Member's Coin of the Month Gallery:
NI Members, if you have coin photos & descriptions that you would like to present, you are encouraged to email them as attachments. We'll process and post them here monthly.
SYRIA - 1 Pound - 1950
Following independence from the French and British mandate system at the close of World War II, politics in Syria became particularly chaotic. In May 1948 the president of Syria, in league with other Arab states, invaded Palestine to "destroy the Zionists" and prevent the formation of an Israeli state. With that failure came a succession of three military coups all within the space of one year in 1949. The last military leader, Colonel Adib Shishakli, lasted until another coup was successful against him in 1954. The Republic a Syria coinage began in 1948 and featured a new Coat of Arms consisting of the Hawk of Quraish (or Falcon of Qureish in the SCWC) and a banner stating "Republic of Syria." This hawk or falcon originates in the Arabic tradition of falconry which used both types of birds of prey. Among the arabesques and oak leaves of the reverse is a cartouche also proclaiming the Republic. This .900 fine gold pound (6.7586 g; 20 mm; PCGS MS66) was only issued in 1950 with a mintage of 250k. A half pound was also issued with the same design but the mintage was only 100k. You can view a selection of other Syrian coinage, both before, during, and after the Republic of Syria at this link.
PHOENICIA - Tyre Shekel - 400 to 332 B.C.E.
Phoenicia, Tyre AR Stater (Shekel). Circa 400-332 BC. Melkart, holding bow in extended left hand and reins in right, riding hippocamp to right; below, waves above dolphin swimming to right / Owl standing to right, head facing; crook and flail diagonally in background. Betlyon 37; SNG Cop. 301.
Very Fine. and Scarce, and in nice condition for the type. Beautiful, lustrous metal.
G. Markoe (Phoenicians, 2000) offers a succinct description of the early Tyrian coinage: “On its earliest issues, dateable c.450 BC, Tyre chose, for its obverse, a flying dolphin and a murex shell, both obvious references to the city’s maritime greatness (the latter was subsequently replaced by the figure of a marine deity riding on a hippocamp). Equally revealing is the motif chosen by the city as the reverse emblem: an owl with a crook and flail. These implements, venerable symbols of Egyptian royal power and authority, were closely associated with the falcon god Horus, a subject widely adopted in Phoenician art. The Tyrian diemaker, however, chose to replace the falcon with an owl, an image unattested to in the ancient Near East, but closely connected with the city of Athens. As the symbol of its tutelary goddess Athena, the owl appears prominently on the reverse of Athenian coinage, beginning in the late sixth century BC. Like its Athenian precursor, the Tyrian owl exhibits the same frontal head pose with staring eyes.”
The adoption of the owl on the reverse of the coin attests to the importance of commercial relations between Tyre and its great Greek rival, Athens, on the one hand, and Egypt on the other. A similar influence is felt on early Palestinian coins, as strikingly shown by the coins of Gaza, which imitate not only the type and legend of the Athenian coinage, but are also struck on the Attic standard. Tyre too would eventually adopt the Attic standard shortly before the mid-fourth century.
PALAU - First Colorized NCLT Coin - 1992
This "first of" coin is a non-circulating commemorative for the YEAR OF MARINE-LIFE PROTECTION issued by the Republic of Palau in 1992. For those decrying the advent of colorized, and other forms of kitschy NCLT, look no further than this coin photo for your latest dart board target. Of course the situation since 1992 has gotten much more creative with innovations too numerous to mention. While many of the latest designs can encourage interest by a new group of collectors by being different and inexpensive, others have miniscule mintages and can be rather expensive to collect. This issue of Palau is composed of 26.74 grams of Copper-nickel (37.35 mm) and the estimated mintage is 50k. Palau achieved full independence in October 1994, so this coin was issued as a US Trust Territory and is denominated as a US dollar. A gold Essai of the same design was also issued. The obverse of this coin features a Mermaid amidst the surf, which is a common theme among other marketed coins of Palau.
SWEDEN - Charles XII - Emergency Daler
Karl XII (1682 - 1718), as he was known by the Swedes, is recognized as one of the potential conquerors of Russia, along with Napoleon and Hitler, that all came to grief in the attempt. As a young military hero Charles XII had great success initially. Along with the efforts of previous king, Gustavus Adolphus II, Sweden became a major power in Europe during the 17th century. The Great Northern War was brought to Charles by a triple alliance of Sweden's enemies trying to take advantage of the inexperienced King. The alliance was brought low by the brilliant military tactician in Charles XII. Thus, Denmark-Norway, Saxony-Poland-Lithuania, and Russia were all defeated in successive battles. Charles XII set off for Moscow but was eventually defeated at the Battle of Poltava (June 1709) where he met a Russian force twice the size of his Swedish army. Forced to surrender, Charles was exiled to the Ottoman Empire for five years. Upon his return to Sweden in 1714, Charles again began to maneuver against his neighbors by attacking Danish forces in Norway. During this period of 1715 to 1718 a series ten of copper Emergency Dalers (Goertz Dalers) were struck at the Stockholm mint. Most of these Dalers are about 23.5 mm in diameter and have a mass of 4.5 grams except for the early issues of 1715 and 1716. All ten types feature a different obverse theme, and the reverse designs also vary. This SATVRNVS type sits in the middle of six themes that were issued in 1718, most of them feature Roman deities. Here Saturn, as Father Time, is seen holding an infant and a scythe. You can see examples of all ten major types by clicking this LINK.
