While perusing my Twitter feed, I found the announcement from the Royal Australian Mint is beginning the presale of the two-coin set honoring the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11.
The set features a 2019-S Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Proof Clad Half Dollar and an Australian Silver Proof $5 coin. The two-coin set can be ordered for AU$195.00 in Australia, where the price includes the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Outside of Australia, the price is 177.27 ($123.64 as of May 9, 2019).
The Australian coin has an interesting design. On the obverse, the Royal Australian Mint reduced the size of Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy on the obverse and filled the side with an image of the moon, a radio telescope representing the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, and a part of the transcript of the Apollo 11 mission. The CSIRO Parkes Observatory was one of the ground tracking stations that helped NASA communicate with the Apollo 11 crew.
The reverse features a stylized scene from the moon landing with a color image of the earth positioned in a way to make Australia facing the virtual camera.
The Australian $5 silver coin can only be purchased in this set and has a mintage limit of 10,000 coins. Thus, it is safe to assume that there will be a limit of 10,000 of these sets.
The Royal Australian Mint is selling a version of the silver coin that is plated in nickel and domed like the U.S. coin. The images on the Royal Australian Mint website shows a dark-colored coin that makes the colored image of the earth stand out. This coin also has a limited production of 10,000 coins.
There is also a gold coin and a six-coin uncirculated set that features copper-nickel base coins and aluminum-bromide one- and two-dollar coins. These coins feature different reverse designs than their precious metals counterparts. The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank Bodley.
Coins ordered now will be shipped starting on June 5, 2019.
The Royal Australian Mint has not (yet) provided information if there will be a special program for shipping to the United States or if they will partner with the U.S. Mint to sell the set.
If you are thinking about ordering you might want to watch the currency markets. There has been a decline in the value of the Australian Dollar (AUD) versus the U.S. Dollar since the beginning of April. Although markets are difficult to time, a fluctuation of 5-percent in the prices is not going to make a big difference.
Aside from waiting for answers to my questions from the Royal Australian Mint, I will watch the markets for the next two weeks to see if I can save money if the AUD dips below 60-cents to the USD.
Coin images courtesy of the Royal Australian Mint.
As I peruse the non-numismatic news sources looking for coins and collecting-related information, I am surprised how much is published by the media in other countries about their coins. Interestingly, most of the stories are either from the Commonwealth Realm or those countries formerly a member of the Commonwealth Realm.
2019 Celebrating The Life of Stephen Hawking 50P Coin Reverse
(Image Courtesy of the Royal Mint)
A Commonwealth Realm is a sovereign country in which the Monarch of Great Britain, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. The role of the queen is largely symbolic as the government of each country manage its domestic affairs.
As part of this management, each country produces its own coinage. Within the Commonwealth Realm, the largest state-run mints are the Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Australian Mint, and Perth Mint. There are other private mints that produce legal tender coins, but these are the only government-owned mints in the commonwealth.
Every time one of these mints issues a new coin for circulation, the information is all over their country’s media. For example, in the run-up to the issue of the Peter Rabbit circulating 50p commemorative as part of the Royal Mint’s Beatrix Potter series, nearly every news outlet in the U.K. has been covering the anticipation.
This phenomenon is not restricted to the Commonwealth Realm. Former Commonwealth members also heavily promote their coins. We know that India is issuing a 12-sided 20 rupee coin along with other new designs. South Africa Reserve Bank is issuing circulating coins to celebrate the country’s 25 years as a Constitutional Democracy.
Yet the United States press has been largely silent. Sure, there are blurbs when a congressperson drops a bill into the virtual hopper but the press has been silent after that.
While there were other things going on in December, there was very little reported about the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Act for 2020.
There was hardly a peep out of the press for the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative coins. Even with the political turmoil, this country should be commemorating one of its greatest feats of the 20th century that did not involve bombs or bullets.
There has been more coverage in the science and tech-related press about the release of the Black Hole coin honoring Stephen Hawking by the Royal Mint.
To its credit, the American Legion has been promoting the 100th Anniversary commemorative coins to their members. However, was there any general media outlets covering the program’s release?
The hobby is perceived to be dying because it is not attracting new members. How can the hobby attract new members when it does not promote itself outside of its insular bubble?
