FLAG OF PUUVILJAKOGURSAAR courtesy of Cristian Steinmann
Denomination Year Remarks
½ Koduraha 2005 some signed, some with ink spot, varies
2 Koduraha 2005 some signed, some with ink spot, varies
4 Koduraha 2005 some signed, some with ink spot, varies
1 Courant 2009 - hand numbered
All versions available. Click WEB STORE at right, please.
ABOVE, the One Courant (Rigsdaler). Release date, June 1, 2012
21 grams .999 silver but some weigh more. About 32 mm by 46 mm.
(click image for larger view)
Puuviljakogursaar is a Baltic island known in English as Fruit Picker Island. The island has a land area of 2 square miles. The island is shaped like a tadpole and mostly low lying with only one area on the west end of the island where the elevation reaches about 40 feet. The island has all the characteristics of a hallig, except for its location.
A hallig island is typically sand based and known to be low lying and subject to flooding from saltwater waves crashing over the island during severe storms. Most hallig islands are near the coast where seas are quite shallow. Puuviljakogursaar meets all these requirements except for location. It is in the Baltic in a shallow area of the sea.
As is the case with a hallig island, severe winter storms can flood such islands. With each year’s storms, sandbanks to the north and west of the island surface and then disappear. Most are very tiny and because of their nature, not considered permanent land. Most are only a fraction of an acre. Only one such sandbank with about 6,000 square feet has survived a number of years and arguments still take place in the mapping community as to whether it is an island or not. It is now mostly grass covered.
Of the 1,280 acres that make up Puuviljakogursaar, only 320 are dry all year. Several accounts all state that the 960 acres considered salt meadow are typically overrun by the sea during winter storms, although the 6,000 square foot sandbank helps to decrease the impact. One account says the salt meadow is covered by a small amount of water during high tide or about 6 hours a day. Since all other numerous accounts fail to mention this, we question this point.
The island enjoys a dome of pure fresh water just under the soil. Thus, crops grow robustly and fresh water is virtually limitless for the people.
Puuviljakogursaar has an interesting history. As was the case during the time, all land was owned by someone, typically someone considered to be royalty. As a result, the people living on the land had to pay 'rent' to the landowner. This meant the owner had to show up to collect and typically the landowner was hated by those living on the land. As a result, getting rent was not only a hassle but it could be dangerous and at least costly as you might need some protection. Once collecting rent became less profitable, the owner of Puuviljakogursaar made the islanders a deal.
The residents of Puuviljakogursaar accepted the terms: they would purchase the island for 4,878.75 Rigsdaler Courants . To purchase Puuviljakogursaar, the islanders cut down every tree on the island and even today it have no native trees. So, how much is 4,878.75 Rigsdaler Courants? A quick bit of research reveals a Rigsdaler is 4/37ths of a Cologne Mark. A Cologne Mark is 233.856 grams of pure silver. A Rigsdaler Courant was 4/5ths of a Rigsdaler. Using these figures, we can determine the islanders paid 3,252 Troy Ounces of pure silver for the island. or about 2.5 troy ounces of silver per acre. Even today there are no native trees on Puuviljakogursaar.
Those who study such, believe there were once many rocky islands in the region but as the sea rose, virtually all were covered by water. It is believed the waters have risen 400 feet since prehistoric times. This has left a number of ‘hazards’ for ships in the area, with sandy outcrops hiding below the surface. Piloting the vessels was part of the contract in the sale of the island. The piloting of the men of Puuviljakogursaar likely played a very important part in the development of many countries and settlements. Some 3,200 vessels went through the area in more recent years. Piloting earned the islanders a fair income, but piloting ended nearly 50 years ago. The islanders had been fishing the surrounding waters for years, giving them firsthand knowledge of the hazards to shipping.
Little is known of the early inhabitants. It seems that most felt the island was unworthy of comment or the islanders themselves chose not to leave a written history. It was not until 1721 that first mention was made, and even then, not by islanders themselves but a merchant ship that recorded being 'piloted' by an islander.
On Puuviljakogursaar every household farms, especially in the traditional sense. On the mainland, a farm included animals and growing crops, especially for self-sufficiency. This is indeed the case on Puuviljakogursaar. Every family has at least a large garden and a small orchard. Each family has some animals. Even more, the men fish the surrounding waters.
First discovered in the 1300s, it was not until the 1600s that a settlement appeared. In fact, maps from the Middle Ages show many small islands near Puuviljakogursaar.
At one point in the early 1800s the island was home to some 360 people. Severely overpopulated, the island was considered poor and meager. This led many young men to hire out to shipping companies. Many never returned. The poorer families, many times, opted to start a new life elsewhere.
With only about 160 people around 1900, a conflict began. Even though the population was small, the fishing community and agriculture based community were at odds with the other. In 1909 both communities declared each community as an independent country. While there was never a war, fights sometimes broke out and each community forbade the youth from having anything to do with the opposite sex from the other community.
The problem was not uniform. The man who ran the only dairy on the island sold milk and butter in both communities and was respected in both towns.
Puuviljakogursaar's hard feelings were washed away during World War II as both communities joined forces to fend off threats to their way of life. As the Russians advanced through the Baltic, the islanders were evacuated to Estonia, settling along the coast. The group pined for their home island and they returned as quickly as allowed.
The temptation of an easier life as experienced on the mainland caused some to move away, resulting in a diminished population.
After World War II, about 70 people returned to Puuviljakogursaar, dropping to 62 by 1961. At a population of 70 or less, the islanders felt their island was a land of plenty and the population was at a point where wealth and prosperity could be had.