CHILE - 1 Peso, 1895 - Hammer & Sickle
In remembrance of the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, that occurs this month, I would like to examine the development of a powerful symbol. When the political winds change for a culture, as it did for Russia in 1917, so do the symbols of the new government. The origins of the iconic symbol has been difficult to positively determine. While the hammer is an element of Norse and Slavic mythology, related to the thunder god Thor and Svarog, it's not known if this cultural relic was in mind during adoption of the symbol for the USSR. The same can be said of the sickle, which was a tool carried by Mara or Morana, a pagan goddess of Indo-European and Slavic tradition. What is known is that a contest was held in Moscow, late 1917, to encourage artists to submit their designs using the ideals and words of the communist leader Vladimir Lenin as their guide. Lenin's ideal was a union of workers and peasants and his famous slogan, "proletariat of the world, unite!" set the tone for a new symbol that expressed the idea of workers and agricultural peasants joining together for a new socialist state. The crossed hammer and sickle, by Yevgeny Kamzolkin was chosen as the contest winner in April 1918.
Or was it a new and original symbol? This new Chilean coin design of 1895 clearly includes the very same element on its reverse design by Frenchman Ernest Tasset. The condor on the obverse is the work of another great engraver, Louis-Oscar Roty, famous for “Semeuse” or the sower, on French coins. The complete Union of Soviet Socialist Republics symbol, where the hammer and sickle is superimposed over an image of the globe was adopted in July 1923, and appeared on this Ruble in 1924. I've found another example of a hammer and sickle coin that seems to be too early to be found on German notgeld piece of Weissenfels, 1918. It's also interesting to note that the hammer and sickle design did not appear on a Russian coin until after it appeared on one of their client states, Khiva Khawarezm in 1921. So what do you think? Did Yevgeny Kamzolkin have an original idea?
Sierra Leone - One Penny - 1791
In 1787 the British established the "Province of Freedom" in an area of the west coast of Africa that the Portuguese and Spanish had named Sierra Leone (Lioness Mountains). The original intent was to repatriate the poor blacks of London. Following the American Revolution the British had moved Loyalist blacks to Nova Scotia where they experienced a cool welcome and an even colder climate. Consequently, the first group of 400 blacks, 60 whites, and some West Indians were sent to Sierra Leone in May of 1787. Eventually many thousands were transported there and the towns of Granville and Freetown were established. Thirty years later abolitionists and influential members of the United States government established a similar colony south of Sierra Leone known as Liberia.
While the earliest coins manufactured for the new colony of Sierra Leone are dated 1791 this date merely represents the date of the founding of the Sierra Leone Company. The earliest coins were not ordered from the Matthew Boulton company in Soho (Birmingham) until August 1792 and none were minted until December of that year. The Penny shown was part of the first issues along with the silver dollar. Later issues had the basic penny denomination changed to cent and this became the first decimal monetary system of 100 cents equalling one dollar. The Standard Catalog of World Coins has the coin here, and all the of the Penny and Cents as struck in bronze. This is incorrect, all of these were struck in copper but some, like this proof example, were bronzed and in some cases gilt covered. This coin is cataloged as KM 2.1a, you can see the second issue denominated as a Cent at this link.
China - Hupeh-Honan-Anwhei Soviet Red Army Base $ - 1932
Normally seen as Hupeh-Honan-Anhwei Soviet, here is a bit of history about this important Communist Guerilla Base: O, or (Ngo) Yu & Wan are the respective literary names of Hupeh, Honan, Anhwei. This communist base, located between the borders of those 3 provinces, had been created between 1927 and 1929 by the consolidation of several smaller soviets. It was contemporary with the Chinese Soviet Republic. The army protecting the base was the original Fourth Red Army. In August 1932, under pressure from Chiang Kai-shek's Fourth Annihilation Campaign, the O-Yu-Wan base was abandoned. It's inhabitants began a smaller version of the Long March, and in Nov. 1932 reached northern Szechuan, where they established a new soviet base - the Szechuan-Shensi Soviet. They went on to coin the vast majority of Soviet issues.
The obverse depicts the classic hammer and sickle atop a globe with Chinese legend around reading, "ALL THE PROLETARIANS WORLDWIDE UNITE!" The central reverse displays "One Yuan" or "One Dollar" with Chinese legend above displaying the date of 1932. It is interesting to note the date is arranged in a western manner as 1932 which deviates from the traditional Chinese method of dating coins. The lower legend on the reverse is arranged in a "Pseudo Russian" script of somewhat debased Cyrillic, transcribed as "Soviet Chinese Republic". Of the utmost rarity and importance as this ranks among the earlier of the Soviet issues, believed by many to have been struck for use in the Hupeh-Honan-Anhwei revolutionary base area. The only attempted bilingual coin of the Soviet series, although another coin from the Wan-Hsi-Pei Soviet has a denomination and date in shown in western fashion. KM# Y 503; L&M 887; Kann 802; 26.95 gm of about .900 silver.
