Tag Archives: coins

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.

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.