Spitsbergen 1-RUBLE (X#Tn12) Polar Bear
Although Spitsbergen is a Norwegian territory, these are Russian coins minted in St. Petersburg for Russian coal miners working on the island.
The Polar bear aka Ursus maritimus looks quite formidable, and quite shaggy. That could be the northern lights pictured on either side of his head. Or, it could be the very air freezing in place because it is so freaking cold. The map the bear stands over looks like the entire Svalbard archipelago. This is a beautiful coin.
There were three series of Spitsbergen coins minted in 1946, 1993, and this series in 1998. While the first two series apparently did circulate among the workers of the Arktikugol mining company, this 1998 series probably did not. The 1998 coins were previously listed in the regular Krause catalogue, but were subsequently removed, probably because it was determined they were never intended for circulation. (They are listed in Krause's "Unusual World Coins" book.) However, they are too cool to leave out of the Coin Zoo.
The inscription on the obverse reads 'Spitsbergen' over top of the Polar bear. The word on the reverse is 'Arktikugol' (Arctic Coal).
- Diameter: 22 mm
- Composition: Aluminum-Bronze
- CAT#: X#Tn12