TOKELAU SEALIFE (2014) by Highland Mint

A twelve-coin bullion series that issues a single design every year, Tokelau Sealife debuted in 2014 to a mixed reception. Buyers seemed to like the design, but there were soon comments regarding the quality of the prooflike coin circulating around the forums. This resulted in a change to a satin finish, seen as a way of minimising the look of flaws. Fortunately, the series quality picked up rapidly, keeping the satin finish until 2020, and while these are not struck to the same standard as a Perth Mint bullion coin, for example, they’re much improved these days.

Fortunately, the series, which looks at sealife around the Oceanic island nation Tokelau, has a solid artistic foundation, with each of the issues to date showing a fine grasp of the subject’s anatomy and habitat. Indeed, many would make good proof coins. Initially the brainchild of Perth-based producer, Treasures of Oz, the silver coins are struck in the US at the Highland Mint. It seems that the project is now fully handled by the latter company.

Just a single format makes up the series, and it’s the classic one-ounce fine silver one. There was a half-ounce variant of the Yellowfin Tuna coin with a 250k mintage, but that was the only one to appear, and we’re not expecting it to return. Treasures of Oz also produced 0.5 gram minigold proof variants of the first two designs as well, a format they do have a lot of experience with, but again, they haven’t continued. As for mintages of the main attraction, after an initial 500,000 units, we’ve seen a rapid decline as the overall market has changed. The producer is to be commended for adapting so quickly to the market.

The producer changed the core design of the series with the 2020 release, with a new obverse, patterned backgrounds, and the addition of a one-ounce gold version to run alongside the silver. Mintages that year were a much more palatable 20,000 silver and 100 gold, with subsequent silver releases down to 10,000 units. The series now appears more modern, with the excellent fish depictions remaining, but the satin finish getting kicked to the kerb. It’s also now an exclusive coin to US mega-dealer, APMEX.


The first issue, and the one that initially had quality issues. A nice design with a view of a fish not often seen on a coin as the perspective is hard to do well. No such problems here. Treasures of Oz, who launched this series, also produced a minigold 0.5 gram proof version, which does a surprisingly good job at maintaining the detail on the much reduced 11 mm diameter canvas. A half-ounce silver version with a 250k mintage also appeared the following year, but the size was not continued into future issues.

MINTAGE: 500,000


Another good design, while it lacks the flora that formed the background to the first coin, the use of a shoal of fish is far more sensible when we’re talking about a 1000 kg of missile-shaped killing machine. Quality seemed to be a bit more consistent with this coin, although not up to Perth Mint standards, for example. Again, Treasures of Oz issued a minigold variant, and again, it does a great job shrinking down the image with no noticeable loss of detail.

MINTAGE: 500,000


A step up in detail and quality for the third issue. There’s a lot of dynamism on show here, while maintaining a sound natural look to the fish. Easily superior to the first two, the drop in mintage to half that of the initial pair may help explain that. It seems at this point that Treasures of Oz lost interest in continuing with the minigold.

MINTAGE: 250,000


Keeping much of the enhanced level of detail, the Barracuda is superbly depicted here. It’s clear by this point, irrespective of quality concerns early one, that artistically, there’s little to complain about here regarding the use of perspective and the anatomical accuracy of the subjects.

MINTAGE: 250,000


For the fifth issue, we’re back with the sharks – this time a smaller and lesser known species from the usual coin favourites. The undersea flora is back again, reflecting the different behaviour of the Leopard Shark compared to the Great White. We’ve seen a few colourised versions of this coin doing the rounds, as we have some of the others, but we’re not fans of the idea unless they’re official issues. They aren’t. Besides, the clean version looks great.

MINTAGE: 250,000


Obviously, the first thing you will have noticed is the change in mintage. Eschewing the fight with the big guns, it takes the much more sensible approach of mixing it up with the low mintage crowd. It’s eminently more suited to that market. The Loggerhead Turtle is the only non-fish entrant in the series to date, but a welcome change given the series is dubbed ‘Sealife’ and not ‘Fish’ We’ve said this multiple times already, but the subject here is very well realised, exhibiting a natural pose and excellent anatomy.

MINTAGE: 20,000


The reduction in mintage for the 2020 issue makes this altogether more attractive, but the first issue in the second half of the series has some fundamental artistic changes that we’re of mixed mind about. The reverse, however, is a retrograde step in our view. The ‘net’ background and the overlaid text inscriptions have conspired to form a confusing mess that jars when compared with previous designs. The fish themselves seem well done and on point for the series style, but combined with the new prooflike finish, make this a definite step back in artistic design for us. Too busy.

MINTAGE: 20,000 (Ag), 100 (Au)


Continuing the new design style, this has the same positives (great anatomical accuracy on the subject), and the same negatives (busy background). It does look a decent overal and is an improvement on the 2020 coin, in our view.

MINTAGE: 10,000 (Ag), 100 (Au)


A nice looking design, no doubt aided by the beauty of the host subject, the Lionfish. The background patterning this time is particularly heavy, but on the whole, we think this remains an attractive release.

MINTAGE: 10,000 (Ag), 100 (Au)



The change to distribution also led to a fundamental change in design, and that also extended to the obverse. It’s a more complex looking design with its patterned border, but in other regards is pretty much the same.


COIN RANGE 2014-2019 2014 ONLY 2020-ONWARDS
DENOMINATION $5 NZD (Tokelau) $2 NZD (Tokelau) $100 NZD (Tokelau)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 silver 0.999 gold
WEIGHT 31.1 grams 15.55 grams 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 38.61 mm 30.0 mm 34.0 mm
FINISH Uncirculated Uncirculated Uncirculated
MINTAGE 10,000 to 500,000 250,000 100