Korea - "Charmed" 100 Mun ~ 1866
This is a One Hundred Mun ("Value Hundred" tangbaekchon or dangbaekjun [sang pyong tong bo] coin issued by the Kingdom of Korea and the Treasury Department (Ho Jo). The One Hundred Mun is the only denomination of sang pyong tong bo coinage for which accurate mint records exist. These coins were first cast by the Treasury Department on December 12, 1866 and put into circulation beginning January 15, 1867. The last coin was produced on June 16, 1867 which means these coins were cast for only 172 days. A total of 1,784,038 "One Hundred Mun" coins were cast by the government.
In general the One Hundred Mun coins minted by the government have a diameter of 40.6 mm, a thickness of 2.8 mm and a weight of 25.1 grams. There are about 50 varieties of the 100 Mun coins with differences so slight (character stroke style, size, etc) it is hard for a Westerner to discern. Adding to the confusion is the fact that they were very profitable to counterfeit in those times. Only the fact that these inflated issues were very unpopular limited the fakes. They were used for other uses other than money. Like this one they were used as charms and as part of chatelaines. Others were carved, engraved and formed into various other shaped charms, which is another numismatic avenue unto itself. I've seen them embedded into oak chests, particularly money chests. The Koreans used a small hand grinder to pulverise beans and grain, so you often find poor examples of these coins with the center hole worn and the edges worn down because they were stacked as washers to separate the grinding surfaces at a desired spacing. A standard catalog of Korean coins shows more than 40 varieties, but even to this day they are illustrated with rubbings. Other than nice original examples you can seek out rare specimens of 'mother coins' that were used to make impressions for casting, and ones that used odd metal alloys that made them look silver colored. In my vain attempt to describe the varieties to a Western numismatic audience I collected quite a few of them. You can see some of my other examples here.
Naples Italy - Ferdinand II of Aragon - Coronato
Ferdinand is today best known for his role in inaugurating the discovery of the New World, since he and Isabella sponsored the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. That year he also fought the final war with Granada which expunged the last Islamic state on Iberian soil, thus bringing to a close the centuries-long Reconquista. Ferdinand II (Aragonese: Ferrando II d'Aragón, Spanish: Fernando II de Aragón, Catalan: Ferran el Catòlic) (10 March 1452 – 23 January 1516), called the Catholic, was King of Sicily from 1468 and King of Aragon from 1479 until his death. As a consequence of his marriage to Isabella I, he was King of Castile as Ferdinand V from 1474 until her death in 1504. He was recognised as regent of Castile for his daughter and heir, Joanna, from 1508 until his own death. In 1504, after a war with France, he became King of Naples as Ferdinand III, reuniting Naples with Sicily permanently and for the first time since 1458. In 1512, he became King of Navarre by conquest. (Wikipedia)
Ferdinando I d’Aragona (1458-1494), Coronato, Napoli, AR, (g 3,91, mm 26). + FERDINANDVS:D:G:R⋅SICIL:IER⋅, striped cross, below C, Rv. :CORONATVS:QA:LEGITME:CERT:, bust of king r., wearing crown; at l. C. MIR 68/12; Pannuti-Riccio 15m. B# 1673; C&C #1270. The large cross is of the type typically represented on the sails of the Columbus flagship the Santa Maria.
British India - Madras Presidency 1/48th Rupee - 1794
Matthew Boulton was contracted to strike these for the East India Company in July of 1794 at his fully steam driven mint in Soho. Boulton thought the ideal coin would have wide raised rims with incused lettering, devices, and a lettered edge. This would discourage counterfeiting and produce a coin with long lasting qualities. While he was experimenting with a gold coin (?) his first product with this concept was his English Trade (Conder) token for Daniel Eccleston. In this design, by engraver Noel-Alexandre Ponthon, he went a bit further and had the obverse legend partly incuse and partly in relief making for a unique and beautiful coin. This 'cartwheel' concept was later (1797) adopted for the famous, and official, British one & two pence of George III.
Boulton reserved most of the rest of 1794 to producing the 1/48 Rupee and the smaller 1/96 Rupee. These odd denominations were an attempt to make these coins fit into an assortment of local coinage mediums at that time. In all 4,616,129 of the larger denomination (34 to the pound) and 9,102,868 of the smaller (68 to the pound) were minted for 1794. Another, slightly larger, issue of this design was made for 1797.
Despite the mintage figures these coins are scarce in nice condition and very scarce in this NGC Proof 64 virtually blemish free encapsulation. This coin appears bronzed with a darker tone with obvious proof surfaces, much better that the photo! Obverse incuse legend is "AUSPICIO REGIS ET SENATUS ANGLIAE" which translates from the Latin as "Under the Auspices of the King and Senate of England." The edge lettering (incuse) is "ENGLISH UNITED EAST INDIA COMPANY."
Iran - Ayatollah Khomeini - Azadi of 1995
Islamic Republic bullion coinage issued by the National Bank of Iran. Obverse features a mosque with the legends "The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran" and (perhaps) "Spring of Freedom". Reverse features a facing 3/4 portrait of Khomeini. Another type celebrating him shows a left facing portrait.