The expansion of transportation was beneficial for the islanders who were so resourceful, they could find a use for virtually anything that washed ashore. Old lumber and crates got used in home building, for example. A barrel of strawberries brought fame to the island that grows what are considered some of the sweetest strawberries anywhere. Around 30 acres are planted in strawberries each year.
Additional acreage is devoted to cultivating wild berries of various types that seem to proliferate on the island.
The biggest problem for Puuviljakogursaar is transportation. The shallow seas and lack of harbors mean no scheduled transportation service. Products and people must be taken about 3 miles out to deeper water where a small boat can navigate.
Frequently merchandise must be tied to the sides of the boat to create enough room.
The 41 people who currently reside on the island live on the dry 320 acres and have even built up about a ten foot dike to separate the salt meadows from the permanently dry part of the island. Just as in earlier times, the islanders live in a village with the outlying lands being farmed by the members of the households.
In today’s world, the fresh water that bubbles above the salt water is tapped by shallow wells is plumbed to all the homes. Salt water is heavier than fresh water, so fresh water always rises to the top. A sewage system is in place and there are other modern services. Electric generators provide power. Heated water is used to heat the homes and the standard of living and quality of life has reached upwards to basic European standards.
This is not to say the community is not without a few hardships to overcome. The boat service to the island is too small to carry animals. Animals sent from the island are secured to the boat and must swim along. The small boat is subject to the rough Baltic weather and can be delayed weeks from its usual schedule. This is likely the reason the automobile never came to the island. Getting goods to market takes numerous trips. Getting supplies sometimes takes several trips. Even medical evacuation is a problem in stormy weather.
Today Puuviljakogursaar has 41 people living in the village, a cluster of homes with a store, restaurant, school and church, all on the southeast end of the island where a tiny harbor can shelter a few small boats, generally the size of a family’s fishing boat. There are about 60 buildings, mostly dating to the 1800s which includes the 20 farmhouses.
The retail business aside from the store and restaurant is confined to home businesses. These small businesses are typically a room in a home with an outside door. Browsers simply enter the room, shop and should they make a purchase, they simply put the money in a box by the door.
The people, tracing their ancestry to Swedish roots. The population is considered multilingual speaking mostly Swedish, Estonian and another language. A few are fluent in English.
The people of Puuviljakogursaar are resourceful, free-thinking and self-sufficient. They have developed an amazing character and a very positive sense of community and unity. The islanders have learned to work with what is available and frequently recycle an item for several uses. There is almost no waste.
Large gardens and orchards surround the village. Fences are not found here and even the visitor can meander through although picking a piece of fruit or vegetable without permission is considered to be in very poor taste. As is the case in small societies, extreme respect for one’s property is required to keep the community at peace. This is not to say the islanders are not friendly and giving. In fact they are, beyond the usual, but there is a protocol.
Areas of the island are unpopulated, being used for grazing, while portions of the island are allowed to produce wild berries. Private lands are set aside for strawberries and foods for local consumption. Some fishing is done.
Today Puuviljakogursaar has no roads, no cars and little contact with the outside world. The island is not very interested in tourism.
The only resources of the island are the wild berries, strawberries, fish and dairy products that are traded mostly for staples and goods the islanders need. Some direct to market sales happen. In 2008 the value of all exports was $2.453,850 US Dollars.
Puuviljakogursaar does have a resident nurse with clinic with 4 beds. There is a small school, a single room 32 feet by 32 feet, where the 17 students are schooled by one teacher who teaches lower grades in the morning and higher grades in the afternoon.
There is a community building that is a 'barn' according to one report that doubles as a Church.
Puuviljakogursaar has had an interesting history involving money. Currencies of nearby countries were never a factor on the island. Early money included a beautiful green stone that may have washed ashore.
Wood was considered somewhat like gold after the island was deforested. Small wood tokens were known.
It is thought colored glass discs may have been found at one point until around World War I. Coming in several shades of yellow, blue and green, the small smooth glass pieces were highly prized and used as a currency although the deep green stone held more value.
After World War I, an old-timer on the island told about small, thin brass coins with only a numeric denomination punched into the metal. These circulated for many years.
Mostly after World War II, paper notes became common. There were several issues of paper notes. Back when both communities were independent of one another, paper notes made of almost any available paper circulated for limited times. These were as simple as a handwritten amount and authority that issued the note. After World War II, paper notes were mostly handmade showing the account of payment. The note would claim a monetary amount issued to a specific person for goods or service performed by the guarantor of the payment. These were dated. In essence, void of a bank, these were checks. Later notes were as simple as simply the amount and the word Puuviljakogursaar printed on paper.
Puuviljakogursaar has issued several denominations over the years. These include Koduraha notes that were issued through 2005.
By 2007, the governing council chose to return to their monetary roots, the Rigsdaler Courant or Courant (the ‘short’ name). Taking after the earlier days of Puuviljakogursaar, the Rigsdaler Courant is worth 21 grams of pure silver.
The Courant is divided into 96 Skilling.
Notes have been issued in 1, 2 and 5 Skilling in recent years. Wood tokens in the same values have appeared.
We understand in 2009 notes in 1/8, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 100 Courants are to be issued. Coins are to be minted at 1 Courant.
The notes and coins are non-convertible off the island.
One note regarding Puuviljakogursaar Rigsdaler Courant values, the historic Rigsdaler had various conversions. Before 1800, the Rigsdaler had two values. The lesser of the two was made up of 96 Skilling while the more valuable Rigsdaler was worth 120 Skilling, meaning the value of the Skilling remained constant. The original Rigsdaler, prior to deflation, was worth 4/37ths of a Colonge Mark.