Tag Archives: coins

Last Week’s Photos

I took 425 photos last week, according to the count I just did. Exactly 200 were personal and 225 for work. I’m not surprised by the number of photos but I am surprised that they worked out to such tidy figures.

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Cook Islands $1 – gold-plated copper with coloured detail

Of those, about half a dozen are blurred (as I delete obviously faulty ones at the time of taking, if I can) but many are poorly composed, badly lit or simply duplicates to make sure I get a decent shot.Many of the work shots are poorly lit because the subjects, particularly coin sets in boxes, and the lights (a couple of badly placed fluorescent tubes) aren’t really designed for good photography.

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Guernsey 50p – much the same as the previous photo – they never circulate and are really just medallions for people who want lots of bright shiny stuff

And again!

And again!

It was a dull week at work – just coins. medallions and the cards that go with them. The “house style” so far as we have such a thing, is also dull, as the shop owner doesn’t like shots which might be more interesting than average. That’s a shame, as I like to look for slightly more interesting angles. Apart from taking pride in my work, it breaks up the tedium of taking 225 photos of shiny, round things.

The other problem I have with him is that he doesn’t use a camera himself. This means he doesn’t understand lighting, or the way the camera sees the shot, particularly the colour rendition. He can’t see why we can’t replicate the picture his eye sees. Most of the time we get decent shots, but with a good camera, good lighting and with some decent equipment such as tripods and diffusers, we could do a lot better.

This is a medallion to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Spitfire’s First Flight.

A lot of them have to be photographed inside plastic capsules, which doesn’t help.You can’t win with that one. If you take a proof coin out of a capsule you get criticism for taking it out and, in the view of the critic, putting finger marks on the coin. If you leave it in you get questions about whether a scratch is on the coin or the capsule.

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Crowns – from the Festival of Britain 1951 to Wedding of Charles & Diana 1981

So here are a few of last week’s coin and medallion photos. Not really much of a challenge, apart from the poor equipment, and not much of a feeling of a job well done either. It’s fortunate I have a blog to keep me going.

 

 

Tuesday – the new Monday

This morning, as Julia struggled to work by bus again, I relaxed, ate toast and watched the weather report on TV. The forecast stated that there was a weather warning in Derbyshire, that there might be snow on high ground and that it might rain at lower levels. That was all very much like the forecast yesterday, which proved to be so badly wrong.

As I thought of yesterday’s events, and the unexpected snow, a flurry of medium flakes drifted past the window.

“Well, well,” I muttered as I watched them fall.

After about twenty seconds and several dozen flakes they stopped falling. It hardly seemed worth the trouble.

Work was fairly average. There were only six parcels to pack, a much more restful number than yesterday’s 28. We had several people bringing coins in to sell, including three who wanted to sell metal detector finds. One wanted too much money and one had boxes of interesting, but low quality, junk. We did, however, buy a sixpence of Queen Elizabeth I and a Saxon sceatta.

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Less interesting than a Saxon Coin

This is how life in a coin shop should be – we have been a bit quiet recently and it’s nice to be busy.

I also put a number of coin sets on eBay. It’s not the glamorous end of the coin trade (if such a thing exists) but someone has to do it. Life can’t all be Gold Nobles of Henry V. This was what last night’s speaker found when he detected a Gold Noble on Time Team shortly after starting detecting. He hasn’t found one since!

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Tristan da Cunha has a lot to answer for

I’m going to post this now and then come back to put the photos up, otherwise it will never get posted before midnight. To be fair, it’s not just photos, everything takes ages on this Netbook.

Just finished – it took just over half an hour!

Vexed! And a Space-Filler Post

The planned post for the day was Scone Chronicles 33, and it actually had scones in it. I had done about 75% of it before I broke to make tea (corned beef hash with red cabbage, in case future researchers wonder what it was). When I looked for my camera to load the pictures after eating, I found that I must have left it at work again. I am quite annoyed with myself.