Ruhollah Mostafavi Moosavi Khomeini, (24 September 1902 - 3 June 1989), was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution as the highest ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. After coming to power, Khomeini ordered the destruction of Reza Shah's mausoleum, and executed opposition members by the tens of thousands. Khomeini's killing spree included 1,988 executions of Iranian political prisoners, among many others. Khomeini used religion to gain and justify his political power. Khomeinis' close circle created a myth around him and elevated him to god-like status. (Wikipedia)
The mosque depicted is probably the Imam Ridha Mosque in NE Iran, at Mashdad. It entombs the remains of the eighth, "Twelver" Shiah Imam, 'Ali al-Ridha'. The mosque-complex is the largest mosque in the world. This gold bullion Azadi coinage is dated SH1374 (1995), weighs 8.136 g,; .2354 oz AGW and .900 purity.
French Revolution - Monneron Brothers 5 Sols - 1792
This gilded bronze Monneron token 5 Sols was minted in Birmingham England. Late in 1791 Matthew Boulton, utilizing his newly invented steam driven coin press, was commissioned by the Monneron Brothers of Paris France to produce 1, 2 and 5 Sols pieces in great quantity at his Soho Mint near Birmingham. These 'monnaies de necessite' were to be used to remedy the lack of small change which plagued France during the early revolutionary years. The technical and aesthetic quality of the tokens was far superior to the bronze coins of France at the time.
Obverse - Soldiers swearing allegiance to personification of 'France', who holds a copy of the Constitution. Legend: "VIVRE LIBRES OU MOURIER." ("Live Free or Die"). In exergue: "14 JUILLET 1790." Above the flags: "PACTE FEDERATIF." Reverse: "MEDAILLE DE CONFIANCE DE CINQ-SOLS REMBOURSABLE EN ASSIGNATS DE 50 L. ET AU DESSUS." In exergue: "L'AN IV DE LA LIBERTE" Legend: "MONNERON FRERES NEGOCIANS A PARIS 1792." Edge reads: "DEPARTEMENS DE PARIS . RHONE ET LOIRE . DU GARD . &c".
The date, L'AN IV de la Liberte refers to the Revolutionary French Constitutional Calendar and translates as 1792. The scene on the obverse shows the Oath of the Federation, the first anniversary of which was celebrated by the Festival of the Federation on 14 July 1790. The Festival, which included a mass held by the great French statesman Talleyrand (1754-1838), then the Bishop of Autun, also commemorated the taking of the Bastille and the bond uniting the nation, the king, and the people. In March 1792, the Monneron Brothers became bankrupt and one brother, Pierre, abandoned the business. Under the other brother, Augustin, the business recovered, but a law enacted 3rd May 1792 forbade the production of privately issued coinage. In September, a further decree also forbade the marketing of these 'Medailles de Confiance'. This emergency coinage only remained in circulation until the end of 1793. These are listed in KM under France, Token issues of MONNAIES DE CONFIANCE (1791-92) KM Tn2 type (bronze); and under this gilt type by Mazard #146, Rarity 1.
New Zealand Tradesman Token - No Date (before 1882)
During the period of 1852 - 1856 New Zealand, a colony of Great Britain, was granted self-governance under a ministerial form of government. Consequently there was shortage of British money and merchants filled the gap with tradesmen's tokens, some denominated, but most dependent on weight and size. Ten cities in New Zealand had merchants who issued 147 varieties of tokens in either copper or bronze. It wasn't until 1897, when British coinage in copper and silver and Australian sovereigns became plentiful enough to displace the native tokens.
The example here is from Milner & Thompson. The company was in Christchurch and issued a number of designs, this one being the best. Other of their tokens state they were "Sole Agents for Brinsmead Pianos." This One Penny Token was minted by Stokes & Martin, Melbourne, Australia. Issued by Milner & Thompson, Canterbury Music Depot, Christchurch, 1881. This music store was opened in 1874 by Robert Thompson, some time soon afterwards he took John Milner into partnership and they worked together for 21 years. When Milner retired Thompson continued in the business until he passed it to his sons in 1907. The business was bought by Charles Begg and Co. in 1920, and was still a going concern in 1950. Milner & Thompson were the last issuers of tokens in New Zealand (1881) and this example maybe the only type issued without reference to the business concern involved. It seems to have been issued to celebrate native culture.
Obverse: Maori warrior standing in front of a palm tree. He holds a large shield and spear with his right hand and a sprig in his left. The shield design is quartered with plants in each sector, a kiwi bird emerges walking left from behind the shield. In the sea behind the prow of a war canoe can be seen to the left of the kiwi and a mountainous island is seen in the background. Legend around, 'NEW ZEALAND.' Reverse: Bust a Maori warrior facing three-quarters right with tattooed face, wearing a feather headdress and holding a spear in his right hand and shield; legend around, 'ADVANCE NEW ZEALAND.' Krause Mishler SCWC KM#Tn 52.
Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) 100 Mon, No Date (1862)
These coins were minted in Bunkyu 2-3 (1862-63) by the Shimazu clan at Isonohama, near Kashogima, the political center for Satsuma and also for the Ryukyu. Ryukyu traders and emissaries frequented the city, and a special Ryukyu embassy building was established there. The coins were originally intended for trade with the Ryukyu but apparently were little used there. It is said that their production was a smokescreen to hide the production of illegal Tempo Value 100 coins. Obverse: Ryu Kyu Tsu Ho (Ryukyu Currency); Rev: To Hyaku (Value 100). The edge here is stamped in two places with the first syllable of Satsuma ( 'sa' ). It's nominal value of 100 mon soon declined to 88 mon. (ed. Hartill "Early Japanese Coins") These issues are recognized as being part of an Asia wide inflationary period that began in China during the Tai Ping Rebellion. KM C#100, Hartill large character variety #6.28.
