coinsbygary's Blog

02 Nov 2020

The Danish "Mermaid" Coin

Coins-World | coinsbygary

The 1890 20 Kroner has a mintage of 102,000. It was minted in Copenhagen, as signified by the heart to the left of the date. The initials CS to the right of the date represent mint official Diderik Christian Andreas Svendsen. The coin struck in .900 fine gold weighs 8.9605 grams and has an AGW of .2593oz.

The obverse of this coin features a right-facing bust of King Christian IX. The initials HC at the base of Christian IX's truncated neck represent the coins engraver, Harald Conradsen. The reverse features a seated image of Dania with her left forearm resting on the upper rim of a shield engraved with the Danish coat of arms. Dania is seen holding a scepter in her right hand, representing Denmark's sovereignty. A sheaf of corn behind Dania represents Denmark's agricultural economy and its main export. Finally, at the feet of Dania, illustrating Danish naval prowess, is a dolphin, which denotes good luck and fair weather.

There is a saying, which asserts that a common perception can become a reality. For example, the wings on Liberty's headdress of the Mercury Dime signify freedom of thought. However, the public perceived the coin to represent the Roman god Mercury. Thus, the "Winged Liberty Head Dime" is forever known as "The Mercury Dime."

Another public perception born of a Danish fascination with mermaids applies to the Danish 20 Kroner coin, commonly referred to as the "Mermaid Coin." Now the image on the reverse of the 20 Kroner is clearly not a mermaid. However, it can appear that way in the imagination of the person viewing the coin by merging the dolphin's tail into the feet of Dania.

Denmark, as a maritime nation, would naturally be attracted to anything concerning the sea. Add to this the charm of seagoing folklore, and it is easy to see the connection between the Danish people and the "Mermaid Coin." Danish author Hans Christian Anderson tapped into the essence of this when he published the popular children's fairytale "The Little Mermaid" in 1837. Later in 1909, commissioned by brewer and art collector Carl Jacobsen, sculptor Edvard Eriksen fashioned a statue based on "The Little Mermaid." Now an iconic symbol of Copenhagen, the life-size bronze of "The Little Mermaid" sits on a rock in the harbor off Langelinie Promenade.

Here in the United States, most of us identify more with the 1989 Walt Disney adaptation of "The Little Mermaid." My daughter was only five when this movie first came out, and I remember her fascination with mermaids. I recall an instance at the grocery store with my daughter when we walked by a "Chicken of the Sea" placard in the tuna fish aisle. At the sight of the placard, my "Little Girl" pointed and said, "Daddy, Mermaid." Along with a picture of a mermaid were redemption coupons offering to send us a free stuffed mermaid in exchange for several tuna labels. Wrapped around my daughter's little finger, I tore off one of the redemption coupons. You can well imagine what happened after that. Let us just say that we ate a lot of "Chicken of the Sea" tuna for a while!

Many of the coins in my collection remind me of fond life experiences, and this coin is no exception. This coin reminds me of the cherished times I had with my daughter. One of the beauties of numismatics is that the interpretation of symbolic images is often in the "eyes of the beholder." While artists and engravers have their own ideas about their coins' symbolism, it all comes down to how you perceive the coin in your hand!

Pictured with my coin is a 1911 Edmund Dulac Illustration of the Little Mermaid and the Prince. Gary



Level 5

Pretty neat coin and such. What is the painting?


Level 5

The painting is the illustration I mentioned of the Little Mermaid and the prince.


Level 6

Really wonderful story and beautiful coin! Enjoyed it! Thanks Gary


Level 6

Beautiful blog Gary. Reading this made me feel good. I think I'll give my daughter a call. Nothing left to say. Thanks


Level 6

Amazing how names are applied to some coins. I enjoy learning about coins. This is a good story.


Level 5

Yea, any Dad of a daughter has been roped into at least one (or ten) buy this because of (fill in the blank here, almost always Disney's fault). Great breakdown of this coin and the different mint mark. I did not know that particular fact. Thanks for the wonderful blog. Later!


Level 5

Love this coin! i am not super into foreign coins, however I have heard of this one. What a beautify! Cheers, NM

I can't see the mermaid, but obviously, enough people did. I like the Danes' way of using a symbol rather than a letter to signify which mint it came from. A heart as a mintmark is quite curious. Thanks Gary!


Level 5

Beautiful coin. I see what you mean about our collection reminds us of life experiences. Some coins have special meanings to us because of where and when we purchased them. Every coin has a story itself and a story about us ! Thanks for posting a great coin and great story.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

These are interesting coins. I will have to get my Danish coins out and look at them in more detail. Thanks for inspiring me to do that!

It's Mokie

Level 6

I know that Chicken of the Sea feeling quite well. Our daughters do wield tremendous influence over us Dads. Thanks for sharing another outstanding coin story, I think I am going to have to look more closely at Denmark and Greenland in the future.


Level 7

Another wonderful coin Gary. Soon there will none left for us. Better yet I enjoy your breakdown of the coin and it's history. Unfortunately the man upstairs did not give me daddy's little girl. So I never got a chance to see the Little Mermaid. Mine were boys. I would not let her out till she was 60! The passion you have for these coins speaks volumes of the type collect or you are. A excellent one. I continue to read these blogs in amazement. There very interesting and at the same time enjoyable. And then the learning. Thanks my friend. For taking your time to educate us.

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