Somalian African Wildlife Series Coins
These coins – bearing the name and armorial achievement of the Somali Republic, but struck in Munich mint – are something of a mystery, due to their uncertain status as legal tender. It is possible that they are authorized currency, and equally possible that they are just extremely well-made silver rounds. In the blood-drenched confusion, misery, and poverty of Somalia, it is impossible to determine what the rightful government consists of, and whether or not these coins were commissioned by it.
Buying the Somalian Silver African Wildlife Series
Regardless of their strange provenance, the Somalian Silver African Wildlife Series are high quality bullion coins minted with the latest techniques, and feature magnificent artwork as well. They contain the correct amount of silver, possessing a .999 fineness, and are a good investment both as a store of value and as a moderate collectible. They are likely to appreciate in value further, especially if the series comes to an end and makes the existing coins even more rare than they are.
These coins are available today only through secondary dealers such as APMEX (the American Precious Metals Exchange), but given the reliability and effectiveness of these dealers, this is not really a problem. Needless to say, there are no official Somalian sources where they can be purchased.
Characteristics of the Somalian Silver African Wildlife Series
The Somalian Silver African Wildlife Series seems to have existed since 1999 and has been produced every year up to and including the current year, 2011. These coins are standard-sized silver bullion coins, 1.6 inches (40 mm) in diameter, and weighing in at 1 troy ounce (31.1 grams) of 99.9% pure silver. They are struck to the highest modern standards, with a beautiful proof-like finish, and crisp, extremely detailed imagery. The edges of all the coins are reeded.
The obverse of these coins bears the armorial achievement of Somalia – a horizontally striped shield bearing a single star, supported by two leopards rampant. A ribbon wrapped around two crossed spears, as well as two crossed palm fronds, appear below this emblem. The words “Somali Republic” appear in English at the top of the coin; the date, broken into two parts of two digits each, flanks the central design; and the legend “100 Shillings” appears at the bottom of the coin.
The reverse of all Somalian Silver African Wildlife coins bears the image of one or more African elephants, as well as the legends “African Wildlife” and “Elephant – 1 oz Ag 999”. The specific designs for the years since 1999 include the following images:
- 1999: a mother African elephant helping her newborn calf to stand against a background of long grass.
- 2000: an old, wrinkly African elephant bull standing amid long grass, looking to the left.
- 2001: a mother African elephant placing her trunk protectively against the side of her calf.
- 2002: two elephants standing face to face, with only their heads and shoulders visible.
- 2003: two elephants standing side by side underneath trees, with one elephant reaching up with its trunk to pull off a branch.
- 2004: a bull elephant, his ears spread in menace, preparing to charge at the viewer, with underbrush flanking him.
- 2005: the head and shoulders of an African elephant preparing to pluck a branch and eat the leaves, with small, stylized trees in the background.
- 2006: a trumpeting elephant standing on the shores of a lake, with a snow-capped mountain – presumably Mount Kilimanjaro – in the background.
- 2007: a mother elephant and her calf relaxing beneath palm trees.
- 2008: a mother elephant and her calf with a herd of four elephants walking in the background.
- 2009 and 2010: these coins bear the image of a trumpeting bull elephant against a backdrop of the sun rising or setting behind a cluster of savannah trees.
- 2011: this coin shows a mother African elephant and her calf on the savannah with the sun overhead, and several trees in the distance.
History of the Somalian Silver African Wildlife Series
The African elephant is one of the most majestic land animals still to walk the face of the Earth – and yet, despite its size, prowess, and keen intelligence, still manages to retain a certain roly-poly charm. Elephants are unmistakable beasts, with their long ivory tusks, large ears adapted to radiating heat in their tropical and subtropical environments, bulky bodies clad in grey, hairless, three inch thick hide, and strange trumpeting call. Humans have had an interest in these beasts since antiquity, and it is not difficult to imagine why, since they are so distinctive and so massive.
The Carthaginians made use of the elephant in war, as did the Successor States which followed the collapse of Alexander the Great’s empire. These elephants were a forest subspecies of the African elephant, slightly smaller and more tamable, but still illustrate humanity’s fascination with elephants and their efforts to make use of the animals’ strength and durability for war, labor, and even just display.
From being a formidable, if somewhat unreliable, weapons system, the elephant became first a circus attraction, and now an endangered species poached for its ivory. However, the elephant remains the most spectacular creature to be found in Africa, outdoing even lions, giraffes, gorillas, and rhinoceroses as the most unique creature of this tropical continent. The African bush elephant is the largest elephant species in the world today, weighing up to ten tons (9,000 kilograms) and standing 13 feet (4 meters) high.
A series of Somalian Silver African Wildlife coins exist which make use of the image of an African elephant for their reverse decoration. However, although these coins are genuine in the sense that they really are 1 troy ounce of .999 fine silver, and are minted with great precision and skill, there is some doubt as to whether they are really authorized by the Somalian government, or whether they are simply silver rounds produced by a German mint.
Regardless of whether or not these are authorized currency, there is no doubt that the coins are struck in Germany, which explains their high quality – or their existence at all, since it is highly doubtful that Somalia’s government has the resources to purchase a modern coining press, or the trained technicians and mint personnel necessary to operate it well enough to make these proof-quality coins.
Conflicting information exists about whether these coins were authorized by the Somalian government. A letter of authorization exists, signed by one Babatunde Bobulobolou, authorizing the minting of 1 troy ounce coins with the face value of 100 Somalian shillings, but this document is of somewhat dubious origin. Another letter, purportedly from Bashir Issa, Governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, denies the authorization and states that the coins are not legal tender in Somalia.
This very confusion, of course, makes the coins more intriguing and increases the appeal of the items to many collectors. The coins are undoubtedly of very high quality and are made out of 99.9% pure silver, just like bullion coins are supposed to be. Their place of minting is Germany, with the Bavarian State Mint in Munich carrying out the actual striking of the coins. They are issued annually in much the same manner as other bullion coins, and feature unique designs each year to make them more appealing to collectors.
But nobody is certain whether or not they are genuine Somalian coins, authorized by the Somalian government, which – together with their attractiveness – makes them some of the most unusual coins available today, and ensures that they command a fairly high premium over spot. The fact that Somalia is in a seemingly permanent state of collapse, with incessant civil war and uncertainty about which governments may exist and which are or are not legitimate, adds further to the mystery.