The Coins Of The Principality Of Sealand
Posted on 9/10/2015
Unusual world coins can be found in all shapes and sizes, from the guitar-shaped coins of Somalia, to the Swarvorski-Crystal enhanced coins of Canada. However, few of these have as interesting of an origin story as the coins of Sealand.
The Principality of Sealand is an unrecognized micronation located on an old offshore military platform 7 miles off the coast of Suffolk, England. The platform, which is officially named Roughs Tower, was originally an air-defense platform established during World War II. It took on new life during the early 1960s as a broadcast location for the pirate radio station, Wonderful Radio London.
On September 2, 1967, another pirate radio broadcaster by the name of Major Paddy Roy Bates (who called himself “Prince Roy”) took over the platform. While his station, called Radio Essex, never actually started broadcasting from the fort, this action would change his life forever. After realizing that the platform was outside of British Territorial waters, he declared the territory independent from Britain. The Principality of Sealand was born.
This independence was tested in 1968 after British workmen entered what Prince Roy considered his territorial waters. Warning shots were fired by Bates’ son, Prince Michael, which resulted in a summons to court on the mainland. However, the firearm charges were dropped as the altercation occurred outside of Britain’s territorial waters. Prince Roy considered this an acknowledgement of Sealand’s independence.
This independence was reaffirmed once again in 1978. Alexander Achenbach, who was then the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sealand, hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to help take over the fort while Prince Roy and his wife were in Austria discussing a possible business deal. During this coup, men with guns were lowered from a helicopter and took over the fort from Prince Michael, who was then held hostage in his own home.
After four days captive, Prince Michael was put on a boat to Holland. Once there, he contacted his father, and the two devised a plan to retake Sealand. This plan also involved a helicopter and guns, and in the end, the mercenaries were exiled and Achenbach was taken prisoner and charged with treason by Prince Roy. He was to be held until payment of $35,000 was received. The government of Germany petitioned the British for his release, but citing the 1968 court decision, Britain disavowed his imprisonment. Dissatisfied with the British response, Germany sent a diplomat to the platform who then negotiated Achenbach’s release. Since then, Sealand has existed peacefully in the North Sea.
Obviously, being located on a concrete and steel platform in the middle of the ocean meant the family had to be creative with ways to make money. Eventually, they issued legal tender (in Sealand) coinage which was sold at a premium. The first was a sterling silver ten dollar coin issued in 1972. More commonly seen, however, are the 1994 issues, including the two pictured below. All of the 1994 issues are of the same design, with the Sealand Arms on the obverse and an Orca Whale on the reverse. They were issued in a variety of metals and sizes, including copper-nickel, bronze, silver, and gold.
Most people have probably not heard of the Principality of Sealand or the altercations that led to its quasi-independent state. You can now share the real-life adventures of Prince’s Roy and Michael and even own some of their quirky pieces of numismatic history.