I am sure that I will hear from the bullion sellers because they have been crowing about the steady rise of gold prices. Aside from being an investment and not a hobby issue, the rise of gold prices is alarming. Investing in gold and other precious metals is seen as a safe-harbor move when investors predict that markets will be less lucrative. If investors are pulling money out of other investments to invest in gold that means they do not trust the markets and we may be in for problems.
If we stop worrying about what is good or bad for the hobby and figure out how it could survive, maybe we can attract new collectors. First, we have to do is to let everyone know the hobby still exists.
And now the news…
March 12, 2019
This new series comprising denominations of ₹1, ₹2, ₹5, ₹10, and ₹20, designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, will aid the visually-impaired through its thoughtful design. As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Finance, apart from the ₹20 coin, which will be a 12-sided polygon (a dodecagon), the rest of the coins will be circular in shape. → Read more at architecturaldigest.in
March 18, 2019
A 14th-century French gold coin was discovered inside one of three hidden drawers in a bureau inherited by a woman who lives in Derbyshire, England. The mother of three, Amy Clapp, 37, told reporters she had no idea the 650-year-old coin — or the secret drawers — existed after being left a 20th-century bureau by her distant cousin. → Read more at thevintagenews.com
March 19, 2019
The brand new commemorative Peter Rabbit coin that was announced last week has been released to the public. The new coin features an original illustration of Peter Rabbit taken from the book, The Tales of Benjamin Bunny. → Read more at inews.co.uk
March 19, 2019
TYLER, TX (KLTV) – An East Texas woman found a unique coin on the side of the road by the Caldwell Zoo more than six months ago, and she wants to find its rightful owner. Jan Hommel, the director of the American Freedom Museum, knew exactly where the coin came from. → Read more at kltv.com
March 19, 2019
A $1 million penny, a $3 million nickel and more than $100 million more in rare coins are coming to Pittsburgh from March 28 through 30 when the National Coin & Money Show stops at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. → Read more at triblive.com
March 20, 2019
A "rare" 650-year-old coin found in a secret drawer in a desk has been sold for £850 at auction. The 14th Century coin was discovered inside one of three hidden drawers in a 1970s bureau, left to a woman by a long-lost relative. → Read more at bbc.com
March 21, 2019
A number of new coins have been approved by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and celebrate the country’s 25 years as a Constitutional Democracy. A few of the coins will be collector’s items, and the R500 and R50 coins are specifically made for commemorative purposes only. → Read more at capetownetc.com
March 23, 2019
LITTLETON, N.H. — After playing a key role in the success of Littleton Coin Company for nearly 30 years, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Morelli has announced his retirement at the end of 2019. → Read more at caledonianrecord.com
Over the last few months, I have been on another book buying binge. Most of the books I have been buying are references. Many of these references help fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge. One of those gaps is how to date some foreign coins especially those of the eastern world whose language is not Latin-based.
Although the Standard Catalog of World Coins has a basic reference to help figure out the date of a coin, it is not detailed enough. While there are websites on the Internet to help, there is not a single good resource. I wanted a good resource to help me grade these coins. Then I stumbled across the Illustrated Coin Dating Guide of the Eastern World by Albert Galloway.
Published by Krause Publications, it features the tables and descriptions that are in the Standard Catalogs on steroids plus much more information. The absolute best part of this book are the images with the guides pointing to each element to help identify the date coin.
Some coins are not dated but contain the number of years of the current ruler or dynasty. Coins from Israel use the date on the Hebrew Calendar while many Islamic countries include the date of the Islamic or Hijri Calendar.
And it helps in more ways than figuring out the dates. If you are not familiar with the pictograph-style writing of some East Asian countries, having in the information in front of you can help identify the difference between a Korean coin from a Japanese coin, something that recently helped me.
Also, the book points out how to identify elements like mintmarks, privy marks, coiners marks, and other identifying varieties on these coins. As we know, a mintmark or other distinguishing mark can make a difference in a coin’s value.
The book was first published in 1984 and republished in 2012. Both versions appear to be the same with a color variation of the cover—the 1984 publication has a predominantly red cover.
