The National Bank of Kazakhstan has unveiled new silver Proof coins focusing on the country’s natural flora and fauna and especially on its aquatic wildlife. The new coins were introduced during a live presentation at the World Money Fair’s media forum in Berlin on the 4th February. Featured for 2023 is a particularly endangered species of perch found in Lake Balkhash, the Perca schrenkii is a species endemic to the Lake Balkhash and Lake Alakol watershed system of Kazakhstan. This sub-species is similar to the other two species of local perch and grows to a comparable size but has a slimmer build and is lighter in colour. Lake Balkhash itself has an area of about 16,400 square kilometres (6,332 square miles) and, as such, is the largest lake wholly within the borders of Kazakhstan. Its surface is about 340 metres (1,115 feet) above sea level and is easily identified from above with its gentle curve or sickle shape and jagged shorelines. Its length is about 600 kilometres (372 miles), and the width varies from 9 to 19 kilometres (5 to 11 miles) in the eastern part to 74 kilometres or 45 miles in the western part. Lake Balkhash provides fresh water in its western part and saline water in its eastern half.
Both the traditional strike and three-dimensional coins are produced by the National Mint of Kazakhstan at their facilities in Oskemen, East Kazakhstan, on behalf of the National Bank. The concept and design of both coins are the work and creation of Almat Bassenov, Chief Designer of the National Bank of Kazakhstan and Alexander Tranov, the General Director of the Kazakhstan Mint. The coin’s three-dimensional relief required over nine months of extensive research and trial, resulting in an unparalleled height of 17 millimetres off the surface. The process involves two separate entities of a surface or washer and a pin method which, when specially struck, results in the two pieces fused together and an extraordinary ultra-high relief strike.
As such, the design and state-of-the-art minting techniques enhance the appearance of the Balkhash perch emerging from the lake’s waters. To date, no other mint in the world has managed to duplicate these results. In addition to the exceptional relief and to enhance the design, iridescent colours replicating the scales of the perch have been added to the surface. To the right edge is the text BALQASH ALABUǴASY and to the lower left edge in stylised text is the perch’s’ Latin species name Perca schrenkii. The reverse side, which is shared on both the silver Proof and Prooflike cupro-nickel strikes, includes a motif of the indigenous flora and fauna etched on the surface along with the crest of the Republic of Kazakhstan seen superimposed over the motif. On the left side are the coins’ denomination of 1000 TENGE (silver) or 200 TENGE (cupro-nickel) and the year of issue, 2023. Around the design is the text denoting the issuer of the coin QAZAQSTAN ULTTYQ BANKI shown above and NATIONAL BANK OF KAZAKHSTAN placed below.
|200 tenge||Cupro-nickel||15 g||33 mm||Prooflike||20,000|
|1,000 tenge||.925 Silver||100 g||50 mm||High-relief Proof||500|
The Kazakhstan Mint advises the three-dimensional 1,000-tenge silver coins will be available from November 2023 and in very limited quantities. For additional information, it is recommended collectors consult the website of the National Bank of Kazakhstan closer to the release date.
Primary Focus on the Balkhash Perch
To draw attention to the disappearance of the Balkhash perch, the National Bank of Kazakhstan took the decision to issue a unique “Balkhash perch” commemorative coin. Kazakhstan’s Lake Balkhash is the 15th largest lake in the world, and, unlike any other lakes in the world, Balkhash comprises two very distinct parts which were created by nature. That is, the eastern half of the lake contains salt water, and the western half contains fresh water, quite a rare occurrence in nature. Lake Balkhash and coastal areas also have unique flora diversity, as most of the species are endemic. In particular, one of the lake’s endemic fish is the Balkhash perch, which evolved around 5-7 million years ago when it separated from its closest relative, the common river perch.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the peak of Balkhash perch was harvested, with up to 5.4 thousand tons of Balkhash perch processed each year. However, catches were noticeably declining, and by the 1960s, the Balkhash perch was completely depleted, no longer caught in Lake Balkhash waters. Scientists deduced that towards the end of the 1940s, the predatory pikeperch was introduced into the lake, and the resulting consequence was the pikeperch began to exterminate the Balkhash perch. To try and reverse the mass extermination of the Balkhash perch, other fish species were introduced into the lake in an attempt to essentially entice the pikeperch to switch its preferred appetite from the Balkhash pike. Unfortunately, their expectations were not met, and as a result, the stock of Balkhash perch has still not yet recovered.
In an effort to protect this species from complete extinction, the Balkhash perch has been listed in the red book of Kazakhstan. The problem of what may be the total extinction of such a tiny fish like the Balkhash perch raises legitimate questions of how humans can take more responsibility towards saving our planet and the many creatures we share our home with. Losing even one small part of the ecosystem, which has taken millions of years to be formed, may lead to problems down the road.