Tag Archives: coins

More Coins plus a King, an Emperor and a Beautiful Design

I’m desperately racking my brains for something interesting to say. The fact that I have moved on from the coins of 19th Century Spain to the coins of 19th Century France may not be the subject I need. It was an interesting time – they restored the monarchy, then had a revolution and moved on to a new King. Then they had a revolution and tried a republic again, because that had worked out well last time they tried it, and the president, who was also a Bonaparte, seized power, declared himself Emperor, then lost power after a war with the Germans – the first of a three match series that would eventually lay waste to most of Europe.

Louis Philippe

Louis Philippe, who was King from 1830-48 has the profile of a rugby player, specifically one from the second row, and Louis Napoleon has an excellent beard so, despite a number of deficiencies in governance, they did at least look like they were destined to rule. Unlike the rather underwhelming Spanish monarchs.

I have cured the colour problem for now – the camera is now set for tungsten bulbs and despite us using fluorescent tubes. This gives a blue cast which is what you need for silver.

Louis Napoleon before his Imperial ambitions bore fruit . . .

. . . and after

There is a version of the coin with Emperor title and no wreath, but I thought enough was enough. The penultimate coin has a fine portrait on it, and was minted in 1849-51. It is Ceres, according to the books, which makes sense as she has lots of grain in the design. Why Ceres and not Marianne, I don’t know. They decided to do away with that and stick a group of nondescript figures on it, a design that demonstrates that change is not the same as improvement. I only include the final coin to demonstrate the slide to mediocrity, as the republican head represents the peak of the design for me.

A lovely portrait


It’s Hercules, but it’s also The Triumph of Mediocrity

Some Thoughts on Coins and Photography

Today I carried on photographing and loading nineteenth century Spanish coins. They aren’t mu favourite things and some, the ones with the portraits of Alfonso XIII as a baby, are decidedly creepy.

King Alfonso XIII of Spain -looks spooky to me

A problem, became apparent, apart from the demonic aspects of the portraits, the colours had gone haywire. As I progressed with the loading the colour of the coins, which had ben vaguely silver or bluish, started turning brown. This happens with dirty silver coins, It’s not just me, it happens to other people if you look at eBay. There’s a mismatch between the phone (or camera) and the light. Silver things become yellow or brown, gold things become silver and everyone becomes confused. This is particularly true of customers who, as we have seen again recently, never bother to read the details in the listing.

King Amadeo I again – definite brown tone

King Amadeo I of Spain, in his correct colours

I altered the white balance, I altered the lighting setting, I tried landscape (to enhance the greens and blues), I even tried introducing filters. The only thing that worked was taking photos in the front of the shop, which has some natural daylight, but the lighting was weak and it was quite tricky taking hand held photos.

Who would have thought that photographing a coin could be so difficult? Well, 27 coins, with three views of each actually. All done twice. Tonight I will drift off to sleep thinking of coins.

Have a look at some of the pictures to see what I mean. I dream of a small space with proper lighting and equipment. What I get is a small space with poor lighting and no equipment. Considering the poor facilities it’s amazing what we do, particularly as the shop camera, though a better camera for rendering colour, is in all other ways even worse than mine.

There was a short break between monarchs in 1868-71. And 1873-4. And 1931 – 75. Being King of Spain wasn’t necessarily a long-term career.



A Downtrodden Man

A woman rang today and asked if we bought unusual American coins. I passed her on to the proprietor, as he has a wide-ranging knowledge of American coins. It turns out she had found a rare Buffalo nickel (1913 San Francisco Mint – I’m hazy on the rest of the detail as I wasn’t listening). The Buffalo Nickel is a lovely coin, and if I were American I am sure they would be a pleasure to collect.

This was unusual because “rare” coins usually aren’t rare.

Earlier in the week we bought some coins off a man. He brought two small lots in- one bag of coins from his wife and one from him. He told us his wife was making him sell the coins he had inherited from his mother when she died last year. They came to £17.50. The wife’s coins only came to £5. So he signed the form and went off with his money. Six hours later we had a phone call from the wife telling us he shouldn’t have sold hers. He had to sell his but she wanted to keep hers. Then she told me she wanted hers back. That was, off course, a problem, as we had already sorted the lot into various other places.

Spanish Poppy

She told me they were worth a lot more than £5. I couldn’t help it, I just laughed. It was the end of a long day (in fact it was 15 minutes after closing time and we were just parcelling up a couple of late orders) and I really couldn’t be bothered. They coins were rubbish, her internet search was misleading and her grading, as usual, bore no resemblance to the reality of the condition of the coins.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we sorted out a selection of coins that resembled the ones she had and the boss, worn down by her whining, just gave them to her to get rid of her, and to reinforce the idea they were virtually worthless.

It’s her husband I feel sorry for, he had to get rid of his but she keeps hers. (He’s a little older than me, by the way). His must be quite a cheerless existence.

