Tag Archives: coins

The Destroyer of Dreams

It’s Human Nature.

Show me  bag of coins and I think of the hidden gem that might be in there. It rarely is. I’ve offered on four lots of coins this week.  I bought one lot for £3 after they decided to  keep the two best coins. The other lots were worth less and they decided to keep them. I was happy with that, as we do have plenty of junk. We are currently building up towards a third of a ton, the level at which the scrap man will call and collect.

The commonest “rare coin” we find in a bag of coins is a sovereign or half sovereign. They were circulating coins until 1914 when they were withdrawn in favour of paper money. People who had them put them away as gold is something people trust in times of economic trouble. The Treasury designed a £1 note over the  last weekend of peace (1st and 2nd August) sent them to the printers on 4th (the day war was declared) and put it into production using stamp paper, which was the only suitable paper available in bulk. They were issued to the public on 7th August. Quite impressive. Over the years the sovereigns and half sovereigns which were put away were either spent or mixed in with a general accumulation of coins.

I once pulled a sovereign out of a paper bag of coins (worth about £10 in total) and told the lady it was (in those days) worth £300. Delighted? Not a bit of it. She snatched the coin from my hand, shoved it in a pocket and glared at me. It was, I speculated, a probate job and she was intent on defrauding her siblings.

Apart from that we’ve had very few rare coins in lots. Probably one or two a year. The clue is in the word “rare”. Take the man with the New Pence coins last week (he still hasn’t written to say thank you for my time and trouble in replying to his query). If they are worth £1,000 each, did he really think he had found a handful of them? Obviously he did, and his £15,000 daydream became a handful of loose change.

I once had someone say “I thought it was too good to be true.” as I told him this on the phone. He had gone through his kids’ piggybank and found 13 of them  All I could do is agree with him.

And, now, back to the photos on my old camera card, what gems lurk in there. You always think it will be good, don’t you? Human nature, as I said. I used three of the best yesterday. Three more today and that’s it. There are a few duplicates as I tend to take back-up shots and a few of the group but I( don’t think I can use them – old photos are a tricky aspect of our data protection laws.

Where Does All the Time Go?

I’ve watched TV, napped, answered quiz questions, read a poetry magazine, eaten  massive plate of vegetables, left eBay feedback, read and replied to comments and suddenly it’s late. And I still have a post to write.

I really don’t know what happens to the time. It’s probably something to do with TV – I seem to be able to spend a couple fo hors watching without really noticing the passage of time. Then there’s the internet browsing. I rarely notice it, but I’m fairly sure that I spend too much time doing it. Sometimes it has a purpose, but often I just realise I’ve drifted off subject. This after noon at work I was researching a pilot who was injured in 1917, and somehow drifted on to TV personality Fearne Cotton. She’s a distant relative of the band leader Billy Cotton. Billy Cotton was a pilot in the Great War. However, there must have been several stops along the way of my journey of discovery, none of which were useful to the job in and and few of which I can remember.

We are having a new set of coin designs to celebrate the changing of the monarch. We have some on order but there is an eight week wait for delivery. They are going to release them for circulation about that time too, though I’m told one has already been seen. The video shows them producing proof coins. The ones fro circulation are produced a lot faster and you wouldn’t want to get your fingers anywhere near the machinery.

This may get people interested in coins again. I’m sure the Royal Mint is hoping so because it makes a lot of its money from sets for collectors rather than just making loose change for the nation.

British West Africa 1/10th of a Penny

Header picture is some of the Alphabet design 10p coins they made – a real damp squib in marketing terms. They didn’t make enough and they didn’t develop the series. They actually ran an advertising campaign when they had already ensured, through low production and tightly controlled distribution, that there was no stock to sell. If a shop assistant can spot the faults you’d think highly paid marketing executives could do the same.

Legacy and Diversity


As mentioned – a second post for the day.

I was discussing the concept of legacy the other day with one of the committee members. It was in relation to  particular aspect of the Society, but came round very quickly to the subject of membership. The Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire is 75 years old this year. It is about half the size it used to be, the members have an average age of (I informally calculate) 65 and we have one female member. I think I’m right in saying we also only have one member from an ethnic minority too. Not everybody actually attends so it is difficult to tell. I keep nagging Julia to join, despite her limited interest in coins, as, with her heritage, I could then claim to have doubled both the number of female and ethnic minority members.

The Bank of England hosted an Inclusive Numismatics conference last Friday. Our Chairman presented a paper, and used the Society logo on his slides. Ironically, it was crammed with an unrepresentative number of speakers from minorities and was rather artificial. However, the hobby needs participants, you need something to kick-start such initiatives, and it’s much better to hold an event than it is to talk about it trying to make it perfect. A hobby that is short of members is a hobby that is dying.

