Tag Archives: coins

Back to Blogging

It snowed today. Again.

The other news for the day is that after a break of six days I am back to blogging. Has it really been 6 days?

It started with a hectic night. As it approached midnight I was still busy and decided I’d miss a night rather than just throw a few words at the page. Next night it was easier not to write a post and suddenly not writing blog posts became the new norm.

When the kids used to attend a dojo regularly to train in aikido the instructors always used to say that it only takes two weeks to break a habit. From what I’ve seen in the last week, you can probably break a habit in three days.

I was surprised that, after a thousand posts, I could just stop, though I think there were other factors at work. In the past it’s really annoyed me to miss a post, but this time it was actually a relief. Part of the problem, I think, was that I’ve been finding it difficult to adjust to regular employment, For twenty-five years I’ve been used to planning my own time and making my own decisions (apart from the ones Julia takes for me) and it’s a bit tricky adjusting.

I’ve also been adjusting to new, repetitive, tasks in cramped conditions, which seems to have brought on a new crop of aches and pains. Six hours a day moving coins round may not seem the most onerous of jobs, but the weight mounts up. Honestly.

After a week sorting pennies (we had nearly a ton of pennies to sort this week) and counting  foreign currency, I’ve shifted a fair amount of weight. Much of it has been moved whilst sitting in unsuitably hunched positions. We also bought in a large quantity of modern 50 pence pieces, including two of the famous Kew Gardens coins.


The new shop may have more room than the old one but it still isn’t built for comfort. However, it’s a lot better than the old one, and BT may, just possibly, connect the internet sometime soon…

Our other problem is that, with a shared front door people think we are closed, and several have gone into the Indian Takeaway by mistake. You would think the presence of a menu, and absence of coins, would give them a clue, but one spent nearly five minutes in there.


Next week we are going to buy a sign that days “Open”.


Sifting Through History

It was an interesting day yesterday, starting with sorting out several boxes of Royal Mint proof sets. It moved on to refilling the decimal coin albums – the £2s, the £1s and the 50 pences. You can’t knock it, because it’s getting people involved in coin collecting and going through the change in their pockets. That’s how I started.

Collectable decimal coins – one of the mainstays of the shop. The 1807 is the two pound coin that supposedly has the rare variety. It doesn’t.

The first coins that ever interested me were farthings. We had a few at home in the early 1960s, just after they were discontinued. They were small neat coins, with a picture of a Wren on the back. A few years later my grandfather gave me one dated 1901. It had the veiled head of Queen Victoria on one side and, wonder of wonders, the figure of Britannia on the back. I was amazed.

I suppose in the days when we only had two black-and-white TV channels and no internet it was easier to be amazed.

There’s a little more to the farthing than the Wiki entry suggests, they actually date back to the days when silver pennies were cut into quarters (or fourthings) but it’s a good summary of the farthings I’m talking about.

By 1968 I had moved on and bought a book. That told me that it was still possible to get Churchill Crowns from the bank at face value (5 shillings, or 25 pence) and that they would be a good investement for the future. I asked my mother to get me four. Fifty years later they are worth their face value when we buy them in. You see them at all sorts of prices on ebay and antique centres, but that is just proof of either ignorance or greed.  A cupro-nickel crown from the 60s, 70s or 80s is not an expensive coin, and as I noted the other day, we just sorted a thousand for export. The fact that we were able to put together a thousand (and still have plenty left) may be a clue as to how well they sell, even though we are only looking for pennies of profit. It’s a rare week when we don’t buy twenty or thirty. And an even rarer week when we sell one to the public.


Cupro-nickel crowns commemorating the silver wedding of the Queen and Prince Phillip

Although I didn’t continue with coins, I did continue collecting, which is a long, long story.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I was allowed to look through a couple of boxes of junk that we have bought from the estate of a deceased dealer. This is the sobering side of dealing in collectables, when you end up with the stuff of someone you’ve known for years.

