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Destination: Iceland



Whenever I visit a foreign country, I make it my practice to cherry-pick examples of that country’s coins from circulation. For an expensive visit to a foreign country, coins make an inexpensive souvenir that only costs you the exchange rate of your dollars. They also make a memorable keepsake of your visit and interesting conversation pieces with your numismatic buddies back home! Sometimes I save examples of the circulating paper money when I travel. However, paper money is convertible back to dollars, and coins generally are not.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Iceland for my daughter’s destination wedding to the man I now proudly call my son-in-law. At first, I thought the idea of a destination wedding was crazy, and I had to warm up to it. However, not attending this wedding was never an option. With that, my wife and I boarded an IcelandAir Boeing 737 in Chicago for Reykjavik. Today, this happy event is in my rearview mirror, and I would not have wanted it any other way. 

Iceland is a spectacularly scenic, volcanically formed island. For those who love hiking and outdoor activities visiting Iceland should be on your bucket list. While here, we also witnessed the northern lights. If you see them in the continental US, you don’t see them like you do here. The island is literally dotted with volcanoes, waterfalls, and glaciers. If you think you might like to take a dip in 40-degree weather, there are geothermally warmed pools like the Blue Lagoon. Before flying back to the states, my wife and I had a relaxing dip in what seemed like 80-90 degrees silica mineral water. 

Add the phenomenal wedding, and Iceland is like a romantic fairy tale. I am posting with the coins a picture of the black wedding chapel, the northern lights, and li’l-old-me in front of an inactive volcano! (Black is practical color as it absorbs the heat from what little winter sun there is).

The coins of Iceland come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 Kroner coins. They are simple in design, and except for the 1 Krona (Bergrisi the rock giant), they feature the four mythological guardian spirits of Iceland (Landvættir) on the coin’s obverse. They were first written about in AD 1220 in the Heimskringla (Old Norse kings’ sagas). Written in the pages of this book is the tale of a would-be invader of Iceland, devious King Bluetooth. King Bluetooth had a sorcerer turn himself into a whale to spy out the vulnerabilities of the island. At every corner of the island, the whale was confronted by a fiercely protective Land Wight. 

On the Eastern side of Iceland, the wizard whale was turned back by Dreki the dragon. On the North, there was Gammur the griffin. On the West, Griðungur the bull, and on the South, Bergrisi the rock giant. Needless to say, the wizard whale returned to King Bluetooth with an unfavorable report, and Iceland was saved from an imminent invasion. Today these four landvættir grace the Iceland coat of arms around a shield displaying the flag of Iceland.

As an island, Iceland’s economy is partially dependant on the sea. Featured on the reverse of the 1 Krona is a cod, the 5 Kronur, two dolphins, the 10 Kronur, four capelin, the 50 Kronur, a shore crab, and the 100 Kronur, a lumpfish. 

I am also including a link to a silver 500 Kronur coin commemorating 100 years of banknotes in Iceland. The obverse features Fjallkonan, “The Lady of the Mountain.” I have had this coin for many years in my seated imagery collection.

In the photograph of the coins, I have included the diameter, metallic composition, and the exchange rate of the Iceland Kronur. Below are the references I used to research the coins I brought home from Iceland. Gary. 











Recommended Comments

Very cool write-up! I am also a big fan of cherry-picking from pocket change when traveling abroad. I built my small but growing collection of modern coins entirely through that process. Please pass along my congratulations to your daughter and son-in-law! 

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