Gibraltar £20 Coin 2016. Made from silver salvaged from the SS Gairsoppa.

You hardly ever see a matchbox collector these days and cigarette card collectors are rare, and usually over 70. Both hobbies hold a warning for the rest of us.

If we carry on as we are we may not be about when we celebrate out100th Anniversary. The society is currently about half the size it was in the early days, and as cash disappears from our daily routines, it is likely that entry level collectors will disappear.  Over the years we have seen definite fluctuations in interest linked to the ways the Royal mint produces and releases coins. we have also seen a definite dip after lockdown, coinciding with fewer places accepting cash.

The immediate problem isn’t the number of members we can attract from minorities, but simply if the society can attract enough members of any sort. After that we can look at minorities and age profiles, though I’m not sure what we can do about it. We are open to anyone, but people just don’t seem to want to join.

£2 Coin 2016 – 350th Anniversary


Savoury Porridge and Coins

Sorry, I’ve not been about much recently. I have no excuse. The travel last weekend and the push towards a dozen submissions for the month have all taken their toll, but I could have been more disciplined, and I fell short of my targets. Reluctantly, I am forced to admit that the years cannot be ignored and I am going to have to make some concessions to healthy living. More sleep, more fish and more savoury porridge.

Savoury porridge is something I have often thought of, but always dismissed. For one thing, I have always had a feeling that if it were possible, I’d have seen it on TV. For another, there are connotations of gruel hanging around the idea of savoury porridge and the shadow of the workhouse is never far away. However, I saw an example of Billy Mann’s blog and though it is visually questionable, it seems nutritious and simple.

Penguins on Falklands 50p coin

Looking on the internet, I found this site. Looks like I’m missing out. Not sure I’m keen on their suggestions, or on eating it for breakfast, but at least I’m not going to be regarded as a culinary eccentric. I probably won’t be able to persuade Julia, but for those days when I’m left to fend for myself, I can feel some experimentation coming on.

Apart from the savoury porridge I’ve also discovered that I still have some  vestiges of my old sales skills. I am a product of the Tack school of salesmanship, as was my father. I just looked up Alfred Tack and wa amazed to see that apart from the sales training and books, he was also the author of a number of Golden Age detective novels. I never knew that. Anyway, I’ve been asking customers if they want to join the Numismatic Society and so far have recruited three,

It’s not the hardest sell, they are clearly interested in coins because they are in a coin shop. The fees are £5 a year, which is cheap, and this year they get a free book – the history of the first 75 years of the society. All you need to do is ask, which is where we have been deficient in previous years. I didn’t want to start interfering, but I’ve been in a few years now, and I think it’s time to start making some moves.

Silver Britannia coin (Special Edition)

All clubs need to work at improving, or they will wither and die. This is particularly true of a club where the average age of members is 65. I’ve started trying to encourage a bit more activity by taking a display down to each meeting, and I’ve set myself a target of adding ten members this year. It could take a bit of doing, but what use is a target if you don’t have to stretch a bit?

Pictures are numismatic based as I don’t, yet, have any pictures of savoury porridge.

Frogs, Coins, Stamps etc

Where to start?

The day was dull, though we did have a few customers, which makes a pleasant change. It was a stuffy day in the back room, and it was a relief to get out and breathe some fresh air at the end of the day.

We sold a few starter coins to a lad who came in with his grandparents. Then we sold a decent coin to a collector of Roman coins. Someone else spent a couple of pounds on a 50p piece and then someone rang to ask if we sold coins of James I, adding that they might be a bit too old for a local coin shop. “Condescending” was one of the words I used after the call ended.

That’s James I of England and James VI of Scotland. He deserted the dreary wastes of Scotland as soon as his cousin Elizabeth died in 1603, criticised smoking, hunted witches and eventually died in 1625.

The Roman coin we sold in the morning was a Hadrian denarius. Hadrian was emperor between  117 and 138 and ordered the building of the famous wall.

So yes, we do sell coins of James I, and no, it isn’t too early for us. We actually have earlier coins too.

To be fair, he did come to visit in the afternoon and bought one.

I’m constantly amazed at what constitutes “old” in the mind of some people. It’s all relative, I suppose. We’ve had people ring up about “old coins” that were actually decimal coins from the 1970s. One bloke actually started swearing at me when I told him that his 30-year-old football medallions weren’t really old in coin terms. We frequently find that “old coins” feature the portrait of George VI or George V. People just don’t realise that before we went decimal we had pockets full of coins dating back to Queen Victoria. As  a young collector in those days you could get back as far as the 1860s with a bit of work and some luck.