You see all sorts in a coin shop . . .


In other news, my blood test was OK this morning, though I still have to go in next week. I really must start applying pressure about less testing.

Wednesday produced some brilliant service from the NHS, who sorted a problem out in five minutes and had my delivery with me inside 24 hours. If I were a curmudgeonly sort I would point out that if they had done their job right in the first place three weeks ago there would have been no problem.  However, it is the system that is at fault and an individual who sorted it out, so credit where it’s due.

Then tonight the warning light came back on in the car. Did I tell you about that? Ys, I checked and I see I did. So far that Engine Management System has failed to flag up a single problem but it has cost me hundreds of pounds for replacing a faulty valve and several trips to the garage to get lights reset. It’s the next step in consumerism – first we had planned obsolescence, then we had vacuum cleaners that need replacement filters all the time instead of a new bag every few years, and now we have systems in cars that need repairing even though there is no actual fault with the car. This is either brilliant or very annoying, depending on your point of view. To me, it feels like Volkswagen are picking my pocket on a regular basis. Technology does not seem to be good for me.


And that’s before I get on to the story about how I had to open a HP account to use my own scanner on my own computer. I couldn’t work round it by downloading a fix from Microsoft as they don’t recognise my account details. I answered a lot of stupid questions to try to retrieve the account and they told me I hadn’t answered enough. A big sort out is coming and the machines are going to come off second best when I raise the New Luddite standard. Thirty minutes messing about just to scan something for Julia, when in the old days, before the “new and improved” system, I could have done it in ninety seconds.

Photos are random, just to keep you awake.

Love Token or Convict Token?

Saturday morning, 8.11 and just time to squeeze in a blog between breakfast and work. That way I can’t fall asleep before posting. Even I don’t nap at this time in the morning.

One of the lots I put on yesterday already has a bid. It’s a beautifully engraved coin, but a little difficult to place. It’s engraved in the style of the late 18th and early 19th Century and it’s almost certainly on a 1797 penny, judging from the dimensions. The problem is the subject matter. It has hearts and birds and a funerary urn, which might be bad news for someone’s true love. Or it might be mourning the loss of love as the donor is shipped off to the end of the Earth.

Love tokens often have more in the way of initials than we have here, plus some sentiment.

Convict tokens often have names and dates and other things written on them.

Engraved coin 1797

Engraved coin 1797

There’s even a possibility that the counter stamped wolf’s head which obliterates the crown is some sort of secret Jacobin sign. If it is, it is very secret because internet searches have turned nothing up.

Although some of the work on these tokens is crude, some, like this is very good, to the point of justifying terms like excellent and superb. Some people, with money, could afford to have a professional engrave a token for them, and we also know that forgers, engravers and jewellers all ended up in Australia, so anything is possible.

That’s enough culture before work.  I just wish, as I’ve often said before, that I had realised you could have an academic career linked to coins. There aren’t many jobs I’d rather have. Cake taster at Mr Kipling perhaps . . . the man who does quality control for the afternoon teas at the Ritz . . .

Sorry, I drifted off there.  But

think how different things could have been – a thesis on convict tokens and civil unrest in the 19th Century (including local lads Ned Ludd and Jeremiah Brandreth) followed by a research trip to see the convict tokens in the Australian Museum. All it needs to be perfect would be a superior sort of afternoon tea in an Australian Hotel.

And with that thought I will now trudge off to pack parcels in the windowless back room of  coin shop.


A Day of Contrasts

First job this morning was to parcel up the Prisoner of War postcard. It appears to have gone to a collector. There were only three people in the bidding and two of them chased it up over £60. As far as I know it’s worth £20-30 as a piece of postal history so I presume it was the story they were bidding for, and that it will be well looked after from now on.

Second job was to parcel up a nice late Georgian medallion. It was struck in 1835 so it’s nearly as late as it can be whilst remaining Georgian. It has been on sale a few months and we turned down several offers because we thought it was a good piece. It commemorates the installation of the marquis of Camden as Chancellor of Cambridge University. Lovely medallion, as I say, but he’s no great looker, and it’s a dull subject. It has gone to America. A lot of our better medallions go to America or China. I feel slightly guilty about exporting our heritage, but we have an excellent stock of historical medallions which is hardly ever looked at in the shop.

Earl of Camden, Chancellor of Cambridge University and, as I said previously, no great shakes in the looks department. Roman nose, piercing stare and, doubtless, a commanding manner, but not easy on the eye.

I then spent the rest of the day beavering away at my desk loading a succession of modern coins onto eBay. They are weird modern combinations – a coin from Niue celebrates Edison and the lightbulb, one from the Cook Islands celebrates the Ascot Gold Cup and one from Somalia is part of a series called “Wildlife of North America”.  The Cook Islands coin is quite pleasant apart from that, but the Somalian coin is an abomination and the Niue coin lights up if you press it in the right place. Words fail me…

I despair of any society where people actually collect these monstrosities


Can you see the light? 

