WELLINGTON (AFP) - The Pacific nation of Niue has released new coins with images of Disney characters on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other - and no, they're not taking the mickey.
The solid gold and silver coins produced by the New Zealand Mint are legal tender in the tiny Polynesian island, although experts say it is unlikely any will be used as currency as the precious metal they contain is worth far more than their nominal face value.
"It would be the height of financial folly to buy one of these products and then redeem it at face value for a fraction of that value, although I'm sure any Niuean shopkeeper would be anxious to hold onto the coins if you did," New Zealand Mint chief executive Simon Harding told AFP.
Harding said the target market was the numismatics community, avid coin collectors constantly on the lookout for something different. He said a 1,000-coin run of one-ounce (28.3 grams) silver Donald Duck coins recently sold out in seven minutes.
The most expensive coins currently available are made from a quarter ounce (7.1 grams) of gold and feature a variety of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Minnie Mouse.
They retail for NZ$799 (S$797) although their denomination in Niue dollars is only US$25 (S$32).
Harding said the mint plans to release a Disney coin on Niue's behalf next month that contains one kilogram of gold. Details of the issue have not yet been released but the gold bullion in the coin is worth US$40,000 alone and only 28 will be made.
Niue, a tiny speck of land with a population of about 1,400 that lies 2,400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, receives a royalty on every coin sold, which is expected to deliver revenues of more than US$4.5 million over the next 10 years.
Hardin said it was a valuable income stream for the island and also helped lift its profile, potentially boosting tourism.
It is not the first time Niue has put characters from popular culture on its currency. It issued Star Wars coins in 2011 and last year released currency with characters from the British science fiction show Dr Who.
"They need to be legal tender to be officially recognised as a coin," Harding said. "Otherwise they're just a medallion or badge. It also makes them more collectable."