I am therefore going to write a blog around the recent photos that I have on the other camera. First I will have to check what they are, as I can’t remember what they are.

It’s not looking promising.

There are pictures of the Peace and Tribute medals which I’m going to use for my talk at the Numismatic Society, which is, as yet, amorphous and coming up in four weeks.

There are banknotes from the shop, some modern collectible coins and some “evasions”. Evasions are interesting to students of coins, Georgian history and crime. And Americans. A lot of them were used, and even made, in America until the emerging state got its coinage sorted out. I say “interesting”. If brass, rubbing, train spotting and collecting matchbox labels are interesting…well, you get the picture.

In the eighteenth century there was a shortage of small change for everyday transactions. The gap was filled by tradesmen who issued their own tokens, forgers and makers of evasions, which fill a gap between the two. This is one of ours on eBay. They were made to look worn so they blended in better, so this is actually quite a good example.

An evasion is a coin made to look like a coin, but with some very unsubtle differences – it may have King Alfred or another figure on it, it may be mispelled and it may bear a date on which no coins were minted. It will, however, have a head on the front, looking vaguely king-like, and it will have Britannia or a harp on the back. In other words, it is meant to deceive, but be an obvious fake when examined. And, as an obvious fake, it isn’t legally a forgery.

When you consider that the punishment for forgery was hanging for men, and burning at the stake for women, you cans see that this was an important distinction.

The last woman to be burned at the stake in Britain, was Catherine Murphy, executed in 1789 for coining. Her husband was hanged for coining that same morning. By that time the burning was mainly symbolic as the victims were usually hanged or strangled before the fire was lit. This must have been of small comfort.

Despite popular culture shouting “Burn her, she’s a witch!” the English never burned witches. We hanged them. The last witch burned in Scotland was in 1727. I’m sure that whether they died by hanging or burning, witches must have felt hard done by, seeing as witchcraft didn’t really exist.

The last woman imprisoned for witchcraft in the UK was Helen Duncan, who claimed to have had contact with dead sailors and to know that HMS Barham had been sunk before it was officially announced. She was jailed in 1944 under the provisions of the Witchcraft Act of 1735. This, to be fair, wasn’t a case about witchcraft but about wartime censorship and a fraudulent medium claiming to be in touch with dead servicemen.

They may look like worn out copper discs, but coins can be quite interesting.

History in the Making

A little tiredness, a touch of sloth and I’m on the fourteeth day of the challenge with 26 posts done. I was ahead, I’m now behind.

Today was a busy day on eBay and a reasonably busy one in the shop. This is good, because we are there to be busy.

For the second day in a row we sold a lot of 1973 Proof 50p coins.

That’s the one with the ring of hands, which commemorates our membership of the EEC, as the EU was known at the time. This was exciting stuff in 1973, a whole new world of international relations and the first new decimal coin design.

How things change in just a few years.

It’s forty-seven years later, we have so many new designs of coin that it’s both disorientating and embarrassing, and we are leaving the EU. If the figures are to be believed, and I’d rather believe figures than politicians, it has already cost us a lot of money in terms of lost growth and could cost us a lot more.

We might do better as a result of leaving, who can tell? But my forecast is that when they close the lid of my cardboard coffin, people will still be arguing about it.

I know one thing – the quality of debate has not improved. Someone buttonholed Julia on the bus to talk about the importance of taking power back into our own hands and being able, once more, to enjoy bent bananas. Someone brought their grandson into the shop today, and had a very similar meander through their few remaining brain cells. It seems that today is the firsdt day of a new democracy and we are once again free to enjoy the benefits of bright green mushy peas and bent bananas.

What is it with these people and their bent bananas?

All foods are regulated, and have been since well before our membership of the EEC. If they weren’t, we would still be adulterating bread with alum and feeding kids sweets made with poisonous dyes.

So, what did I do on the day life changed forever?

Nothing much, just parcelled up nibe 50p pieces with an EEC design and listened to someone’s grandma talk rubbish.