The round Hanshuu Ryuukyuu Tsuuhou (half Shu; click link to see it) was ordered to circulate at the value of 248 mon, or twice the value of this 100 Mon coin. However it weighed merely 8 monme or about 10 to 12 times the weight of the average one mon coin. Han means "half" and "shu" is a gold currency weight. Therefore the Satsuma government was trying to command an exchange rate between copper currency and gold currency. Normally the relative exchange rates of silver, gold and copper currencies were unstable throughout Japan despite government attempts to decree them into one currency system. Thus although at one half shu this coin should have circulated at 32 coins per gold ryou (one koban coin), it is unlikely that it really did so. Info source: Nihon Ginkou Chousakyoku ed., Zuroku Nihon no kahei, vol. 4 (Tokyo: Touyou Keizai Shinpousha, 1973), pp. 319-322. From Luke Robert's "East Asian Cash" website.
Mexican 8 Reales Countermarked at Rothsay Cotton Works - 1820
This coin is a cast 8 reales, dated 1812, from the Chihuahua mint in Mexico. A definitive article about this series is entitled "U.K. Merchant Countermarked Dollars c. 1787-1828" by Eric Hodge in the May/June 2016 "Numismatics International Bulletin." This coin is a bonus piece that was not featured in the article.
Chihuahua was a temporary Royalist mint set up by a decree of 8th October 1810 during the War of Independence against Spain which lasted from 1810 to 1821.
The only coins issued at Chihuahua were 8 reales, and when the mint was first established coins were cast, due to lack of adequate machinery, from 1810 to 1813 and then struck (generally over previously cast coins) between 1813 and 1822. The cast coins were based on original 8 reales of Mexico City as patterns, (as all have the square and circle marking on the edge, similar to that of coins struck by the Mexico City mint) but apparently care was exercised to eradicate the M mint mark and substitute capital CA for Chihuahua mint. The assayers’ initials were also altered to RP though no records have been found to tell us what this stood for. The City of Chihuahua was founded as a mission on the 15th August 1639. Between 1705 and 1708 rich gold and silver deposits were discovered in the vicinity.
Besides having the unmistakable cast appearance and the crudely outlined CA and RP these coins also have two countermarks placed on the obverse, on the left of the king’s portrait a T designating receipt by the Royal Treasurer and on the right crowned pillars of Hercules with pomegranate beneath, a symbol used by the comptrollers of the Real Hacienda to whom these pieces were turned over from the foundry room. These countermarks were placed with hand punches, after each piece had been checked for weight, the lighter coins being discarded and the heavier filed down. This particular coin is heavy at 29.22 grams, so was lucky not to be filed down.
Subsequently this coin found its way to Scotland where it was countermarked by the Rothsay Cotton Works in about 1820 and issued at a value of 4 shillings and 6 pence. On the reverse can be seen the privy punch mark below and slightly to the right of the reverse shield designating the validity of this Scottish mark.
German P.O.W. Camp Token - Sagan
This unassuming uniface P.O.W. camp token was an acquisition with two other Notgeld coins of Germany, only one of which I was interested in. That is until I looked into the attribution and history of this token and of the Camp at Sagan. Today the town of Zagan is a now part of Poland, before 1945 it was part of Germany (Silesia). This uniface coin, value 10, shows the legend "KREIGSGEFANENLAGER *SAGAN*" (literally: "war captured camp"), there was also a value 5 Pfennig token issued of the same style.
It's claim to fame, other than it's cruelty to the prisoners, is the story of the "Great Escape". In March 1942, the town of Sagan became the location of the Stalag Luft III camp for captured airmen (Kriegsgefangenen Stammlager der Luftwaffe 3 Sagan). It was the site of the most courageous escape resulting in the execution of 50 prisoners. Under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (see Wikipedia) three tunnels with the names "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry" were dug by the prisoners (Mar. 1944). This episode of history was the subject of the 1963 film "The Great Escape," starring Steve McQueen and his Triumph T-6 motorcycle. In reality it was the biggest and the most deadly escape of pilots captured by Nazi Germany during the entire period of World War II. The number of prisoners attempting the escape was 200, of whom 76 managed to leave the camp; of those 73 were caught and 50 were executed on Hitler's orders. Just three successfully escaped, one to Gibraltar and two to Sweden. All three re-united in England eventually.
Great Britain - Political/Satirical Token "The End Of Pain"
This interesting Half-Penney Token is part of a sub-set of 18th Century tokens issued in Great Britain by private manufacturers. While many of these tokens were used by mining operations and manufacturers to pay workers, many others were issued as "store cards" for advertising purposes. Another group of these tokens were struck to present political messages, often in the form of satire. These are fascinating because a knowledge of the history of the times is required to understand the full propaganda incorporated in the design. "The End of Pain" token, shown here, is a very simple design that speaks to the wealth of history involving the age of revolution, both industrial and political. This token features Thomas Paine hanging from a gibbet with the British flag flying from the ramparts of a church in the background. The reverse shows an open book with "The Wrongs of Man" and the date: Jan'y 21, 1793. Thomas Paine came from England to the British Colonies of America where he was instrumental in coalescing opinion for an independence movement through the publication of "Common Sense." When he returned to Britain he was forced to flee to France where he got involved in the French Revolution by publishing his liberal philosophy in the "The Rights of Man." The date of January 21, 1793 is the date that King Louis XVI lost his head to revolutionary fervor. Therefore, this token contains a name pun on the obverse and a play on words on the reverse. Loyal Englishmen feared the type of liberal political philosophy that Paine espoused and fought against it using tokens like this one, and another known as "A Map of France," (click for link). While this strike is commonly attributed to Thomase Spence, an ally of Thomas Paine, it is not possible because the message on this token was against Paine. Another token, "Pigs Meat" by Spence, shows this affinity and the common beliefs they held against the British Crown and the British Church.