Young people these dys have only ever seen the Queen on coins. One actually asked if we thought her coins would be rare as they were withdrawn. Withdrawn, we asked? Seems he thought the Royal Mint was going to take all the Elizabeth II coins out of circulation and replaced them with coins of Charles III. He couldn’t quite grasp the fact that her coins will still be circulating in a hundred years.

Banknotes of Charles III aren’t expected until the middle of next year. There will be an eventual withdrawal of Elizabeth II banknotes as the replacement rate is higher with notes, as they wear out quicker than coins. Stamps are already on sale, but retailers have been instructed to use up stocks of Queen Elizabeth before selling the Charles III ones. So far I haven’t had a letter with one on.

The header picture is a frog Julia found in the MENCAP pond when cleaning it out. They also had newts, but they were blurred.

Stamps, stamps, stamps…

We have plenty of stamps to be going on with.

So Much to Do

Now that the ideas are coming, I can’t stop them. Unfortunately I can’ remember them either, so I’m not making he best use of them. This morning I had three ideas coming downstairs. Only one of them was useful. The other two were about gravity and accidental death in the home, but I often think of them whilst making my way downstairs. The other was forgotten before I set foot on solid ground. I know it was a good idea, because I distinctly remember thinking “That’s a good idea.” as I came downstairs. And “I must remember that.” But I didn’t.

It’s the Numismatic Society Auction on Monday night – not the best time for it, being Bank Holiday Monday, but we will have to see.. I have to sort out what I’m bidding on. Fortunately I don’t collect coins so there aren’t many lots to interest me. This could be the recipe for a cheap but exciting night out – all the anticipation of an auction followed by a night buying a few cheap lots. Or even buying nothing . . .

Watch this space.

It’s been a cold day again. The weather is very changeable at the moment -one day Spring then a  day or two of Winter. I can put up with the cold (I’m wearing a blanket like a shawl as I type) but the disappointment is harder to bear. A day of daffodils and blue skies followed by a couple of cold days with grey skies and a sprinkle of cold rain is depressing.

Meanwhile, I’ve actually done a little tidying. I won’t be hanging out any flags just yet as it’s not made a noticeable difference. However, if I do  bit each day (as I often say when making excuses for lack of results) the results will eventually become significant.

I’m now going to make a list of things to do this evening and tomorrow in the hope that I might get something done before I go to the auction. (I’m not neglecting Julia, by the way, I asked if she’d like to go out for a romantic evening tomorrow (coin society auction followed by pizza on the way home) but she said she’d rather stay at home and watch her courgette seedlings grow.



Poppies, Fairies and Not Much Else

I’m struggling for inspiration tonight, having made several attempts at sparkling wit which have all fallen short.

We opened the shop to find we had made two sales overnight, for a total of just under £20, but fortunately. as nature abhors a vacuum, this was compensated for by a steady trickle of customers who all left with less money than they started with. In the end we did quite well.

It’s that medal time of year again and people are starting to remember that they will need them for Remembrance Day. I’ve already done three in the last week and there will be more as people suddenly remember they have a Platinum Jubilee Medal that needs adding to their others. I don’t want to be cynical, but I’m fairly sure the proliferation of medals will continue in the near future with a Coronation medal for the incoming King.

I’ve also been loading coin sets onto eBay. We bought a large collection a few weeks ago and are starting to put it out now. The previous owner had to sell to provide a deposit for his son to buy a house. He had been planning on selling it when he retired and going on a world cruise, and was not the happiest of men.

This, of course, raises the question of what I’m going to do with my collection. I could keep accumulating stuff, which I then leave to Julia and the kids to sort out. Or I could sort it out and organise, which would make it easier for them. Or I could even sell it myself and go on a world cruise with Julia.

Her face is a lot better, by the way, after a few days of little improvement it suddenly went down a lot, though it’s still a bit sore.

Pictures are of some sterling silver 50 pence coins from the big collection. One is from a Royal British Legion Commemorative set. The other is from a Peter Pan set. They are special versions of the cupro-nickel circulation coins with added colour. They aren’t proper coins but they look nice and people like to collect them, so I will keep my opinion to myself.

Tinker Bell – J M Barrie worked in Nottingham as a journalist for a while and later left his Peter Pan copyright to Great Ormond Street Hospital to help with fundraising.

Day 107

This is a picture of a coin that were are often asked about. It’s a single metal £2 coin. They were produced between 1986-96 and although they were supposedly for circulation you rarely saw one and they didn’t really catch on. They were replaced by the bimetallic type, originally planned for 1997, but not actually released until 1998.

We often get phone calls from people, who think they have a rarity because they have never seen one of the older sort. This is easily explained by the fact that the old type is at least 26 years old and even then you would need a good memory fro a coin you rarely saw.