History passed me by.

For an example of how coin design has deteriorated, look at out new Brexit 50p. A work-experience kid with a fancy font on a computer could have designed that. It’s pathetic.

It’s Hard Work Being a Prince

I’ve no doubt that Prince Harry is a hard-working and sincere young man, by the standards of royal princes. Same goes for his brother. And his father.

However, if any of us were the children of royalty I’m sure we would all be doing a great job too. It is, I suggest, quite easy to be a patron of charities and suchlike if your mother or grandmother is the Queen.

I’m pretty sure that in addition to helping charity I’d be up to opening a few things, laying some wreaths, visiting the warmer parts of the world on “official duties” and causing outrage by dressing as a Nazi for a fancy dress party or taking all my clothes off at a party in Vegas.

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Four Generations on Stamps

Ah, no I was wrong there. I’ve never dressed as a Nazi for a fancy dress party or stripped off at a party in Vegas or any other venue.

I suppose that’s because I had parents who taught me how to behave. Harry’s father is not, despite his green credentials, a great role model, and his mother, well what do I say? I know opinions are divided on Diana, and I’m not going to speak ill of the dead, but if she’d been from a council estate I think Social Services would probably have taken the children away for their own good.

Prince Philip has been a bit of a handful over the years, but he’s worked hard and only retired at the age of 96. The Queen is still going and strikes me as a decent sort.

I can’t think of anything bad about George VI.

Edward VIII, on the other hand, the selfish, playboy, petulant Nazi-lover, is not a man I have any great regard for.

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Prince Harry

George V, I know little about, though I don’t think he was much of a parent.

Edward VII was a multiple adulterer as both King and Prince of Wales.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the family has form for self-indulgent, petulant behaviour, they have different values from mine and I’m finding myself becoming steadily more radical as I grow older.

I thought I was supposed to get more right wing as I aged but I’m actually thinking about starting a revolution and lining the Royal Family up against a wall with a firing squad.

Various members of the Royal Family are shown, appearing on coins, stamps and School Attendance Medals.

Silver, Survival and Salvage

Here, at last, is the information on the Gibraltar £20 coin I mentioned a few days ago.

There is a tradition in Numismatic circles for collecting coins from shipwrecks, indeed we had a talk on this subject just a few weeks ago at the Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire. Sadly, I had one of my senior moments and completely forgot about it, even though I had intended going. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of shipwreck and treasure and it’s a collecting field that has always interested me. However, you can’t collect everything.

There has also been a fascination for collecting relics of ships. It is still possible, if you go round antique centres, to pick up small barrels and oddments like paper knives made from the deck timber of ships like the Warspite, Iron Duke and Ajax. Copper from Nelson’s Victory has also been used to make souvenirs, such as this copper fob from the British and Foreign which we currently have for sale on eBay.

Despite the photos, it’s only about an inch across.

 

More recently, I bought some key rings made from the bronze of the Queen Mary’s propellers, and also have some copper cash coins from the Admiral Gardner, which sunk on the Goodwin Sands in 1809.

This year, I have seen mementoes made from the silver recovered from the SS Gairsoppa.

The Gairsoppa, originally built as the War Roebuck, was completed in 1919 by Palmers of Jarrow, just in time to miss the Great War, and was named after the city of Gerusoppa in the state of Mysore. She had one touch of drama in her career in the Merchant Fleet, with just one touch of adventure when she ran aground  at Fulta Point on the South Eastern coast of India in 1930.

Palmers closed in 1933 after a long struggle to stay in business during the depression, and the unemployment this caused precipitated the Jarrow March.

In early 1941, whilst carrying a cargo of pig iron, tea and silver, she joined a convoy at Freetown, Sierra Leone to complete a voyage from India to the UK. Running short of fuel, she had to reduce speed, drop out of the convoy and head for Ireland to take on coal. On 16 February 1941, she was spotted by a Focke-Wulf Condor aircraft and was attacked by U-101 later that day, being sunk by a torpedo attack.