Ancient CHINA - Gold Covered Bronze Imitation Cowry Shell
Not much numismatic information is available on Ancient Chinese coins, especially those made previous to about 700 B.C. That fact makes them all the more fascinating. Cowry shells are found mostly as grave objects but may have been used as an early form of money, or at least objects of value. There is an evolution that can be followed that preceded 700 BC by about a thousand years. Cowries, particularly of the species Cypraea Moneta and C. Annulus, were used in ancient China as objects of value in their raw form. Thereafter, they can be found with their bulbous backs filed off allowing them to be strung together. They appear to be used first in Northwestern China, a long way from where they are naturally found in the Indian Ocean. This beauty and rarity established their use as money. Eventually, perhaps because of their rarity, the natural shells were replaced by a host of imitation cowries carved of material like bone, ivory, jade. Finally, they were cast in bronze, vary rarely silver, and bronze covered in gold leaf. If you click the link above you can see the most comprehensive collection (four pages) of cowries available anywhere, from a fresh C. Moneta to all types ancient Chinese imitation cowries. The most incredible is the extremely detailed one carved from stone (p.4) and another from ivory.
East India Company - Sumatra, 1 Keping, 1786
The famous Industrial Revolution coiner, Matthew Boulton, began his historic career as coiner with a contract with the British East India Company in 1786. The contract was to make coins for the Bencoolen (Bengkulu) trading port on the Island of Sumatra. Boulton's true interest was to strike small change coins for the British government, the responsibility for which had been taken over by private concerns, due to official inaction. He finally managed to gain official sanction to mint the 1 and 2 Pence "Cartwheels" in 1797. In the mean time Boulton developed the first steam driven coin presses that were fully automated, to include collared dies and automated coin ejection technology. Famously, he combined his quest for steam driven industrialization, with the aid of James Watt, and others, to help accomplish the birth of the Industrial Revolution. However, these early E. India Co. coins were made using a manual screw press. The copper blanks were made at Boulton's Soho mint where the copper was rolled on water wheel powered equipment. They qualify as an early industrial effort by Boulton and Watt, because, due to the the lack of a sufficient water flow at the mill, a steam engine was employed to circulate the water back to the top of the water wheel. Therefore, steam power was used to help make these earliest of industrial era coins.
The coin bears the VEIC (United E. India Co.) bale-mark and the first year of issue, 1786, on the obverse. The reverse bears the the denomination of 1 Keping in Jawi script and the A.H. date of 1200. The edges have either an oblique or vertical engrailing that helped to prevent counterfeiting and shaving of the copper. Proofs, including gilded examples, also exist as well as 2 & 3 Keping denominations.
France under Napoleon Bonaparte - 40 Francs, 1st Year:
The era of Napoleon I, following the French Revolution, used three date formats. The FIRST YEAR issue used the Revolutionary dating system with Roman numerals. This one year type is seen here with AN XI as the issue year (~1803). The next issue year bore the date AN 12, using Arabic numbers rather than Roman numerals. Later still, in 1806, the coin date system was changed again to a familiar western system. Mintmark "A" represents the mint in Paris, and this particular piece had 226k struck. Craig reference #147 is .900 fine gold at 19.9 grams (.3734 oz. AGW).
Years are counted since the establishment of the first French Republic on 22 September 1792. That day became 1 Vendemiaire of the Year 1 of the Republic. (However, the Revolutionary Calendar was not introduced until 24 November 1793.) So the dates do not easily correspond to today's western dating system.
Shekel of Tyre of "30 Pieces of Silver" fame:
Any short collection of Biblical coins has to include a Shekel of Tyre, which is generally accepted as the money received by Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of Jesus' whereabouts in the Garden of Gethsemane. Other coins are contenders but the Tyrian shekel weighed four Athenian drachmas, about 14 grams, more than earlier 11-gram Israeli shekels, but was regarded as the equivalent for religious duties at that time. Because Roman coinage was only 80% silver, the purer (94% or better) Tyrian shekels were required to pay the temple tax in Jerusalem. The money changers referenced in the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 21:12 and parallels) exchanged Tyrian shekels for common Roman currency. Therefore, the priests of the Jewish Temple probably dealt mainly with these common coins of value. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_pieces_of_silver)
This silver tetradrachm (Shekel) weighs 14.27 grams, which is the median mass for this series, it is dated 'Year 5' which equates to 122 - 121 B.C.E. It bears a portrait of a beardless Melqarth who was the tutelary god of the Phoenician City of Tyre. Being on a smaller and thicker flan, the lion's skin around his neck is off flan as is the eagle's head on the reverse. The eagle stands on the "beak" of a galley carrying a palm frond under it's right wing; in the fielded to the left is a club, a symbol of Herakles (Hercules), with which Melqarth is associated. In this long series of coins two dates stand out: the so-called “millennium shekel,” which was struck in civic year 126, or 1 BC/AD 1. The other, even more in demand, is the issue of civic year 159, or AD 33/4. Following traditional chronologies, this is the year in which Jesus was crucified by the Procurator Pontius Pilate. (CoinWeek)
Republic of Peru, 150th Anniversary of the Independence of Peru - Tupac Amaru II
Tupac Amaru (NIB article link)
This month's coin celebrates Peru, the important history of Túpac Amaru II, and an award winning article by Alan Luedeking found in a previous issue of NI's "Bulletin."