At least the design is good, even if the mis-match beggars belief.



Thoughts of Change

I’ve been thinking about blogging. I know I’m not the only one that feels this, as I’ve read a similar post today, but I’m feeling stale and uninspired and wondering where it is all going.

At one time, when we were on the care farm and we had lots of visitors, plenty of time, loads of nature and a multitude of new subjects, it seemed a lot easier. Of course, I then go back and look at it , and it really wasn’t as good as I remember. The typos in my old posts can be quite upsetting and the quality was patchy, to say the least. Fortunately I didn’t have much of an internal editor at the time. Once I got past the thought that writing down the dull days of my life was rather self-indulgent, I didn’t have much to hold me back. That came later when I started doing more writing of other types.

Things are gradually improving again and I now have ten haiku to send off. As I have a deadline in nine days and two more at the end of the month it’s about time I did get back into the rhythm. I am becoming a bit too much like our plum tree in the garden – a year of plenty followed by a year of sparsity. However, I know what do do with the plum tree – pruning and thinning – two jobs I don’t do. I skimp on pruning, and haven’t actually done any for two years, and I always wimp out of thinning, because it seems a waste to remove fruit when it is forming. I know that in theory it is better for the crop, but I just can’t do it. I keep saying I’ll look for a recipe for green plums, which might be the impetus I need. Something similar is needed with my writing.

I’ve tried to change the way I blog before, but I always drift back to the same old style, maybe today is the day I change. Well, tomorrow, actually, as this is today and it’s more of the same old rambling diary…

The opening picture is a Shilling of George II – 1731 – quite a pleasant coin. It leant itself well to the “drawing” setting on the camera. The closing pictures of the coin are how it actually looks. No, I don’t know why they always dressed like Roman Emperors for their coin portraits. It’s a King thing…

George II Sixpence 1731 Obverse 

George II Sixpence 1731 Reverse 


The Blotted Copybook

Oh dear.

I watched TV, I ate the curry that Julia had made. I watched The Great British Sewing Bee. Then, having listed the jobs I needed to do, I fell asleep. When I awoke it was too late to finish the shopping and when it arrives there will be no bread. More annoyingly, because I have failed to make it to the minimum order level, I will have to pay a £4 surcharge.

The moral is clear – order earlier. The secondary moral is that it doesn’t matter. We can buy bread seperately and £4 isn’t enough to worry about, It’s annoying but it won’t break me.

It wasn’t the only blot on my copybook, I failed to post a second time, as I intended. Then, having dragged myself from my sleep at 1 am I proceeded to make sandwiches and after that,  foolishly, sat down for a few minutes at the computer. Over an hour passed. I am closer to completing some submissions (everything seems to be dragging at the moment) but I am also late to bed, which will mean more sleep-based problems tomorrow.

Dream sequence of a clock, hands turning quickly…

Fourteen hours later. I am in trouble for passing the boss a phone call which I could have handled.

Stephen Hawking 50p

“I’ve already had a dozen like it,” I said, “and if I hadn’t passed it over to you I’d have ben rude to him.”

“I was rude to him.”

“Yes,” I said, “but I’m paid to be polite and I have reached breaking point.”

I then had another dozen, but that one pass saved my manners and the day passed off without incident. It was close though. I don’t know why people think a coin from the 1980s is of any value, or why a 50p that you can pull out of your change would be worth £6,000.  If you could pull a £6,000 coin out of your change, do they think I’d be sitting in the windowless middle room of a shop answering their calls.

I don’t mind the enquiries, it’s sensible for people to ring up after seeing yet another outrageously inaccurate story in the press. It’s the ones that clearly don’t believe me that get on my nerves. I once offered a woman a selection of coins for £2.50 each. She didn’t buy them. But she did want me to buy hers for £3,000, and left the shop chuntering about me knowing nothing.

Again, did she think I’d be standing there serving her if I could buy five coins for £12.50 and turn them into £15,000.  If I could make that sort of money every day I’d stay at home and employ a butler to go down to the shop and insult customers.

1973 50p

Saturday in a Shut Shop Sitting Silently

Here’s a selection of what I did today. I photographed a Peter Rabbit 50p coin and put it on eBay. It was the first in the Beatrix Potter series, and Peter is the best known and most popular of the characters. It soon sold out when it was released in 2016 and  that coin – an ordinary 50p coin, but struck in silver, to proof standard, with added colour and a great deal of glitzy presentation, is now worth over £600. A lot of the others can be had for around £20 each, which still seems expensive to me. However, it pays my wages.

