kairuku’, a Maori word that loosely translates to “diver who returns with food” and its body shape is different from any previously known penguin, living or extinct. Dated to the Oligocene approximately 25 MYA when New Zealand was mostly underwater, the isolated rocky outcrops that made up the country at the time were perfect breeding and fishing grounds for the penguins.

One of at least five species of penguin attributed to the region at that time, it stood around 1.3m (54″) tall with a slender body and long flippers, but short, thick legs and feet.

This 1oz silver proof coin highlights the uniqueness of this extinct species. The design features an artistic depiction of the Kairuku next to a height chart, emphasising its tall stature compared with its modern-day counterparts, alongside an image of the Kairuku swimming. The rim of the coin features the Māori name, alongside the English translation: ‘diver who returns with food’.

Made from 1oz pure silver, this legal tender coin is the only $5 silver proof commemorative coin to be issued annually. With a mintage of just 1,500 coins worldwide, it will likely sell out quite quickly and can be pre-ordered now for delivery at the end of May.

2014-KAIRUKU-BOX

SPECIFICATION

FACE VALUE METAL WEIGHT DIAMETER QUALITY MINTAGE
$5 NZD 0.999 Ag 31.1 g 40.00 mm PROOF 1,500