Posted on July 29, 2022
By Paul Vanguard, for BullionMax.com
I might joke a little in these articles, but when it comes to our inventory, I like to keep things serious. Silver American eagle coins, gold buffalos, that kind of thing. The gold and silver that hardcore bullion buyers look for. Precious metals essentials made easy, we said.
When we first launched this website, I made a solemn vow to myself: I will never sell a coin with a cartoon character on it.
On the other hand, supply must meet demand. That’s also called “staying in business.” After all, if there are enough buyers of a product, no matter what we think of it, who's to say they’re not serious?
Especially in times like these, when sovereign mints worldwide are struggling to keep up with orders, running their coin presses in shifts. Especially when we see press releases that claim, without irony, No silver shortage at The Perth Mint. (Then where the heck are the 10,000 silver kangaroos we ordered back in February?) When Coin Week is interrogating the U.S. Mint about their near-constant sellouts.
Well, we’re about to go just a little bit farther…
If you aren’t familiar with the term chibi, well, here’s a definition:
Chibi (ちび or チビ) is a Japanese slang word describing something or someone short. The term is widely used in Japan to describe a specific style of caricature where characters are drawn in an exaggerated way.
Or, a “super deformed style” of caricature, invented in Japanese anime and heavily imitated worldwide. Chibi caricatures have massive heads featuring enormous eyes and tiny bodies that usually look like they’d crumple under all that cranium. Bobbleheads.
Well, New Zealand Mint launched the chibi coin craze a couple of years back. Mostly, they’ve stuck to science fiction and fantasy themes: Lord of the Rings, Marvel superheroes, Star Trek and Star Wars. All minted in 1 oz of silver, all featuring the silhouette of the character portrayed, all colorized and all released as official legal tender of the island of Niue.
Here’s an example: Kylo Ren, Gandalf and Batman:
Honestly I was skeptical of this experiment. I really didn’t expect the same die-hard fans who line up for limited-edition sculptures of their favorite characters, or who stand in line at Comic Cons for autographs, would make the leap into precious metals.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Over the last two years, New Zealand Mint has released an astonishing 81 different chibi silver coins. They’re at the forefront of this particular trend in modern minting, and it doesn't look like it’ll lose this role any time soon.
Just to give you an idea of the scope, the very same Perth Mint that made the world's largest coin is now making a kawaii Simpsons Silver Coin series, very much like New Zealand Mint’s chibi silver coins.
By the way, "kawaii" means "cute" in Japanese – cute, often with a dash of the oddball or the unexpected thrown in. And these coins are no exception. Like NZM’s chibis, they aren’t coin-shaped, but silhouettes made of silver. They're called coins, but... aren't coins supposed to be round? Usually they are, but that’s just tradition. You’ll see coin bars and cubes, all sorts of shapes.
What makes a coin an official coin? Government sponsorship, Niue for NZM and Tuvalu for Perth Mint.
Perth Mint has a few quotes about this new (for them) style of coin, and I’m not entirely sure whose to pick. Let's go with Emily Dawe, Group Manager Marketing:
Our Minted Minis are a new, innovative design that represents all the creative and technical processes that have been associated with The Perth Mint for more than 100 years. The result is a fun, intricate character presented in the form of a uniquely shaped silver coin.
Clearly, the chibi coin collection is a proud hallmark in the Perth Mint's history. So why shouldn't it be a part of ours? To meet overwhelming demand for the metallurgical marvel that is the silver chibi coin, we've decided to make them part of the inventory, starting with the Bart Simpson chibi silver coin. You know Bart, right? But you've never seen him like this before...
The demand for these coins reminds us of the insanity of the NFT craze a little bit, with one notable exception: these coins have value. Real, intrinsic value – external to the eye of the beholder. They're minted in limited collections (2,500 for Perth Mint’s Bart chibi coin) of 0.999 silver purity.
Collectibles, precious metals or otherwise, tend to have some strangeness about them. Given the solid mintage behind the coins, it's really not all that over-the-top to have an oversized cartoon caricature painted on top of them. Kind of. Get them while you can, and add some much-needed kawaii to your super serious collection.
Paul Vanguard is a lifelong precious metals enthusiast and a proud member of the BullionMax team.