In case the word “proof” is throwing you, it mans they are produced in from specially prepared dies, striking specially prepared blanks. They are excellent examples of the coiner’s craft but o many different ones are now produced that they hold little charm for a cynic such as me.

The next item, a rowing medal from Oxford University, is more my sort of thing. It is engraved with the names of the boat’s crew around the edge. Several of them had famous connections though they aren’t that famous themselves.

Medal for the Commoner’s Fours 1866

I just went back to look for a link and couldn’t find it. It has sold already – six hours after we put it up for sale. The miracle of eBay!

People watching

This is a picture taken using my door mirror. I went straight from work to the vaccination centre on Thursday and had time to kill. I should probably have wound the window down completely, bit I didn’t. Another lesson learnt!




Nothing Much to Say

I’ve run out of things to say. I never thought that would happen.

Part 2 of yesterday’s post is on hold, because the day has failed to provide the necessary spark of inspiration. I could force it but I’d rather do it well.

This morning I had to confess to my sister that I had (a) lost a letter I was supposed to send to the accountant and (b) couldn’t find the electronic copy to download. So far my tenure as executor has not been marked by any degree of competence. Fortunately my sister is doing the actual work and I just have to sign things and look decorative.

Then I sent the surgery a copy of my driving license as they need photo ID to re-issue my NHS pass word, which has never actually worked. I got an email by return, asking for my email address so they could send the password.

Yes, that’s right.

It was followed moments later by a sheepish phone call – the supervisor had spotted what had happened and had forced the culprit to ring me and apologise. I thought it was funny and told her how we had once put the return address on the front of a parcel by accident – resulting in us sending a parcel to ourselves. Much hilarity ensued and we parted on good terms.

It rained most of the day, and was unseasonally cold, as a reminder that September is just around the corner.


I could do without that.

A customer with a 2.30 appointment rang to ask if he could come early, and I said yes because I was happy to increase my chances of picking Julia up on time. Of course, the plan went wrong. He stood round talking and left just after three, at which point my co-worker, and the Universe, seemed to slow down. The queue over the bridge was worse than usual and I was 20 minutes late picking her up.

I listened to an interesting radio programme on wildlife as I queued so it wasn’t a complete waste, though I didn’t tell Julia that.

The TESCO delivery service arrived half an hour early, but I can’t be bothered to talk about efficiency or their increased costs.

The school where Julia’s project is based has bullied its way into making MENCAP allow it access through the gardens so they can send their lower school in that way. This will be inconvenient in the morning when Julia is trying to set up, but worse in the afternoon when they will disrupt the routine of the group members. As a number of them are quite withdrawn and don’t adapt well to change we are hoping it doesn’t do too much damage.

The thing I most object to, though, is that the school got its way by a number of bullying tactics, including telling Julia they would refuse her access to water.

I’d like to alert the Press and repay the bullying by causing some stress but Julia, as usual, won’t take decisive action. That’s why bullies prosper. It’s also why bad management proliferates.

If bullies and useless, cowardly managers were tarred and feathered and secured to their own front gates with cable ties (not that I have planned any of this, just in case it ever comes to court) there would be a lot less of it about.

The old practice of hanging, drawing and quartering had a lot to recommend it., and I wouldn’t object to extending its use to delivery drivers who arrive too early.

The photo has nothing to do with the post. It’s a coin, believe it or not. It’s from Ghana, a country not normally associated with Ancient Egypt. Other issuers of coins of King Tut include the Isle of Man and the Cook Islands. They are much more famous for issuing novelty coins than they are for having Pyramids.


Not the Worst of Days

Last night I checked out all the references to me on Google. There aren’t many but I thought if I looked them up once a week and maybe listed them on the blog I may drive myself up the ratings.

At work, I did a lot of photography. The owner has been sorting out loads of coins for eBay but he doesn’t do photography. That’s my job. It’s kept me busy for a few days so I mustn’t grumble, but today I messed up slightly. When photographing runs of virtually identical objects I normally photograph a few markers or notes amongst them so I know what things are as I load them. I forgot today.

As a result I ended up struggling to sort photos of pennies with wide dates and narrow dates. Yes, collectors do differentiate between such things.

Wartime Lincoln Cents

Wartime Lincoln Cents

As a result of that and an influx of customers (with no appointments) I was late picking Julia up.

We arrived home to find my sister had sent us another selection of masks. She has selected a more masculine design this time and uprated the nose clip by replacing the bendy metal strip with an iron bar. I discovered this the hard way when I put it on and tried to bend it round my nose. It was touch and go whether the iron bar or my nose bent first. She claims it’s only a stout piece of wire, but I’m not convinced.

We had fish and chips for tea. I had some of Julia’s chips instead of having a portion myself so I’m feeling virtuous.

I haven’t done much tonight and am currently watching Love Actually. I do like a good romcom.

It hasn’t been an exciting day but I’ve had worse. And at least we didn’t have moqueca.