A phenomenon that has travelled far from its Japanese homeland, Chibi (ちび or チビ) is slang for short and is applied to various pop culture genres today. Chief amongst those are the small, chubby caricatures with their small bodies and over-sixed heads – also called super-deformed (SD). A popular style in anime and manga, and also with the Funko figures that are seemingly everywhere these days, we’re actually surprised the concept has taken this long to hit the numismatic world.
If anyone was going to do it, it would be pop-culture innovators the New Zealand Mint, who have an extensive catalogue of media franchises under their wing. These are perfect subjects for the Chibi treatment and the first to get reimagined was cult superhero, Batman. Rather than go with the dour character from the excellent Nolan movies, the mint sensibly took a more comic-orientated approach, with some similarities to the style popularised in the camp Sixties TV series. The follow up coins are equally whimsical and manage to be both an extreme caricature, and easily recognisable.
This was the first of the DC Comics Chibi Collection, which was soon joined by a Harry Potter series, and then a Star Wars one. Each coin is numbered as part of its own collection, rather than as a unified Chibi series as a whole. Given the accelerated release schedule, that’s probably a wise decision. At the time of publication, there are five issues available, with two coming from Potter, two from DC and one from Star Wars, and there’s another DC character imminent. Amazingly given the near $100 USD price tag per coin, the mint has plans to issue eleven coins in the next twelve weeks. Uniquely, the mint has teased silhouettes of the upcoming issues, which we’ve had a go at identifying, but bear in mind they’re our guesses (except for Flash, and some are obvious).
Each shaped coin has a standard obverse design. The usual Ian Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II and the surrounding inscriptions marking this out as a Niue issue. The presentation is also as neat as you would expect from a mint known for the quality of it, the box allowing for easy display and being heavily themed for each issue. It’s a 1 oz fine silver coin and has a mintage of 2,000 pieces. Early releases have sold very briskly, with Batman and Darth Vader particularly showing some excellent initial price appreciation. It is possible the intensive release schedule might harm that a little, but it remains to be seen. An excellent idea, expertly realised and quite unique. Couldn’t really ask for more.
NOTE: The coins are listed in order of release, but each header is colour-coded to which of the three series it belongs. (Blue = DC, Purple + Potterverse, Green = Star Wars)