The only complaint about the book is that it should be spiral bound so that the book could lay flat on the table. I have not had the book long and I have already bent the spine. At this rate, the book may not last long. For that reason, I give the book a grade of MS-69. If you are searching through lots of foreign coins, this book is a must-have for your numismatic library.
After my last post about the Staatliche Münze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint, a few German readers provided a lesson in the political structure of Germany to understand the institution’s role in the country’s coin production.
Unlike what I wrote previously, the Berlin State Mint is a government mint but for the government of the Federal State of Berlin.
Berlin is one of two cities that is also designated as a state. The other is Hamburg. The divisions trace back to the many small states that existed in the region during the days Holy Roman Empire. In short, it was an attempt to bring unification to the region by attempting to allow each smaller states, kingdoms, principalities, cities, etc. to provide their own rule for the common good. Some reference suggests that there were over 300 individual governments with their own governing rules at the height of the Empire.
Arguments, wars, and Napolean brought about many changes where many of the smaller states merged into larger ones and others changed by conflict. Following the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, Germany was forced to give up territories that left the current state boundaries were mostly set as they are today.
Before I hear from our German friends, I am leaving out a lot of history on purpose. I just want enough to bring context to the discussion. If anyone wants a more detailed discussion about the history as it pertains to the German mints, I recommend reading the article “Why Germany has Five State-Owned Mints
Although the Third Reich tried to unify the country around a federal government, there were a number of administrative functions left to the states including the minting of coins and printing of currency. Even Adolph Hitler learned that to keep his version of an orderly government, he had to work with each of the states.
Following World War II, the concept of the confederation of states continued with the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Although the federal government has evolved with more central power, the states continue to have a degree of independence in their operations that a person with a background in United States history would consider a confederation.
As the country evolved and times mandated change, many of the mints were closed. Production consolidated with the changes in the political structure of Germany. Following the unification of Germany in 1990, only five state mints remained:
NOTE: First letter on the line is the mintmark associated with the mint.
Berlin State Mint
State Mint of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Munich
Barvarian Main Mint, Stuggart
State Mint Baden-Wuerttemberg, Karlsruhe
When the euro was introduced, German law mandated that the minting of the euro coins would be distributed evenly among the five mints. Any production beyond the federally mandated requirement to produce the euro is between the mint and the Finance Minister of the state.
As for the currywurst coin, although it is produced by the Berlin State Mint, it is a product of that mint and not a product endorsed by the German federal government.
If you are confused you are in good company. Even after spending parts of three days looking into the history, I am not sure I am right. It is more confusing than the structure behind the U.S. Mint!
Images of the Germany state mints are courtesy of the mints via their websites.
Some of the best finds are accidental. In China, archeologists were working in an area when the rain uncovered an ancient mint in 2017. The area of discovery was not where they were searching but a staging location.
Archaeologists found fragments of ceramic coin moulds at the site when they were carrying out repairs after heavy rain in late 2017.
(Photo: South China Morning Post)
With only a portion of the facility excavated, the archeologists found nine areas that could have been used as part of coin production. There was one kiln site that was likely used to create porcelain coin molds and eight ash pits. They also found copper coins, coin mold fragments, and other items that were used as part of the coining process.
The China Numismatic Society told news sources that the inscriptions on the molds date the facility to 9-23 AD and corresponds to the reign of Wang Mang of the Han Dynasty.
Finds like this shows how the use of money and numismatics can lead to better understanding of societies what may have been lost.
