New Zealand puts Hobbits on their coins, commemorating the only interesting thing ever to happen there

Most countries’ currency depicts famous landmarks, war heroes, or political leaders, but in New Zealand, they choose their leaders via an annual sheep-shearing contest and its most famous landmark is Tom Reynolds’ hayride, behind the Forest of Yawns. So it makes sense that they’re putting Lord of the Rings characters on their money, to commemorate the only interesting thing to happen there since European colonization in 1769. Or at least, the most interesting thing to happen since the country’s lone Olive Garden (its first ethnic restaurant) moved out in 2007 (residents found it “too zesty”).

New Zealand is to release special commemorative coins depicting characters from JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit. They are being issued to coincide with the premiere of the Peter Jackson film of the book. The coins will be valued between $25 and $3000.

There will only be one $3000 coin, minted specifically for Bob Wilkinson, the “Sheep King of Christchurch,” and the country’s richest man. Some say he owns two TVs! Of course they’re mainly just for show, as New Zealand only has electricity for about three hours a day, during peak shearing hours.

The real cost of the coins depicting Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the wizard will be more than their face value, New Zealand Post reports. The most expensive one is made of pure gold and will cost around $3,000. The cheapest one will cost around $25.

The sale of coins is part of New Zealand’s campaign to rebrand the country “100% Middle Earth” to attract tourists. Special commemorative stamps will also go on sale.

There was even a push by the New Zealand delegate, Pete Pearson, to get letter writing recognized as an Olympic sport, writing letters abroad being New Zealand’s national pastime, followed by seed spitting and netball.

The original trilogy boosted tourists’ interest in the country. New Zealand is so Hobbit-obsessed it has decided to rename the country’s capital from Wellington to The Middle of Middle-Earth – a fictional site from the book for the film’s premiere. []

And in Parliament, Ministers aren’t allowed to speak unless they’re wearing the Gandalf beard, which each of the seven ministers gets to wear for a half hour each day. They introduce resolutions by rapping a long staff on Jim Mudgett’s backyard stump and chant “gollum gollum gollum” to vote against amendments. It’s truly a fascinating land of contradictions.