Coronation medallet of William IV (1831) – an interesting piece of history from the junk box

Apart from being a practical demonstration of mortality it’s also a lesson that everyone, no matter how well organised they seem, has an accumulation of bits and pieces lurking around at the back of their life.

Peninsula War victories of the Duke of Wellington. It’s a bit worn, but so am I, and I’m a lot younger.

So Much Stuff, So Little Time

The Royal Mint has just released a series of 10 pence coins featuring the 26 letters of the alphabet, each one representing a feature of Britishness.

Like so many modern coins, they could well have been designed in an afternoon by a group of kids. They don’t show a great flair for design, and some of them show a somewhat hazy grasp of Britishness. Given half an hour I’m sure I could come up with a better set.

We haven’t had any phone calls about them yet, but they aren’t released until next Monday so there is still time. It seems that they will be making 100,000 of each design, which is quite low in mintage terms. However, if you read another article, they are doing a million of each and will make more in years to come.  Another paper is already reporting on rarity and values. Looks like the misinformation has already started…

When not applying my waning brain power to balancing on ice and learning about 10 pence coins I’ve been looking up details of snow clearance and winter preparations in other countries.

I now know the snowiest city in the world, and it’s not where I thought it would be. I was thinking Canada/Russia/USA. It’s actually Aomori City in Japan with 312 inches a year. That’s taller than four tall men. Even the 10th city on the list – Buffalo, NY, has 95 inches of snow a year. Some years in Nottingham we don’t have much more than a couple of hard frosts. Even this year I doubt we’ve had more than 6 inches in total, and this has been a Very Snowy Year.

I also know there’s a shortage of snowplough drivers in Maine, that they have special facilities to store winter tyres in Sweden and that last November Chicago deployed 210 snowploughs to clear a light fall of snow. There are only 450 snowploughs in the whole of the UK.

And finally, I know that although we always complain about winter disruption, we would complain even louder if we had to pay for winter tyres and extra snowploughs.


A Crowd of Customers and the Laws of Chance

We opened at 10.00 this morning, the phone went at 10.01 and two elderly gents walked in at 10.02 with three bags of coins. One wanted to sell coin.

Meanwhile. his friend wanted to look at postcards, which involved finding various boxes and albums for him. We need to get organised when we move shops. Two shop assistants, two customers. So far, so good.

Then a lady came in to sell some silver, banknotes, coins and medals. It was a shame about the medals, as they had no paperwork or photographs with them. He saw service in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with the Royal Navy during the war, but without extra details or medals with names on, all the history is lost.

So that was two assistants and three customers. Then a regular customer came and wanted to look at coins. The phone kept ringing with enquiries. Then two more people came in with things to sell…

Two assistants, six customers. It’s not ideal, as you can’t leave people hanging round too long, particularly if you want to take money off them, but you can’t do three jobs at the same time.

Eventually we managed to finish, and everyone seemed happy. I wasn’t even rude to anyone on the phone, though it was touch and go at times. It wasn’t the subject matter, it was the fact that they all start with a similar, lengthy, preamble, which you can do without when you have a full shop.

I don’t mind the fact that most questions are about “rare” coins: the laws of chance dictate that one day it really will be a rare coin or an interesting medal.

It really will.


“Rare” Coins and Dark Thoughts

It sometimes feels like we’re under siege in the shop.

Every day we get phone calls or personal callers with “rare coins” to sell. I don’t mind it if the coins are old (by which I mean pre-decimal) because there is at least some hope of something interesting cropping up. The “rare coins” that provoke me to thoughts of homicide are the ones that are reported as being rare in the press, on the internet,or, even worse, on ebay.

Recently we’ve had several reports of rare 2007 £2 coins. It’s a commemorative issue which marks the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The rarity is not in the coin itself (with a mintage of over 8,000,000 it’s actually reasonably common) but in the placement of the edge inscription.

The motto AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER is impressed around the edge. According to the intellectual giants who stoke the hellish fires of rare coin “knowledge” the lettering should be right way up when the Queen’s head is uppermost. If it is upside down, the coin is the “rare” variety.