And now the news…
January 18, 2019
It’s been dubbed one of the loveliest coins ever minted and, almost two centuries after it was struck, it’s making headlines again. A rare gold five pound coin, featuring an idealised image of Queen Victoria in the early years of her reign, has sold for a six-figure sum at a private auction. → Read more at royalcentral.co.uk
January 21, 2019
Archaeologists discover fragments of ceramic moulds, copper coins and a kiln site where an ancient government office once stood → Read more at scmp.com
January 22, 2019
“There used to be this thing called money,” people will say in the future. And children will laugh. “You’re joking,” they’ll say. → Read more at bostonglobe.com
January 23, 2019
Secret Service members are reportedly exchanging challenge coins that take a jab at the ongoing partial government shutdown. → Read more at thehill.com
January 23, 2019
The best-known U.S. Mint building in San Francisco is at Fifth and Mission streets, right across the street from the Chronicle building. The Old Mint is an imposing classical structure, but it’s been retired as a money-making plant for more than 80 years. By the early 1930s, the building was too antiquated to meet the increased demand for coins. So the U.S. Treasury found a second location, at Duboce and Buchanan streets, where a natural rock promontory could function as another layer of security. A search through The Chronicle’s archive uncovered photos of the construction of the New Mint in 1936, as well as the coin production work happening inside. → Read more at sfchronicle.com
January 25, 2019
The Royal Canadian Mint has uncovered the identity of the soldier who inspired its new silver dollar coin, which commemorates the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers on D-Day. → Read more at cbc.ca
January 25, 2019
A 10-year-old Indian boy who lives in Oman has collected more than 500 coins from across 120 countries. → Read more at timesofoman.com
It seems that in my attempt to highlight numismatic-related news from somewhere other than the United States I may have done my wurst!
Staatliche Münze Berlin
(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
While the story about the currywurst commemorative coin seemed like something to poke fun at, I was reminded that Staatliche Münze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint (www.muenze-berlin.de), is not an official government mint. It is a private mint that has been contracted by the German government to assist in producing coins. Their website reports that they produce one-fifth (20-percent) of all German coins.
Reports suggest that the Staatliche Münze Berlin has been under contract to Latvia to produce legal tender coins since 2014.
It appears that Staatliche Münze Berlin would be to Germany as the Pobjoy Mint is to the United Kingdom. Both a private mints that are contracted to strict legal tender coins that create their own commemorative.
This might mean we are safe from coins commemorating poutine and haggis. However, the idea of mixing curry with ketchup may be worth a try!
It is interesting to see what some countries choose to commemorate on coins. For Staatliche Munze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint, they chose to commemorate the 70th anniversary of currywurst.
The 2019 coin commemorating currywurst has been called everything from ugly to the wurst (Image courtesy of Staatliche Munze Berlin)
Currywurst is considered the national fast food delicacy of Germany. It is a pork sausage that has been sliced part of the way through, boiled then grilled, and served smothered with ketchup mixed with curry powder. Curry powder is sprinkled on top.
According to a friend who spent time working in Germany, currywurst stands are as ubiquitous in Berlin and many other cities as hot dog stands are in New York. Depending on the stand, they can be served on buns, with sauerkraut, or fries. Since returning to the United States several years ago, he says that his family enjoys the German dish frequently.
Coins have been used to commemorate many things. Commemorating food on coins is nothing new. Coins have been used to commemorate agricultural products like wheat and corn. But aside from the (in)famous bottlecap-shaped coin, I cannot remember when a coin was used to commemorate a prepared food.
Now that the Berlin State Mint has broken this barrier, who’s next? Will the Royal Canadian Mint produce a coin honoring poutine? Or will the Royal Australian Mnt grace a coin with Vegemite? I don’t even want to think about a coin commemorating haggis!