José Gabriel Túpac Amaru (March 19, 1742 – May 18, 1781) — known as Túpac Amaru II — was a leader of an indigenous uprising in 1780 against the Spanish in Peru. Although unsuccessful, he later became a mythical figure in the Peruvian struggle for independence and indigenous rights movement and an inspiration to myriad causes in Peru. Be sure to read the excellent NIB article here.
Obverse: Bust of Túpac Amaru II right. Value (50) to left. Inner Legend: CINCUENTA SOLES DE ORO; Legend: SESQUICENTENARIO DE LA INDEPENDENCIA DEL PERU . 1821 . 1971 . Reverse lengend: BANCO CENTRAL DE RESERVA DEL PERU 8 DECIMOS FINO . 1971 . The coin was designed by Armando Pareja with the Lima mintmark incorporated with his monogram, the coin had a mintage of one hundred thousand.
Republic of Guinea, 10th Anniversary of Independence & Apollo XIII
One of the first countries to commemorate America's 1969 Moon Landing (Apollo XI) Guinea repeated the honor a year later for Apollo XIII's near fatal disaster and miraculous recovery. Guinea also struck another 2000 Francs gold coin, stuck in 1970, for the USSR's Soyuz spacecraft. This series also commemorated the 10th Year of Independence from France. The obverse image of this coin is included on the NI Web site banner and concludes the exposition of coins on the banner.
In 1958 the French Forth Republic collapsed due to political instability and its failures in dealing with its colonies, especially Indochina and Algeria. The founding of a Fifth Republic was supported by the French people, while French President Charles de Gaulle made it clear on 8 August 1958 that France's colonies were to be given a stark choice between more autonomy in a new French Community and immediate independence in a referendum to be held on 28 September 1958. The other colonies chose the former but Guinea, under the leadership of Ahmed Sékou Touré, voted overwhelmingly for independence. The French withdrew quickly, and on 2 October 1958, Guinea proclaimed itself a sovereign and independent republic, with Sékou Touré as president.
Zanzibar - Pysa of British East Africa, AH 1299 (1882)
Zanzibar was a British Protectorate on islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania (Tanganyika). It comprised a portion of British East Africa and were otherwise known as the Spice Islands. You've got to love the double pan balance scales (with date between) as a symbol of extensive trade in the area. The AH 1299 (1882) 1 Pysa is commons, but the AH 1304 (1887) coin is very scarce. The AH 1299 coin was struck at the Royal Belgian Mint, Brussels, Belgium while the AH 1304 coin was struck at Heaton's Mint, Birmingham, England and have a completely different script obverse. These coins were commissioned by Sultan Barghash bin Said ibn Sultan who was, apparently and understandably, upset that his name was written incorrectly on the coins as "Sultan Said ibn Barghash ibn Sultan." Bargash was the son of Said and not vice-versa. It is accompanied by the expression "حفظه الله", "may Allah save him." Note that even one of the Arabic characters was incorrectly written: the "fa" in "حفظه" is written with a dot below (a Maghreb variant) rather than with the dot above as in standard Arabic script. This mistake is unique among coins of comparatively modern times (Freeman Grenville). The obverse image of this coin is included on the NI Web site banner.
Greece - Thessaly, Larissa and her nymph
Larissa was the most important town of all the federated towns of the Thessalian plains; they were famous for their cattle and horses. Larissa (the town) is named after the daughter of Pelasgos and was situated on the river Peneios.
This stunningly beautiful coin depicts the nymph Larissa 3/4 facing to left, wearing necklace; hair is confined by fillet and floating loosely, with ampyx in front. The reverse features a horse that is usually described as 'grazing' but everyone familiar with horses knows that this particular position, head down with the legs as shown, indicates a horse that is about to go down and roll over.
These gorgeous coins are part of the attractive Greek series of 'facing' female portraits. There are several die varieties, some where you might say she's ugly. As with all facing coins, the nose takes a a beating so finding a nice looking Larissa without a flattened nose is a bit more difficult. This one is modeled after the very famous issues of Syracuse featuring the facing head of Arethusa by Cimon. The obverse image of this coin is included on the NI Web site banner.
c. 350 B.C.; AR Drachm at 6.05 gm; ~ 19 mm.
