Niue issues Ali Baba, its first commemorative coin with a national emblem instead of the QEII effigy

Similar in appearance and concept to their earlier Journeys of Discovery issues, the New Zealand Mint’s latest antiqued coin series is called Legendary Tales. Moving from real history to story-telling and myth, the series has also dropped in weight from 2ozs to 1oz, so it’s eminently more affordable as well. The first issue in the series recounts the famous tale from Arabian Nights, of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – a classic story that has been adapted to film and television multiple times since the invention of the moving picture.

The coin does ape the Journeys of Discovery series as far as the base style goes and we’d be unsurprised to learn that the designer was the same. Packed with detail, although without a ‘hard-edged’ look, these depict a scene very well – almost woodcut-like. A patterned border surrounds the view, which, apart from a tiny composition inscription, is all else that sits on the reverse face.

It’s the obverse that will raise much interest with this one. Niue, as a Commonwealth country in close association with New Zealand, has always displayed the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on its modern commemorative coins. You can see that with releases from not just the NZ Mint, but also from others issuing for the country like the Mint of Poland, the Czech Mint and International Coin House, for example. For what we believe is the first time, Queen Elizabeth II is not present on a Niue issue, instead replaced by a coat-of-arms similar to those used by Tokelau and many African nations. Now we don’t understand this as being a wholesale move over, rather an optional one, but it does make a neat change from the ubiquitous effigy, although that effigy does give a weight to a coin that marks it as part of something larger. We’re all for change here however, and it’s good to see a choice. We’re sure many will be glad of the change.

Packaging is NZ Mint quality, which means very good and stylish, without being over the top. A landscape-format version of the book-style box this mint has used on multiple issues of late is both welcome and quite appropriate for the theme. Available today with a RRP of $85.00 USD, it has a mintage of 3,000.


One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Nights, from the first English-language edition (c. 1706 – c. 1721), which rendered the title as The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.

The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. Some tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Greek, Indian, Jewish and Turkish folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid and Mamluk eras, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (Persian: هزار افسان‎, lit. A Thousand Tales), which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.

This story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is included in many versions of the One Thousand and One Nights, which it was added to in the 18th century by Antoine Galland, who heard the story from a Syrian storyteller, Hanna Diyab. It is one of the most familiar of the “Arabian Nights” tales, and has been widely retold and performed in many media, especially for children, where the more violent aspects of the story are often suppressed.

In the story, Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter who discovers the secret of a thieves’ den, entered with the phrase “Open Sesame”. The thieves learn this and try to kill Ali Baba, but Ali Baba’s faithful slave-girl foils their plots. Ali Baba gives his son to her in marriage and keeps the secret of the treasure.

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
FINISH Antique
BOX / COA Yes / Yes