Northern Mariana Islands
The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), is a group of 14 islands in the North Pacific Ocean under control of the United States. Its capital, Saipan, was the site of some of the heaviest fighting in World War II. In 1947, in the aftermath of WWII, it was designated as a Trust Territory of the Pacific, whereby the U.S. was given supervisory control over the Marianas by the newly-formed United Nations. They began reconstructing the islands, which had belonged to Germany until the end of WWI, when it was subsequently placed under the administration of Japan by the League of Nations. Trusteeship effectively ended when a Covenant to establish a self-governing Commonwealth in political union with the U.S. was approved in 1975, and remaining provisions became effective in 1978. This process was finalized in 1986, when qualified residents of the dependency were granted American citizenship.

Upon initial research, I found a company called GoldQuest International Ltd (based in Hong Kong), which was selling a set of 10 coins: the obverse of each coin has the Islands' coat-of-arms, but the reverse are all replicas of American silver coinage (1921 Morgan Dollar, 1922 Peace Dollar, 1971 Eisenhower Dollar, 1993 Madison 1/2 Dollar, etc...). It's website is at http://www.goldquest.com/

In 2004 they issued this attractive 1 oz sterling silver Proof 5 Dollar coins as follow:

01. Fernando Magellan
02. Pope Paul II
03. Albert Einstein

The Marianas issued its first coin, a sterling silver Proof 5 Dollar coin dated 2004 commemorating the 453rd anniversary of the discovery of the islands by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. The attractive 39mm coin pictures Magellan's sailing ship on one side and the nations arms, which features an eagle, on the other. The controversial coin has a mintage of only 7,500 pieces.

The second coin which features the Pope on one side and the arms of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on the other. The coin has a mintage of only 5000 pieces and is expected to be popular. The Diameter of this Coin is 38.6mm

The Third coin possess a holographic (Stereogram) image of Albert Einstein showing this long tongue in and out and the arms of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on the other..

The above mentioned three coins, are also minted in 1/25 oz .999 Gold in the same year, which much smaller size. They seem to be "Legal Tender" coins issued by the "Central Bank of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands".  The only problem is that nobody in the islands seems to have heard of their Central Bank.  The money and banking of the islands is controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the U.S. dollar is the only legal tender for the islands. The Department of the Interior said it will investigate the legality of the issue. Anyway, these coins  are popular among the collectors. 

 
The Magellan coin is also available from Joel Anderson. According to him, the coin is already sparking some controversy. It is even the subject of a scoop in the April 19, 2004 edition of “Coin World”. The U.S. Department of the Interior stresses that the Islands' shadowy “Centralbank”, which authorized/certified these issues as “legal tender”, is without separate authority to do so. Their Office of Insular Affairs is investigating the non-existent Bank's “fallacious” declarations. The press secretary/public information officer/spokesman of the Island's Governor also insists that their claims are “absolutely bogus”.
I purchased by Albert Einstein 5 Dollar 2004 coin from Mr. Ingo Seemann of Westshore Coins and Collectibles (westshorecc@usa.net). He is the U.S. partner of Liechtenstein's Coin Invest Trust, the firm which commissioned these coins. Their site is at: http://www.coin-invest.li/index.shtml.

In 2005, the following year, some more silver coins of Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, have been minted, described below. These coins can be viewed at http://www.modernworldcoins.com/ under Oceania and Australia category.

01. 5 Dollars - Crop Circle (having a Colored Circle display).

02. 5 Dollars - Endless Love (Heart Shape Colored coin).

03. 5 Dollars - Shell & Pearl (white color pearl).

A company called National Collector's Mint (Port Chester, N.Y.) is also selling a much different private reproduction (1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle) at http://www.nationalcollectorsmint.com/, which on its reverse merely portrays a small, easy-to-miss depiction of the Islands' official seal/logo superimposed on the sun. I saw this coin advertised on television's ESPN!

In the Coin world there is a hot news of Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands "Freedom Tower - One Dollar Silver Coin", described below: 

 

Fines over misleading marketing of Northern Marianas Coins:

An American coin dealer that illegally used the Northern Marianas logo to sell its product has been fined hundreds of thousands of US dollars. The national collectors mint in New York has been fined $US 370,000 for engaging in misleading advertising in its marketing of the so-called "Freedom Tower Silver Dollar". The dollar was a commemorative coin that used the Northern Marianas logo. Last year on 03rd Nov 2003, the Northern Marianas government entered an agreement with a Wyoming-based coin manufacturer, Softsky Inc. to use its "star, stone and circle" logo on the coins.