Roman Empire: Emperor Septimius Severus - Victory in Britannia
Roman Imperial silver denarius of Emperor Septimius Severus (Lucius Septimius Severus, ruled 193 - 211 A.D.). After the much heralded death of Emperor Commodus, and the short reign of Pertinax, Septimius Severus dispatched three other rivals in a Civil War (Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger & Clodius Albinus) in order wear the laurel. He spent much of his reign campaigning in wars throughout far flung parts of the Empire and visiting the provinces. An invasion by northern Britons in 197 A.D. had resulted in much unrest in Britannia and Septimius decided to take advantage of this situation to employ his two rivaling sons and prepare them for their eventual rule. Septimius and his family arrived in Eburacum (modern York) in A.D. 209. The strains of the campaign, and his advanced age lead to his death there by natural causes (Feb. 211). His eldest son, "Caracalla" concluded a peace with the Caledonians in order to return the family to Rome for the funeral and consecration in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Another accomplishment of their stay in Britannia was the renovation of Hadrian's Wall. The scarcer obverse legend here (SEVERVS PIVS AVG. BRIT) reflects the Severan family's stay in Britannia, as does the reverse theme. Here Victory advances right holding a palm branch and wreath; the legend is VICTORIAE BRIT. Sear 1692 (2nd ed., 1974), Cohen 727, RIC 332, BMC 51; 18mm & 2.91 grams. This coin appears in the NI Web site banner.
South African Republic - One Penny, 1892
Dutch, German, and French Huguenots established themselves in southern Africa in the 17th and 18th Centuries and became known as Afrikaaners. By 1814 Great Britain had established dominance and permanent claim to the vast region. The Afrikaaner farmers began to move north in order to escape the British dominance and eventually established two independent Boer Republics known as the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. With the discovery of diamonds and gold the British moved on these areas too. The resulting Boer Wars of 1880 - 1881 and again in 1899 to 1902 resulted in the incorporation of the Boer areas into the Union of South Africa. The 1892 bronze Penny of the Zuid Afrikannsche Republiek (ZAR, 1874 - 1902) is the first year of issue for the ZAR during their continued independence after the First Boer War. The obverse features a portrait of Paul Kruger who later appears on the famous Krugerrand gold bullion issues. This KM#2 of 1892 had a mintage of 83,000 pieces. Obverse and reverse images of this coin appear in the NI Web site banner.
China - Qing Dynasty Machine Stuck Cash, 1887 - 1888
CHINA, Qing Dynasty - Guang-Xu (Emperor De Zong, reigned 1875-1908) milled brass one cash of Zhejiang (Chekiang) Province.
Hangzhou, Zhejiang mint. Square, open head 'tong'. There are numerous die varieties including an closed head 'tong' (1896) that is lighter, 7 fen or 2 - 3 grams. Considering that cast cash had been used in China for over two thousand years, you can understand the reluctance to change the form of the coinage once machine operated minting became available. Obverse: Guang Xu tong bao (top, bottom, right , left) reign title with tong bao meaning 'universal currency'; Reverse: Boo je (left, right), meaning Zhejiang currency in Manchurian characters. Hartill # 22.1415; Hartill Qing # 26.92; KM Hsu# 151.2; 3.15 gm; 22.25 mm. The reverse Manchurian side appears in the NI Web site banner.
Rhodos Didrachm, 250-230 BCE
The Island of Rhodes, off the coast of Asia Minor, was a very prosperous port city. So rich that by the third century BC they were able to build the famous Colossus of Rhodes. This bronze statue was completed in 280 BC, but was destroyed in a earthquake in 226 BC. The statue, and obverse coin face, is that of Helios the ancient sun god of the Greeks. The reverse depicts a rose flower with a rose branch and bud on the right. Above is the Greek name for Artemis who is seen running with a torch. This didrachm is silver and weighs 6.65 grams. This is a first in a series of descriptions of the coins appearing on the new NI Web site banner which reflects the broad diversity of interest in the NI membership.
Great Britain 1887 Proof Half Crown.
First issued in 1549 under King Edward VI, this Victorian issue has the classic Jubilee portrait with crowned head. Silver Halfcrowns were equivalent to two and one-half Shillings or an eighth of a pound. Only 1084 proofs were minted in celebration sets making this piece quite rare.
In Numismatics, what makes a coin valuable is not its age or of what it is made. If age was the determinant, then all Roman coins would be dear, when many Roman coins can be bought for $20 or less. It is the rarity of the coin that is the primary driver of value. This KM-764 coin is 92.5% silver, 32.13mm and weighs 14.138 grams.
Yemen Eastern Aden Protectorate, Tarim, 12 Chomsih, 1315 AH (1897)
This coin is from an oasis town in the Hadhramaut Plateau, and it was minted at the Birmingham mint by the Heaton Family. It is 17mm in size, weighs 1.55 grams and is 90% silver.
At the time, Yemen was occupied by the British and the Ottomans, and this coin may have been the first attempt at nationhood. On the obverse at the top reads 910 indicating silver content and the date 1315 with the H mintmark below. The reverse reads 12 for the denomination. There are approximately 126 Chomsih to the Maria Therese Thaler which was the dominant trade coin of the era.
Mexico, 8 Reales, 1770
This coin from the Mexico City mint was produced during the reign of King Charles III (1759-88). It is a 39mm coin of 91.70% silver, weighing 27.07 grams.
The obverse with date shows the Pillars of Hercules at the Straight of Gibraltar. On the left Pillar is "Plus", on the right Pillar is "Vltra", meaning "more beyond" indicating Spain's claim to the world. This uncirculated coin has proof like appearance which could indicate it was one of a few coins first struck with new dies or intended as a presentation piece.