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Reverse Value divided by bird silhouettes Script: Latin Lettering: 5 MARKKAA

1983 Finland 5 Markkaa

A very cool, “common” coin.


Icebreaker ship on ice boulders above legend and year

Script: Latin

Lettering: SUOMI FINLAND 1990 M

Translation: Finland

Numista describes the obverse as “Icebreaker ship on ice boulders above legend and year”. Suomi is the country’s name (Finland), in Finnish.

Numista lists over 3,000 coins with ships. Refine that to standard circulating coins featuring “icebreaker” ships, and you’re left with just two. This coin, issued 1979-1993 by Finland, and its predecessor design, issued 1972-1978.


The coin features an icebreaker ship. These are a special class of ships that are designed to break even thickest of the ice and make some of the most inhospitable paths accessible to the world, navigating through the ice-covered waters, especially in the Polar Regions. The significant features that make the ice-breakers different from other vessels are its strengthened hull to resist ice waters, a specially designed ice-clearing shape to make a path forward and extreme power to navigate through sea ice.

While NGCs description is even briefer, it does give us the ship’s name: “Icebreaker “Urho”, date below”. IB Urho is an icebreaker built in 1975. IB in this case is the prefix for icebreaker. While prefixes are not universally used, some types of ships are particularly known by their prefix: SS for Steamship, MV for Motor Vessel, HMS for the Royal Navy (Standing for His Majesty’s Ship).

Named after the president of Finland at the time, Urho Kekkonen (President for five terms from 1956-1981). The Urho’s fore thrusters rotate inwards and push water underneath the hull when the ship is sailing ahead. Water flowing along the vessel’s sides helps to reduce friction between the ship’s hull and ice. The rear thrusters rotate outwards, causing the crushed ice to be thrust under the unbroken ice sheet and allowing the broken channel to remain open. The ship is also equipped with a heeling mechanism for difficult ice conditions. When the system is in operation, three pumps transfer water inside the hull and are capable of heeling the Urho by 13 degrees in 50 seconds.

The vessel is confortable too. It features two saunas, a swimming pool, a gym and a library. Foreign heads of state and high-level delegations have been entertained in the Urho’s lounge. The interior of the ship is decorated with paintings by renowned Finnish artists.


Reverse Value divided by bird silhouettes Script: Latin Lettering: 5 MARKKAA

The reverse features the “Value divided by bird silhouettes” or “Stylized flock of birds with denomination at top“. Neither fully convey how simple, and I feel, attractive, the design is. The birds, both incuse and raised, really make the design stand out, and the simple, uniform pattern give order. The value, presented in an indented, rounded square, provides another point of interest.

VisitFinland.com note that “The graceful white whooper swan is Finland’s national bird. Flocks of swans and cranes returning from their southerly wintering areas are welcomed by Finns as heralds of the much-anticipated arrival of the spring”. eBird describes it as “Immense swan of frigid northern regions; breeds on the tundra, taiga, and steppe and winters in marshy lakes and wetlands, often in wild areas.” Earthlife.net list the size as “average 4.6 – 5.6 feet (1.4 – 1.65 meters) in length. The male tends to be larger than the female, averaging 5.6 feet (1.65 meters) and weighing about 24 lbs (10.8 kg); while the female typically weighs 17.9 lbs (8.1 kg)”.

An image from www.mauritius-images.com of several whooper swans in flight.

So if you were wondering which side of the coin depicts a larger area, the reverse shows about six birds across X ~1.5m = 9 metres. The IB Urho is 104.6m long – so while those swans are large, the obverse view is nearly 12 times the size of the reverse. (Ok maybe only I was wondering that).

Partial view of the reverse of the 1983 5 Markkaa showing the birds on two levels, the value, and some of the edge text, which reads (in full): REPUBLIKEN FINLAND * SUOMEN TASAVALTA *

Here’s a side-on view of the coin, which shows the differing levels of the birds. Some of the edge text is also visible, although the focus is aimed at the birds. The full text around the edge of the coin reads “REPUBLIKEN FINLAND * SUOMEN TASAVALTA *”.

Which regular circulating coin design, from any country, do you find the nicest? I’d have trouble picking one, but I do like this one.

Reverse Value divided by bird silhouettes Script: Latin Lettering: 5 MARKKAA






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