New Zealand is attempting to cash in on the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films with a set of special-issue coins featuring Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and other characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic.
New Zealand Post, which is issuing the coins, is aiming for the collector market with the most expensive of the coins: made from one troy ounce (31.1 grams) of pure gold and selling for $3,695 NZ ($2,957 Cdn).
A set of three gold coins — depicting Gandalf, Bilbo and Thorin Oakenshield — sells for $10,995 NZ ($8,798 Cdn), but each coin will bear a face value of just $10. The rim of each coin is inscribed in both English and Dwarvish with the words "Middle-earth — New Zealand."
The cheapest coins in the series have a $1 face value, but will retail for $29.90 NZ ($23.93 Cdn) each. In addition to an image of Bilbo shown reading his contract to become a burglar, other $1 coins depict Oakenshield, Gandalf and Radagast together and three of the 13 dwarves in scenes from the film.
All of the coins will be legal tender in New Zealand.
"Middle Earth" readies for film premiere
Set for release Nov. 1, the coins will be available internationally and are part of a publicity campaign aimed at rebranding New Zealand as "100 percent Middle Earth."
The first of three planned Hobbit films, based on Tolkien original novel, will debut Nov. 28 in Wellington. The New Zealand capital is changing its name to "The Middle of Middle Earth" for the occasion.
The films star British actor Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, as well as Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Barry Humphries, Stephen Fry and Billy Connolly.
Director Jackson previously made the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Between 2001 and 2004, the series gave a huge boost to New Zealand tourism, the nation’s second-largest industry after dairy products. With its domestic economy stagnant, New Zealand hopes the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will return attention focus attention on its outstanding scenery.