The obverse of the coin features an image of the proposed Freedom Tower being built on the former site of the World Trade Center in New York, the United States national motto "In God We Trust", and the words "Freedom Tower, July 4, 2004." The reverse features an image of the former World Trade Center and the words "We Will Never Forget", along with a small symbol of a star on a stone pillar within a circle. This latter unidentified icon is in fact the coat of arms of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The CNMI had to suspend its contract with a U.S. based coin manufacturer in the wake of the court injunction imposed against the company in New York over alleged fraudulent acts. Gov. Juan N. Babauta said the CNMI is suspending its Nov 3, 2003 agreement with Softsky, which authorized the latter to develop and market commemorative coins. The governor said that the injunction entered by the state court of New York against Softsky on Nov. 10, 2004 alleges fraud and false advertising regarding its Freedom Tower Coins. "We are very concerned about these events. To date, both coins that have been marketed under this program have been fraud with controversy and, in the case of the Freedom Coin, apparent fraudulent action," said Babauta. A state judge in New York has reportedly found that National Collector's Mint Inc. engaged in civil fraud, false adverstising and deceptive business practices when it marketed its "2004 Freedom Tower Silver Dollar" for $19.95 in television and print ads. The company, which markets Softsky coins, reportedly claimed the medallions were made of nearly pure silver recovered from World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan as "U.S. territorial legal tender". The validity of this claim has not been confirmed. Distributors warn that the minting of the coin will cease once the quantity of recovered silver has been exhausted, and have therefore placed a limit on the number of coins that can be ordered per person. The coins are not solid silver, but are silver clad (0.0001 inch (2.54 micrometre) layer)). The New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer has said the Northern Marianas has no authority to issue a legal tender since it actually uses U.S. currency. And he added the coins were not pure silver but rather a cheap / inexpensive metal alloy plated with about one-tenth-thousand of an inch of Silver. Spitzer has filed an $8 million lawsuit against the Port Chester-based Company. On October 13, 2004, Spitzer obtained a temporary order halting the company from advertising or selling the coin. On November 9, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Cannizzaro ruled that the company had engaged in deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices, and ordered the company to terminate its misleading advertising of the coin.

Babauta said that his office is in process of evaluating the court finding. "When we have developed a complete record, we will make a final decision regarding our agreement. Until that time, you are not authorized to develop, mint, or market any coins utilizing the authorization of the CNMI", said Babauta in a Nov 12, 2004 letter to Softsky president Joesph Hartman. In terms of money remitted to the CNMI, Babauta said, "We are also evaluating our options in how to these funds should be handled". "We are not happy taking these actions but the events surrounding this agreement warrants this suspension", he told Hartman. Hartman came to Saipan last July to personally hand the "royalty fee" to the CNMI. Softsky has issued two $25,000 worth of checks to the CNMI from the proceeds of the sale of minted CNMI coins. Babauta said that the company was about to send an additional $110,000 to the CNMI as royalty fee. The U.S. Mint has said that advertisement for the Freedom Tower Coin appear confusing because the company (the distributor of the coin, National Collector's Mint) uses phrases such as "legally authorized government issue", "U.S. territorial minting", and "silver dollar". The production itself may also be confusing because it bears the inscription, "In God We Trust", which  Congress requires on all U.S. Coins, and the inscription, "One Dollar".

The New York supreme court has said the National Collectors Mint "preyed upon and exploited public sentiments concerning the the September 11 terrorist attacks and defrauded the public". Other groups have also released silver Freedom Tower coins, but not with a denominational value or advertised as government issue.

The CNMI coin was named "Stupid Investment of the Week" by CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) MarketWatch on September 24, 2004. In 2005, a similar coin to the CNMI Freedom Tower coin was sold, with similar design and the same claim of being made from silver "reclaimed" from the World Trade Center, but bearing the name of the Cook Islands instead of the CNMI. The Cook Islands are a self-governing democracy, and do mint their own currency (at par with the Australian dollar), though this coin is sold as "non-circulating".

 

 
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