Look at that silver dollar. It’s really nice, isn’t it? In my opinion, it beats the hell out of our “gold” dollar coins. It also has an orca on it, and who doesn’t like orcas? Nobody, that’s who.
So it’s a nice coin. But who issued it? The “Principality of Sealand”? That’s not a country you hear about very often. Maybe it’s one of those tiny island nations in the south Pacific or the Caribbean. You know, the ones that have three people in the Olympic March of Nations like St. Kitts and Nevis or Tuvalu. Yes, that could be it.
Or maybe it’s a tiny World War II-era sea platform off the coast of Britain.
Formerly known as Fort Roughs, this abandoned sea fort was built in the forties in the English Channel as a deterrent to German air raids on the British mainland. After the defeat of the Axis in 1945, the British military left the fort behind, having no further use for it.
But someone else had a use for it. That someone was Paddy Roy Bates, a former officer in the British army turned fisherman turned pirate radio operator. In 1967, Bates occupied Fort Roughs after a two-year stint on another platform where he had run a pirate station. By this time, however, Bates had seemingly given up on the whole radio thing. He instead declared Fort Roughs a sovereign state, forever independent of the United Kingdom.
And he had the force to back it up. That year, Bates and his son fended off a rival group of radio pirates (?) and an attempt by the Royal Navy (!) to dislodge them from their newly founded nation by “firing warning shots” and brandishing petrol bombs. After being hauled off to England on illegal arms charges, Bates was released, the court having ruled that since Sealand lay in international waters, it was not subject to British arms laws. Bates took this as an implicit recognition of his new nation and established himself as the Prince of “Sealand”, writing a constitution and creating what the world would come to know as our first and most famous micronation – a small, officially unrecognized state created by a private citizen that holds more or less de facto power over its territory.
Roy Bates, seen here in the territorial waters of Sealand.
Bates’ ordeals weren’t over, however. In 1977, a set of German and Dutch “invaders” occupied Sealand and took Bates’ son hostage. Bates responded with a counterattack that ended in victory and his own capture of the attackers. A series of negotiations involving the actual German government followed, and the Sealand status quo was restored. This did not stop one of his German rivals from claiming Sealand anyway. Johannes Seiger, self-styled Prime Minister of Sealand, produced something most countries never have – an alternate set of currency made by a government-in-exile.
The Germany-based Sealand government-in-exile’s hundred dollar coin.
Prince Roy died last year, but his son has carried on his legacy. Sealand continues as an almost completely unrecognized de facto sovereign state, and it still issues its own currency – the Sealand dollar, pegged to the US dollar. The principality’s official website even offers citizenship and titles of nobility to those willing to pay for them. If you’ve ever wanted a fancy title, becoming a Sealand noble is probably the easiest way to get it.
Sealand is not the only micronation out there, however. Hutt River Province is almost as old and has a long history (relatively long, anyway) of producing currency.
The tranquil landscape of Hutt River Province, a micronation either in or surrounded by Australia. (Source: Orderinchaos, Wikimedia Commons.)
Hutt River’s founding doesn’t involve quite as much excitement, adventure or guns as that of Sealand, but it’s interesting in its own right. In 1970, Leonard Casley, a farmer living in western Australia, protested against a severe restriction placed upon the sale of his crop by the state of Western Australia. In the course of his protests, Casley formally seceded from his state, naming his new land “Hutt River Province”, and he sent letters to various Australian and Commonwealth officials, including the Governor-General of Australia. The Governor-Generalship is a basically powerless remnant of the British Empire; while the position still holds a lot of theoretical power, governors-general can no longer do anything without the consent of the heads of government of their assigned nations.
In this case, though, the Governor-General had a real effect on government policy. When someone at his office addressed Leonard Casley with his self-assigned title of “Administrator of Hutt River Province” in an official letter, Casley claimed that the British Commonwealth, and therefore Queen Elizabeth, had formally recognized the independence of his state. Casley then styled himself “Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province” to cement his sovereignty.
In practice, Australia could have crushed Casley’s little secession with hardly any effort. The Australian government probably realized that would be seen as an overreaction, though, so they more or less let Casley do his thing. Hutt River Province has existed as a micronation for forty years now, and Prince Leonard is still the undisputed ruler of it. And like any ruler worth his salt, he issues currency in his name.
Paper money of Hutt River Province. Apparently 20 cents goes a long way there. Also note the columns of swans and pigs.
The Hutt River dollar is pegged to the Australian dollar at a rate of one to one. Coins and banknotes are issued mostly for merchandise and publicity purposes, although visitors can presumably use them in Hutt River Province itself (this “country” offers visitor visas on its website.)
Hutt River’s line of currency includes a massive collection of commemorative issues, many of which seem to have nothing to do with Hutt River or even Australia.
This Hutt River five dollar coin features the father of baseball on its reverse for some reason. Maybe Prince Leonard is a fan?
Sealand and Hutt River are undoubtedly the two best-known and most successful micronations in the world. But they aren’t the only ones. Plenty of other micronations exist, though the great majority of them merely claim land and have no actual territory. Nor do they have the kind of “recognition” that Roy Bates and Leonard Casley managed to get for their states. Still, don’t let that stop you from declaring your own backyard an independent nation. It won’t actually mean anything, but it might be fun playing dress-up as a world ruler. And if you have a copy of Photoshop, you can even print your own paper currency!
As it turns out, somebody has actually done this. Kevin Baugh, a man living in rural Nevada, decided to declare his house and adjacent land the Republic of Molossia, a sovereign state ruled by President Kevin Baugh.
President Kevin Baugh.
As you might imagine, not too many people really know or care about Molossia aside from his neighbors and other micronation enthusiasts. President Kevin didn’t take over a sea platform by mounting an armed assault and fighting pirate radio operators. He didn’t even get “recognized” by a Nevada or federal official in an official correspondence. He just kind of declared himself dictator of his own house. This did not stop him from printing his own money. Appropriately, most of Molossia’s coins look to be modified casino chips.
The weirdest thing about Molossia’s currency, the Valora, is how it is valued. According to the state’s website, one valora is equal to the value of one-third of a tube of Pillsbury cookie dough. So far, no other states or microstates have taken up the Pillsbury cookie dough standard for their own currencies.