During its lifetime, The Royal Mint has struck coins for over 100 different countries from around the globe.
But do you know the story of how they came to strike Icelandic coinage?
The ‘inauguration’ of Iceland’s coinage
The story of how The Royal Mint came to strike Iceland’s coins began in World War Two.
After a night where the windows and roofs of The Royal Mint at Tower Hill had been destroyed by enemy action, the very first British-struck Icelandic coins were born as “a glacial wind whirled round the coining presses to inaugurate this coinage of Iceland” (explained by John Craig, The Deputy Master of The Royal Mint, in his annual report).
Prior to World War II, Iceland was ruled by the Danish crown and Icelandic coins had been struck by The Copenhagen Mint.
But the fall of Denmark into enemy hands during the war meant that Iceland had to look elsewhere for its coinage requirements…
First ever British-struck Icelandic coins
It was in 1940 that The Royal Mint received its first order to strike the five Icelandic denominations from 1 Eyrir (0.01 Krόnur) to 25 Aurar (0.25 Krόnur).
This was soon followed by additional orders for Krόnur and 2 Krόnur coins.
Not only did The Royal Mint experience damages to the building during WWII, but the price of nickel also rose substantially as the metal was in extremely high demand for munitions.
This meant it became necessary to strike the 1942 dated 10 and 25 Icelandic Aurar coins in the ‘poor metal’ of zinc rather than the now commonly used Cupro-nickel.
The new coins series
In June 1944 Iceland became a republic. A new series of coins were introduced in 1946, which remained in use for the next 35 years.
A full rendering of the national Coat of Arms appeared on the Krόnur and 2 Krόnur, complete with the bull, eagle, dragon and giant supporters.
Four new denominations were added in the late 1960s, including the 50 Aurar, 5 Krόnur, 10 Krόnur and 50 Krόnur.
Iceland’s first commemorative coins
Iceland’s first commemorative coin was struck at The Royal Mint in 1961 – a gold 500 Krόnur marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the scholar and statements, Jόn Sigurdsson.
Iceland became a free and sovereign nation in 1918 when the Union Treaty with Denmark came into effect on the 1st December. To commemorate 50 years since this historic moment, a 50 Krόnur coin was issued.
In its first year of issue in 1968, the reverse design of the 50 Krόnur included a representation of the Althing (Parliament) building and carried an inscription marking the 50th anniversary of the achievement of Icelandic national sovereignty.
In 1974, The Royal Mint issued a three coin series of gold and silver coins, designed by Throstur Magnusson to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland.
A major reform to Iceland’s coinage
The Icelandic financial market suffered hyperinflation in 1981, which was settled by a major reform of the coinage, resulting in a complete redesign and revaluation of the circulating coins.
100 old Krόnur was now worth just 1 new Krόna. As well as 1 and 5 Krόna coins, denominations of 5, 10 and 50 Aurar were also introduced.
The new obverses, in keeping with Magnusson’s designs, depicted the traditional protector spirits (“Landvættir”) of Iceland.
Each reverse portrays a variety of aquatic life, including dolphins, cod and northern shrimp.
As Iceland’s economy has been founded on fishing for so long, the pungent smell of fish smelting came to be known as “money smell”.
It’s great to discover more about different coins from around the world, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the stories behind Icelandic coinage are really fascinating.
If you’re lucky enough to have come across any Icelandic coins during your trips abroad, let us know in the comments below.
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