And now the news…
January 7, 2019
Click image to enlarge MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – A coin collector from Lewiston, Maine, with no prior connection to Middlebury, has donated more than 1,000 ancient coins to the Middlebury College Museum of Art. → Read more at middlebury.edu
January 13, 2019
A German coin manufacturer has commemorated the country’s love of currywurst with a speciality coin to mark 70 years since the savoury snack was first sold in Berlin. The silver alloy coin, made by Staatliche Munze Berlin, or the Berlin State Mint, features an image of the delicacy’s inventor alongside two giant sausages drowning in curry sauce and pierced with a wooden fork, as is tradition. → Read more at expressandstar.com
January 13, 2019
A silver medal-thaler, issued by Romanian ruler Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1713, sold for USD 16,000 at a numismatic auction in New York, Profit.ro reported. Brâncoveanu, who was a prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714, was deposed from his throne by Sultan Ahmed III. → Read more at romania-insider.com
January 13, 2019
New Delhi: A new book traces India's numismatic history through 133 rare coins which are illustrative of the country's antiquity, ethos and traditions. In Suvarna Mohur: India's Glorious History Illustrated through Rare Coins by Arun Ramamurthy, Indian history has been divided into 20 epochs. → Read more at firstpost.com
January 14, 2019
The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services (MBVS) is pleased to announce the final design selection for the new State of Maine Honorable Service coin and plaque, which will honor all Maine veterans, past and present, regardless of their branch or era of service. → Read more at boothbayregister.com
January 14, 2019
SINGAPORE: The number of coins that a buyer can use in a single transaction will be streamlined and standardised to 20 coins per denomination after Parliament passed the Currency (Amendment) Bill on Monday (Jan 14). → Read more at channelnewsasia.com
January 14, 2019
Mobile coin exchange units are hitting the roads to encourage people to swap the loose change they have collected for easier to handle banknotes, so the coins can be recycled. The modified trucks, which are green and clearly marked with the Treasury Department logo, have a window along the side where the coins can be exchanged for notes of equal value. → Read more at bangkokpost.com
January 14, 2019
In Berlin, the participants of the most unusual robbery of recent years went on trial. Three young Arab migrants stole a considerable gold coin from the museum using only an ax handle, ropes, stairs, and carts. → Read more at en.crimerussia.com
January 16, 2019
Greater Houston Coin Club members have been on a mission to get kids involved in the hobby. → Read more at abc13.com
While watching the numismatic news that appears in non-numismatic sources, I noticed that regardless of the predictions of cashless societies taking over, there are a few countries with interest in coins for both commerce and collecting.
By far, the one country that seems to have an affinity for coins is India. The news consistently highlights collectors who have coin collections of all sizes and varieties. Whether it is someone who has collected old Indian coins dating back to the Britsh control of the country to someone that collects foreign coins from visitors, there seems to be a story about coin collectors in one of the many Indian news publications.
The other country I can count on for consistent numismatic-related stories is China. Aside from stories about coin shortages and how the poorer areas of the country are hoarding coins, Chinese collectors seem to gravitate toward precious metal coins. Interestingly, Chinese collectors seem to like silver coins even though investors are chasing gold. This is understandable since silver coins can be bigger and cost less.
Recently, it was reported that Chinese collectors are chasing platinum as an investment option. Reports are being circulated that Chinese markets are investing heavily in South African platinum mines allowing the production to increase. With the spot price of platinum ($802.00) lower than the spot prices of gold ($1,222.10) and palladium ($1,170.00), the growth of platinum investment options has grown. The Hang Seng ETF (exchange-traded funds) Index has noted a significant increase in the trading of platinum futures.
Several publications have asked if this means that China is attempting to corner the platinum market. Since I am not a financial analyst, I am not sure. As a numismatist, it is interesting to see that platinum has a growing interest in China.
And now the news…
November 15, 2018
Grab your metal detectors! We are seeking some of the most valuable treasures ever discovered. From buried treasures to sunken treasures, lying beneath villages, towns, cities, farms, riverbeds, and in… → Read more at invest.usgoldbureau.com
November 25, 2018
The National Bank of Romania (BNR) has issued several coins to mark the 100-year anniversary of Romania’s 1918 Union. They are a gold coin, a silver coin, and a brass collector coin for numismatic purposes, along with a brass commemorative circulation coin. → Read more at romania-insider.com
November 26, 2018
Limited edition gold and silver coins commemorating the 70th anniversary of the first issuance of the renminbi (RMB) currency and establishment of China's central bank went on sale in China last Friday. → Read more at gbtimes.com
November 26, 2018
The World Platinum Investment Council is pushing for new platinum products to lure Chinese investors into the metal, providing another source of demand for SA’s second-largest mineral export. Weibin Deng, China’s head at the council, which is financially backed by SA’s platinum producers to stimulate investment, outlined plans for coins, metal-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and other products, targeting the country’s burgeoning middle class. → Read more at businesslive.co.za
November 26, 2018
The Celtic coins discovered in Slovakia were tetradrachms, which were the most precious coins available at the time. In the heart of Slovakia in Mošovce, archaeologists have unearthed 40 … → Read more at inquisitr.com
November 27, 2018
Welcome back for Part II of our Most Valuable Treasure Discoveries series. Below is a continuation of some of the most remarkable treasures unearthed in recent history. The Staffordshire Hoard… → Read more at invest.usgoldbureau.com
November 28, 2018
THE CENTRAL Bank of Ireland has unveiled a special commemorative coin created to mark 100 years since Irish women won the right to vote. → Read more at irishpost.com
I said that if we do not act that we would become victims!