2007 £2 coin

2007 £2 coin – reverse

Now, this is where things start to come unstuck. The edge inscriptions are put on by a roller before the final striking and people who know about the process are happy that the inscription is going to land in accordance with the laws of chance – 50% will be right way up and 50% will be rare varieties worth £300 on ebay.

Or, to look at it another way, there is no rare variety. There’s also no evidence of one selling for £300 on ebay in the last month or so.

Turning to the actual prices realised on ebay, which are often very different from the fanciful figures put on the coins that don’t actually sell, I found one that sold  for £500, one for £102, one for £23, three for £20 and only two others in double figures.

Some people clearly shouldn’t be allowed on ebay without supervision.

Thirty three coins, after allowing for ebay fees, sold for £2 or less, with several selling for 99 pence.

That’s from a total of 155 sales in the last 6 weeks.

I will let the figures speak for themselves.




Time Moves On

Julia’s phone has been going all day. The large polytunnel in the gardens proved unable to resist the wind last night and the ancient, brittle sheeting disintegrated. Despite being off ill, she has had a constant stream of texts, photographs and requests for decisions.

To call in a team of experts would cost £500 over and above the cost of the plastic. At the moment she is waiting for an answer from the Young Farmers’ Club. to see if they are able to help.

In the shop we assembled a couple of office chairs. They are now pushed up to the desk in the middle room, waiting for a dedicated ebay team. However, it will probably end up with me and Eddie. One of the customers is currently refurbishing a computer for me and then he’s going to set a printer up a wireless network. This might seem normal to you, but it’s close to being miraculous to me, as none of my previous jobs have involved using a computer. I had my own for doing ebay, but I’ve never worked for someone else, or with someone else, using a computer.

This, I suppose, is the 21st century.

After that I had to remove a coin collection from plastic pages. Over the years the pages had sealed the coins in, so I ended up cutting them out with scissors.  It’s a tedious job, but there was a Maundy fourpence in it, amongst the silver threepenny bits, so it felt worthwhile.

It’s even more tedious than sorting out the two plastic boxes of mixed cupro-nickel coins. Half-crowns, florins, shillings and sixpences plus large-sized 10 and 5 pence coins. I’m so used to the small 10p and 5p that the old-fashioned large ones come as a bit of a surprise. Thinking of it, I should have taken pictures to illustrate this. I may do that tomorrow.


Newark, Notts

In the afternoon I was off, so I took a quick trip to Newark to see my mate on the market. He was one of three stallholders who had braved the wind and rain, and they had all spread out to make the market look fuller. There were seven trees down on the way, with two teams still working on clearing them. It’s been quite windy round here. Fortunately all the roads had been cleared so there were no delays.

That’s about it. Julia is continuing her slow recovery, but while I was out this morning she inspected the garden for storm damage and, whilst struggling to keep her balance, managed to topple over.  She does that. As soon as I’m distracted she tries to do too much and sets herself back. Fortunately she hasn’t hurt herself, but I’m thinking of rigging the house with CCTV so I can prevent a repeat.

I didn’t get many photos today, just a few silhouettes of Newark and some sky.


A dry view of Newark


Wet, Work and William and Mary

The slightly melting look of the header picture comes from the filtering effect of rain on the windscreeen. Yes, it was that sort of day again.

I wanted a couple of shots because a post always seems better with pictures but, in the absence of anything inspiring, it didn’t seem worth getting out of the car and getting wet.


Embankment, River Trent at Wilford


Trent Embankment, Wilford, Notts

After dropping Julia off at work it was just ten minutes around the ring road and I was at work – 50 minutes early. Nothing like ingratiating yourself with the boss.

Unfortunately he wasn’t there, so it didn’t quite work out.

When we eventually got going I refilled the albums of modern coins (I’m still getting used to the idea that decimal British coins are collected) and then sorted a box of halfpennies ranging from William and Mary to Victoria. There was only one William and Mary in the box, with the majority being George III, and many of them were heavily worn, but at they have seen some history.

We did a few other things, but those were the highlights.