However, I cannot explain the fixation some people have for the “solid gold” version. They ring up, they tell us they have the solid gold version, they won’t accept that it is extremely unlikely and they invariably demand that we tell them where to go to get it confirmed. The truth is that there were very few of the gold proof versions made. They were expensive and it’s unlikely that anyone ever took them out of their box, threw the certificate away and spent it as a £2 coin.

There were millions of them minted. Mintage figures for the 1995 Dove of Peace coin is 4,391,248. Mintage for the gold version is 1,000. So, even if all things were equal, the odds are 4,391 to 1 against it being a gold coin. If you allow for the fact that it is extremely unlikely that any were taken out of their packaging (let’s say this happened to 10 of them – bearing in mind they cost about £1.000 and people are going to be careful with them) the chances are 439,125 to 1 against it being a gold coin.

If I were to get one call a day about this, the chances are that I will die of old age several times over before someone rings with a loose gold coin.

However, this doesn’t stop people ringing, convinced that I’m an idiot because I don’t believe their brass coin is gold.

The coin in the picture is gold. It is, as you can see, in a plastic capsule inside a box, with a certificate. And, no, I don’t know why a coin with a mintage of 1,000 needs a numbered certificate with a number over 2,000, but I’ve seen it before

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Obverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Obverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Day 46

What can I say that I haven’t already said? I’m afraid that today was much like yesterday, but without a rainbow. This evening was much like yesterday evening, apart from the fact I didn’t go out. I have, however, managed to get back into the Facebook page, so here is the link. It appears that although we had 14 people at the Zoom meting last month and 17 there last night, we can only manage 8 on Facebook. It’s hard work running a society.

I am on the committee, mainly because, at the last AGM, I said that if they had difficulty getting anyone to step forward to take up the vacant spot, I would do it. As a result my name was recently forwarded to the Charities Commission and I have already had two emails from them. This is two more emails than I got when I was previously a committee member at a rugby club which was also a charity. Things move on and perhaps become better organised, but does it really make a difference? I will comment no further.

The charity sector also covers big businesses like private schools looking for tax advantages and a variety of individuals who fancy a couple of foreign trips a year and somebody to pay for them to have a new car. Cynical? Yes I am. Wrong? Let’s just say I’ve seen some of these in action. Notice how many of these charities are set up to help foreigners in exotic holiday destinations and how few are set up to help people in the cold and grimy parts of the UK.

I’m definitely thinking of going back to titles for posts rather than numbers. When you use titles you can ignore how fast the days are going by. At this rate it will soon be time to think of planning for Christmas . . .

Day 17

More of the same. Parcels. Customers. Miserable weather. The only difference was that the car got covered in a fine spray of dirt thrown up by cars passing by the shop on the main road, and a bird, which appears to have dined on something quick-setting and durable, deposited the digested remains in the middle of my windscreen.

I spent 27 minutes on the phone at one point, being cross-questioned by a customer with “jut one last question” being promised more than once. In the end he said “Well, why do people collect if you can’t make money from it?” My reply was that collecting is about the pursuit, the assembling of a collection which is greater than the sum of the parts and, with luck, the knowledge you gain.

If you want to make money you take a second job, put the wages in the bank, buy shares or buy precious metals.

He said: “Oh!”

It’s a good thing the boss wasn’t in. That’s half an hour of my wages down the drain just so that my pearls of wisdom can bounce off someone who thinks numismatics is the way to get rich.

Before that we had someone in who kept asking for dates of coin which don’t exist. He couldn’t get his head round the idea that there were no pennies minted in  1941, 42 or 43 as there were thought to be too many in circulation. In 1949 most of them were held back, and they were still being issued as new coins until 1956. In 1950 and 1951 very small quantities were struck and were stored until 1956 when they were sent to Bermuda (all the 1950 mintage and most of the 1951 too).  They say that British dealers started travelling to the island and offering £1 for 1951 pennies – 240 times its face value (there were still 240 pennies to the £ in those days).

There is one coin known from 1952. I don’t know why, some arcane Mint purpose. In 1953 they struck pennies for commemorative sets. Only one is known from 1954, used for die testing. Somehow it escaped melting and ended up in circulation. Then there were no more until 1961. They were struck every year until 1967 and all the pennies struck in 1968 and 1969 were dated 1967. Again, I haven’t a clue why. After that they minted them in 1970 for the final £sd sets and, after a thousand years, the old penny made way for the decimal issue.

It’s amazing how many we have being brought in , and even more amazing how many collectors haven’t bothered to learn that there are years when certain denominations weren’t stuck. The saying “Before you buy the coin, buy the book.” does not seem to have reached everybody.

The pennies in the picture are Australian pre-decimal pennies – but they are the same size and shape, just that they have a kangaroo instead of Britannia.