A man came into my shop the other day. Like all new visitors, my assistant greeted him with her usual charm while he looked at the eclectic inventory in the showroom.
The man was different than others. On a slow morning, he lingered around the set of auction catalogs I have for sale while saying little to my assistant who felt uncomfortable with this man in the shop. Another customer came into the shop and my assistant took care of them while I watched this gentleman.
After a while, he came to me and, in a heavy accent I could not identify, asked if I was the store’s owner. He pulled out a few folded pieces of paper and showed me a sheet with the article “Coin jewelry is not legal everywhere” I wrote on this blog in April 2016.
He pointed to one of the pictures and asked if I knew anything about the coin. I asked why and he said he was interested in purchasing one. For some reason, I had a feeling that he might have had other interests in mind.
Resin ear rings made by InspiringFlowers using Roosevelt dimes
Hummingbird cut from a Trinidad and Tobago penny by SawArtist
1996 Half Dollar Ring by LuckyLiberty
Examples of the coin jewelry from the orignal post
I explained to that I do not carry a lot of jewelry since it is not a specialty of my business. When I do have jewelry in stock it does not sell well. He opened the paper and asked if I knew anything about the jewelry on the page.
I explained that the article he is holding is from a blog post I made explaining how some countries have restrictions regarding the usage of their coins for jewelry. When he pressed for more information I said that it was noted in the posting that the images came from Etsy and I do not know any of the sellers. Their goods were used as an example for the posting.
It felt like I was being interrogated. I asked if he was a member of law enforcement or any other government investigative agency, he mumbled something I did not like. I asked him to leave. My assistant had called the police.
The police arrived and escorted the man out of the shop and questioned him before letting him drive away in his own vehicle. I noted the license plate. The officer came inside and said that this will be handled elsewhere and that I was not to report it any further.
About a week later, I was visited by someone representing a federal agency and a member of federal law enforcement who wanted to question me about the incident. After they produced proper identification, we went into my office to discuss the matter.
I was told that the man who came into my shop was an agent for an unnamed foreign government. This government has been visiting collectible stores and shows to intimidate people into “returning cultural items” from that country. The country that this person represents considers this legal even though it violates my Fifth Amendment right of due process.
Apparently, the person that visited my shop is responsible for the “confiscation” of items from more than a dozen antiques and collectibles shops in the mid-Atlantic region.
It is not the first time we have heard the foreign governments have tried to go around the United States’ right of due process by trying to confiscate coins under the guise that they are “national treasures.” In 2013, I wrote “Why you should care about restrictions on collecting ancient coins” sounding an alarm for people to act.
People did not act or act strongly enough. It has allowed a foreign government to pervert the 1970 UNESCO Convention’s intent to steal legally obtained inventory from United States businesses they claim are national treasures.
In the next few weeks, I will be writing a short position paper to present to the American Numismatic Association in order to get them to work to protect collectors. It is time that the ANA and other numismatic organizations work together to protect the hobby and stop kowtowing to every country who wants to retroactively make a claim against United States business because a foreign government said so.
Now that I am running a collectibles business, I see a number of interesting items coming into the shop.
Last week, someone came into the shop with items that she wanted to sell in order to downsize prior to moving. One of the items was a small plastic bag of foreign coins. The bag contained a lot of low-value base metal coins that would trade for under one dollar from a dealer’s junk box.
Although I do not keep a large inventory of coins, I have a basket I fill with foreign coins for anyone who wants to look through them. I will sell the coins for 25-cents each even if they are worth more. When parents come into the shop with their children, I will let the kids pick out a coin. I challenge them to go online and learn what they can about the coin.
Sometimes, my assistant and I will look through the basket for something interesting. While my assistant is not a collector, she knows I am and looks for specific items I am looking for (more on that another time) and anything that looks interesting.
