The latest new series of coins debuts today from the New Zealand Mint, and in a break from nature or popular culture themed releases, we’ve got a fine history range to look forward to. Called Warriors of History, each coin is to be struck in one-ounce of fine silver, antique-finished and sporting some selective colouring. Apart from a one-off coin commemorating the men of Niue that fought in WWI, we believe this is the first time the NZM has combined colour with antiquing.

First to debut is a coin featuring one of the most recognisable group of warriors in all of history, the Japanese Samurai. While we’ve yet to see this one in hand, initial impressions are very favourable. The warrior itself looks well drawn, hopefully the rich colour will be done justice by the colouring application. The coin background is pretty impressive, being quite close in concept and execution to a favourite of ours, Numiscollects History of the Crusades series. Full of detail, it complements the main element very well. The word “SAMURAI” is inscribed top left in a well chosen font. The only other inscription is the coins composition, kept very small and unobtrusive, something we wish other mints would do as we see little need to have this in huge letters distracting from a coins design.

The obverse is the ususal Ian Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, also done in an antique finish. Her name, the date, issuer and denomination are also inscribed near the edge of the coin. Packaging is as well done as you’d expect from this mint, choosing a variant of the book-style design  that they’ve been using more regularly since its introduction with the Shakespeare coin from a couple of years ago. With a recommended price of $80.00, the coin will be available a week from today. We look forward to the next one.

COIN FACES

SAMURAI

One of the most famous military castes in history, feudal Japan gave rise to the Samurai. Formerly provincial warriors, the rise of the Shogunate in the 12th century brought them to prominence, where they remained in one form or another until 1868, when the Meiji Restoration formally abolished the feudal system. According to translator William Scott Wilson, an early reference to the word “samurai” appears in the Kokin Wakashū (905–914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of the 10th century.

The samurai were usually associated with a clan and their lord, were trained as officers in military tactics and grand strategy, and they followed a set of rules that later came to be known as the bushidō. While the samurai numbered less than 10% of then Japan’s population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in modern Japanese martial arts.

Swords are the weapons that have come to be synonymous with the samurai. Ancient Japanese swords from the Nara period (Chokutō) featured a straight blade, by the late 900s curved tachi appeared, followed by the uchigatana and ultimately the katana. Smaller commonly known companion swords are the wakizashi and the tantō. Wearing a long sword (katana) or (tachi) together with a smaller sword such as a wakizashi or tantō became the symbol of the samurai, this combination of swords is referred to as a daishō (literally “big and small”). During the Edo period only samurai were allowed to wear a daisho.

PACKAGING

As far back as the seventh century Japanese warriors wore a form of lamellar armor, which evolved into the armor worn by the samurai known as yoroi. These early samurai armors were made from small individual scales known as kozane. The kozane were made from either iron or leather and were bound together into small strips, the strips were coated with lacquer to protect the kozane from water. A series of strips of kozane were then laced together with silk or leather lace and formed into a complete chest armor (dou or dō). In the 1500s a new type of armor started to become popular due to the advent of firearms, new fighting tactics and the need for additional protection. The kozane dou made from individual scales was replaced by plate armor. This new armor, which used iron plated dou (dō), was referred to as Tosei-gusoku, or modern armor. Various other components of armor protected the samurai’s body, including the helmet kabuto.

Most samurai were bound by a code of honor and were expected to set an example for those below them. A notable part of their code is seppuku, which allowed a disgraced samurai to regain his honor by passing into death, where samurai were still beholden to social rules. Whilst there are many romanticized characterizations of samurai behavior such as the writing of Bushido in 1905, studies of Kobudo and traditional Budō indicate that the samurai were as practical on the battlefield as were any other warrior. Despite the rampant romanticism of the 20th century, samurai could be disloyal and treacherous, cowardly, brave, or overly loyal. Samurai were usually loyal to their immediate superiors, who in turn allied themselves with higher lords. These loyalties to the higher lords often shifted; for example, the high lords allied under Toyotomi Hideyoshi  were served by loyal samurai, but the feudal lords under them could shift their support to Tokugawa, taking their samurai with them. There were, however, also notable instances where samurai would be disloyal to their lord or daimyo, when loyalty to the Emperor was seen to have supremacy.

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MINTS DESCRIPTION

This new Warriors of History coin collection brings alive the stories of some of the most legendary warriors in history. This impressive first release features a coloured illustration of a Samurai in full armour against an engraved background of a ‘castle town’ with Samurai soldiers lined up for battle.

SPECIFICATION

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION WEIGHT DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE BOX / COA
$2 NEW ZEALAND 0.999 SILVER 31.1 g 40.0 mm ANTIQUE  5,000 YES / YES

MINT LINK

NEW ZEALAND MINT