There were 82 men on board. Only one lifeboat launched successfully and out of the six men on board three died in the next two weeks. The boat capsized on the fourteenth day and the Lizard lifeboat was only able to rescue one survivor, Second Officer R. H. Ayres.

Sunk by submarine, fourteen days in an open boat, five men dying before rescue…

I can write the facts, but I can’t come up with anything that remotely does justice to the experience. While writing this post I found this item on an on-line forum – amazing to read the words of the man in question. His account doesn’t match up with the Wiki entry, but I suspect it’s more accurate.

The researcher who contacted him did a fine job, as modesty could have prevented us ever knowing the full story.

The eleven British casualties are recorded on theTower Hill Memorial, or, in two cases, on  a headstone in the cemetery at Landewednack. The seventy one Indian seamen are commemorated on the Chittagong War Memorial.

The epic nature of the story does not end there, because in 2011 an American salvage company located the wreck and, under licence from the British Government, began lifting the silver. So far they have recovered 61 tonnes, or just over half of the 110 tonnes known to be on board. At 15,000 feet deep (half a mile deeper than the RMS Titanic) this is the record for a salvage operation.

Of course, if the ship didn’t contain silver this would be considered plundering, piracy or desecration of a war grave. It’s amazing how a mountain of silver can make the moral compass swing.

In 2014 the Royal Mint struck 20,000 Quarter Ounce Britannias, using some of the silver.

The Gibraltar Mint followed up in 2016 with a specially made £20 coin, featuring a seafarer design and containing Gairsoppa silver.

The title of the coin is taken from a John Masefield  poem, For All Seafarers. It isn’t, in my opinion, one of his best, but it does make a number of telling points.

For all Seafarers

Even in peace, scant quiet is at sea;
In war, each revolution of the screw,
Each breath of air that blows the colours free.
May be the last life movement known to you.

Death, thrusting up or down, may disunite
Spirit from body, purpose from the hull,
With thunder, bringing leaving of the light,
With lightning letting nothingness annul.

No rock, no danger, bears a warning sign,
No lighthouse scatters welcome through the dark;
Above the sea, the bomb ; afloat, the mine;
Beneath, the gangs of the torpedo-shark.

Year after year, with insufficient guard,
Often with, none, you have adventured thus:
Some, reaching harbour, maimed and battle-scarred,
Some, never more, returning, lost to us.

But, if you ‘scape, tomorrow, you will steer
To peril once again, to bring us bread,
To dare again, beneath the sky off ear,
The moon-moved graveyard of your brothers dead.

You were salvation to the army lost,
Trapped, but for you, upon the Dunkirk beach;
Death barred the way to Russia, but you crosst;
To Crete and Malta, but you succoured each.

Unrecognised, you put us in your debt;
Unthanked, you enter, or escape, the grave;
Whether your land remember or forget
You saved the land, or died to try to save.

John Masefield

Not the Worst Day I’ve Ever Had

Today I packed parcels. I wrote eight slips out and remembered, after the sixth, that it was no longer 2019.

I moved on to load a gold 50p piece on eBay (it was Paddington Bear at St Paul’s Cathedral). I won’t trouble you with my views on “collectable” coins or the debasement of national character that accompanies cartoon animals being depicted on coins. However, I will let you imagine what these views are.

Then, just in case the excitement of being back at work became too much, I photographed some 1930s auction catalogues. That calmed me down.

A number of people rang me for advice on “rare” coins. On even rang me twice. I thought about telling him he was an idiot but customer service training prevented this.

You can tell how well everything went from the fact that I spent the whole day thinking it was Friday. It was only when Julia informed me that tomorrow was not Saturday, as I thought, that I realised my mistake.

We had vegetable stew for tea. Then we had cheese. It was very relaxing.

Now I’m writing a short post and I’m going to have tea and biscuits before going to bed.

As days go, I’ve had worse.