After moving furniture in the warehouse, I returned to my desk and found a small pile of coins. Some were part of the coins I was looking for and a token with the date of 1895. What is this coin?
Obverse of a token from Hacienda El Altar and La Caridad. The plant in the center is likely a cane that was popular in the region.
Reverse of a Hacienda El Altar and La Caridad token declaring they were owned by Ramón González Espinosa from San Sebastián and is worth 1 Real.
On the obverse and above the date is a tree. The legend around the coin says “EL ALTAR, LA CARIDAD.” On the reverse, it gives the denomination of “1 REAL” and the legend says “RAMON GONZALEZ ESPINOSA” and “SAN SEBASTIAN.” Immediately, I think this is a Spanish coin.
San Sebastián is a coastal city in the Basque region of northern Spain close to the French border. Although there is evidence of human settlement from at least 24,000-22,000 BCE, the earliest recorded evidence dates to 1014 and the monastery of St. Sebastián.
But there was no reference of a 1 real coin being issued in the region in the late 19th century or anyone in the region named Ramón González Espinosa.
Who was Ramón González Espinosa? Trying an Internet search of that name finds people with that name in California, Texas, and elsewhere around the world. Searching for Espinosa and San Sebastián also lead to a lot of irrelevant results.
Next was to figure out what El Altar and La Caridad represent. El Altar is “The Alter” in Spanish and La Caridad translates to “The charity.” Could this have been a token used to try to raise money in Spanish speaking country other than Spain?
Just to see what would happen, rather than using google.com, I went to google.com.mx, the site that serves Mexico and Latin America. I entered the information for all of the legends and searched. When too many items came up and my rudimentary Spanish found that they were irrelevant, adding quotes around each phrase lead found an interesting page.
On a blog that is written by a Venezuelan numismatist, there was an article with an image of the same token. Using translation software, I was able to obtain enough information to learn more about the token.
During the late 19th century, Venezuela was undergoing a financial crisis that caused a severe coin shortage. The situation became so bad that the haciendas, plantations in Venezuela, could not pay their workers. To help solve the problem, hacienda owners would create their own tokens to act as promissory notes. They would pay their workers using these tokens. When coins were available, the hacienda owner would pay the merchants.
These tokens circulated as money throughout the region.
The token we found was from the Hacienda El Altar and La Caridad, both were the properties of Ramón González Espinosa. Espinosa’s properties were located in Aragua State
The haciendas were in San Sebastián de los Reyes (Saint Sebastian of the Kings) in Aragua State. The town is located on the Guárico River that leads to the Caribbean Sea. El Altar and La Caridad were livestock farms.
It is unusual for the names two haciendas to appear on a single token. According to references about other tokens from this era, when the same person owned multiple haciendas they had tokens made for each of their properties to distinguish the accounts from each other. Since there were no other references for tokens with more than on hacienda, it is not known as to why Espinosa created only one token.
Most tokens from this era were made using a copper-nickel alloy that ranged from 40-60 percent nickel. Most were thin discs and had different shapes. Hacienda tokens ranged in value from ½ Real to 5 Reales. Tokens from Hacienda El Altar and La Caridad were issued in ½, 1, 2, and 4 Reales.
The Venezuelan government continued to have a difficult time producing enough coinage. After Cipriano Castro seized the government in Caracas, he contracted with the Mexico City Mint to produce low denomination copper coins. In 1902, Venezuelan government contracted with the U.S. Mint to produce lower denomination silver coins.
Slowly, there was enough of a coin supply that it ended the need for hacienda tokens. But they continued to circulate because hacienda owners used it as a way to control their workers. When Juan Vicente Gómez overthrew Castro, who left Venezuela in 1908 for medical treatment in Germany, he instituted a rule to end the circulation of these tokens by ordering the hacienda owners to buy back the tokens using state currency.
It is estimated that over 10,000 tokens were once in circulation. After the order was given to redeem the tokens most were melted and used for other purposes.
Although it is rare to find one, they are not worth much in the numismatic market. However, finding one allowed me to learn more about its origin, hacienda tokens, and how the United States helped in ending this practice.
In other words, yet another reason why numismatics is a fun hobby!