Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Interesting Things About Coins #1

Interesting Things About Coins is a series where I will go through my own personal coin collection every now and again, photograph some of them, and then post about them here with interesting facts about them.

First off I'm going to start with the oldest and most interesting coin in my collection. This is an original true to life uncut 8 reales coin. These are often times referred to as a COB or pieces of 8, and also called "pirate money" because it was treasure just like this coin which the pirates would plunder merchant and official ships for.

The reason it is referred to as a COB is because these coins were minted in the most crude of ways. A chunk of silver approximately the correct weight was simply cut off a block and then slammed in between 2 dies with a hammer. The resulting coin was a roughly shaped chunk of silver with somewhat recognizable items on the surface in varying degrees of detail which often varied over the surface from one side of the coin to the other depending upon how it was struck between the dies. This crude method of mintage made it possible to create the coins fairly easily. If the coin stilled weighed more than the desired amount the minter would just cut away a small portion of the silver to make it the standard weight. Of course this action only helped to warp the twisted coin even further.

These coins are also very commonly called pieces of 8. The reason for this is quite simple. If the holder of a coin purchased an item that only cost a portion of the coins value the seller would simply cut the appropriate amount from the coin and return the rest to the buyer. Many coins were halved, quartered, and then even cut again into eighths.

The history of this particular coin is part of what makes it so amazing to own it. This coin is from the El Camino Real Hoard and was found buried on the Portobelo Trail in Panama. It was minted circa 1630 in Potosi, Boliva. How the treasure got there no one is really sure. I would speculate that it was hidden there by pirates who were never able to return to reclaim it for some reason.

This is certainly a fantastic coin, the crown of my collection. I've always been glad I picked it up when the opportunity presented itself to me and have never once regretted buying it.

Another interesting coin I picked up at the same time and same place as the 8 reales coin above is this fantastic specimen of an 1808 Carolus IIII 4 reales coin. I don't know nearly as much about its history, but I'm sure it has seen its fair share of adventure and plunder in its 2 century lifespan. Hopefully it will remain a part of my collection for a long time to come.

Well that's all I really have in the way of older Spanish coins. I have one more somewhere in the collection, but that's about all the mention it is worth.

Next up is this interesting relic of the past. "PURE COPPER PREFERABLE TO PAPER" is what it says around the outside of the obverse. In the middle of the reverse is simply "HALF PENNY TOKEN". And then on the obverse it says "TRADE NAVIGATION". The coin was minted in 1913 likely in Ireland or the United Kingdom. It was then transported to New Scotland, what is now the East coast of Canada, to fulfill a lack of coinage in the region. It seems this particular coin was only minted in 1812 and 1813. I love interesting and historic coins like this. They always have a story to tell about the economy in a certain region, this one being the Maritime area if modern day Canada.

While still under British rule in 1850, the Bank of Upper Canada was permitted to begin distribution of its own currency in the form of half penny and one penny bank tokens due to a severe shortage of currency in the province. The first batch from 1850 was actually minted in London and shipped to Upper Canada in 1851. From 1852 until the final mintage in 1857 the coins were minted at Heaton's Mint in Birmingham England due to extreme pressure and time restraints placed on the London mint. In 1857 the coin was canceled because Canada was strongly considering switching to a decimal based monetary system. It's an interesting part of British colony and Canadian history and is sought after by collectors of British Empire coins world wide.

In 1823, and again in 1824, 1832, 1840 and 1843, the government of Nova Scotia minted these coins without any authority from Britain. I couldn't really find out much more about this coin. It is interesting to me because it has a portrait of a young Queen Victoria on the obverse. One of the first old Canada bank tokens I've noticed which features her.

This penny is one of the first in Canada's new decimal monetary system. I've always been very found of it because it is in very good condition and it represents Canada as a province. Also notice that the portrait of Queen Victoria is of her at a noticeably older age. Canada did not become an independent confederation until 8 years after this coin was minted, in 1867. in 1858 many of these one cent coins were minted but never distributed. The following year the London mint simply re stamped the 9 over the 8 in the date. I am pretty sure of the many variations of the 1859 Canada one cent that this is of the double punch variety. If you happen to know more about this particular coin please leave a comment and let me know more about it, I would love to hear from you!

This just happens to be the final Canadian penny on which Queen Victoria appears on the obverse and the last coin I'm going to talk about in this post. There is nothing terribly special about the coin otherwise. Queen Victoria herself appears older yet again in her portrait than on the 1859 coin shown above. It had been very interesting to follow the evolution of the Canadian penny from the early 1800's into the early 1900's. I have been very fortunate to have been able to acquire these fantastic specimens for my own collection. Getting many of them just required being in the right place at the right time.

I have so many other coins, tokens, and replicas I want to talk about! These include many classic Canadian and US coins, silver coins, and lots of other neat things. But for now I'm going to leave it at this. I will do a similar sequence with my United States penny collection in a future publication of Interesting Things About Coins.

Before I leave I wanted to leave you with one last special treat. Please enjoy this X-3D Stereoview image of the 8 reales coin I posted first in the publication:

View my original image on -->

Cross Eyed Stereoview is an extensive publication about X-3D with a tutorial on how to view images like this in 3 dimensions using only your own eyes.

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