The Australian Numismatic Society


Some interesting coin stories by David Mee, June 2020.

Because the ANS is having an on-line attendance only conference thus year in order to conform to  social distancing
 rules in the pandemic, I decided to save the topic I was going to present for when we meet in person again and do
 something different this time. I decided to write about some coins, which by themselves do not make a full paper, but
 together offer at least something, I hope, for everybody. Coherence is not the aim.

Up till recently I have been concentrating my collecting efforts on Medieval Europe,  knowing that I have been
 neglecting many other very interesting historical numismatic items from other periods and countries.  Nevertheless,
 sometimes coins come up for sale that are irresistible, in spite of not really belonging to my collection in any
coherent way.

What makes a coin desirable?  Clearly beauty is one characteristic most collectors strive for.
This includes not just grade of wear, but also eye appeal. My other two criteria are historical interest,
and having a story to tell, which are not necessarily the same.

Medieval Denmark.
I will start with a Danish penny of King Canute (Knut) who ruled both England and Denmark in the early 11th century.
 In Danish, he is known as Knud den Store (Knut the great). The coin illustrated is quite unlike his English coins. It
 comes from a mint town in North Jutland (Nordjylland), called Ørbaek. I searched on the web for this name, anglicised
 to Oerbaek and found one on the Island of Fyn and another in North Jutland, which Google Earth showed as a paddock
 with a church nearby. No sign of any ruins that could have been a medieval mint town. I made the mistake of asking the
 auction house from whom I purchased the coin if they knew where it was, or used to be, but I obtained short shrift from
 them. The said they were too busy to research it (probably true), but I detected an annoyance on their part that they
 were a bit embarrassed that they did not know off the top of their collective heads.  Nevertheless, I was getting
 nowhere. In North East Jutland, the biggest town is Ålborg. It has a museum devoted to Danish history and archaeology.
 It straddles the Limsfjord, a waterway that is open to the sea both ends and makes North Jutland an island, connected to
 the mainland by the bridges at Ålborg (see map below). I wrote (in English, I know no Danish) to the director asking
 about the coin and mint town. For a long time, I did not hear anything and I thought no one would reply, then one 6
 months later, I received a reply, (in English) from the Museum Director himself, telling me the results of his researches
 and including images of some 18th Century maps. These showed the Limsfjord before North Sea storms opened it up at
 the Western end. He believes that medieval Ørbaek is underneath the sands of the Limsfjord.
Danish Penny of Knut the Great. Ørbaek mint.

The Limsfjord separating the island from continental Jutland.

        North Jutland West coast scenery.

There are many interesting medieval pennies from Denmark, as most important towns,  both in Jutland and in the
 islands minted coins in their characteristic designs. What is now Southern Sweden was also a part of Denmark in
 medieval times. It is always difficult trying to compete at auction with the Danes themselves for nice ones. Here are
 two coins of a similar period from Jutland. The first is a penny of Ålborg in the north minted during the reign of
 Harthacanute and the second is a penny of Viborg in central Jutland, minted under the king Sven Estridsen.
Ålborg penny. Harthacanute.                    Viborg penny. Sven Estridsen

16th century Scotland.
We move forward in time to 16th century Scotland. The story of Mary, Queen of Scots has been told many times,
in books and in opera (Donizetti, “Maria Stuarda”). I do not have a portrait coin of her, but only a single Scottish
coin called a bawbee. In her early life, she travelled to France where she married Francis, the son of the French
King Henri II. I show a teston of Henri II minted in Poitiers. He died jousting in a tournament in 1559. Briefly, his
son Francis II ascended the French throne with Mary as Queen of France. In 1560, Francis died of an ear infection. 
The dowager queen Mary was packed off back to Scotland as a young widow. A new husband was found for her,
Henry Darnley, a close relative of Elizabeth, Queen of England. He was also a cousin to Mary. Mary was a devout
 catholic. Mary bore Darnley a son, James, who was to become King of both Scotland and much later, England.
Darnley was murdered less than a year after the birth of James, in 1567. The conflict between Catholicism and
 Protestantism was in full swing and Mary was the victim of it. She was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in
favour of her one-year old son James, whom she never saw again. She fled to England, where she was imprisoned
by Elizabeth, and eventually executed by her order in 1587.

James was brought up being taught to hate his mother. I show below a Sottish 30-shilling  coin of the young James
as James VI, King of Scotland. After Elizabeth died without direct heir, James travelled to London, where he became
James I of England, as well as James VI of Scotland, in personal union, but still governed as separate kingdoms.
At that time, a Scottish shilling was worth an English sterling silver penny, so 30 shillings scots were equivalent
to an English half-crown.

Mary I Bawbee

James VI of Scotland. 30 shillings scots. He was aged 26 in 1583.
The basic die was probably prepared when he was younger.
Also shown below is an interesting balance half merk of 1591, also under James VI. A merk or
mark was traditionally 2/3 of a pound 13s/4d or 160 pennies, so a half is 6s/8d (80 pennies).
However, these were Scots pennies, 12 to an English penny. So 6s/8d Scots becomes 6.66d English,
or a little over a 6½ pence.

The balance and sword represent the exercise of justice. The coin is a little worse for wear.

Henry II of France. Teston of Poitiers (G mm). Father-in-law of Mary.

Genoese Chios.
Another interesting coin in my collection is a gros size coin, called a gigliato, of the Genoese Company called the Maona
 or Mahona, on the Greek Island of Chios. This island was famous for the growing of mastic, a kind of gum.

In the 14th century the Genoese competed fiercely with the Venetians for Mediterranean trade. In 1304, the island of
Chios was taken from the Byzantine empire by a Genoese adventurer (pirate?) called Benedetto Zaccaria and he and his
family successors ruled it till 1328, when it was retaken by the Byzantines and became part of their empire again.
However, in 1346 the Genoese company retook it and it was ruled by them until the  Ottomans captured it in 1566.

Chios is an island in the Dodecanese in the Northern Aegean, fairly hard up against the Turkish mainland. It is part of
 the Republic of Greece. I have not been to Chios, but I have been to Samos and Kasadasi (Kusadasi), as shown on the
 map, as Kusadasi is a good port to access the Graeco-Roman ruins of the city of Ephesus.

While ruling Chios the Mahona issued coins. They received permission from Genoa to mint these on the condition that
 the legends used were those of Genoese coins. What makes the Mahona coins interesting is that in addition to the
 Genoese legends, they show a seated figure of the Doge of Genoa. Genoese coins do not show a figure of the doge, but
usually a symbolic gate as Genoa, or Ianua in Latin, means gate. The traditional legends of Genoa derive from the fact
 that the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III gave the city permission to mint coins. His name is usually on the coins:
 Conradus Rex Romanorum. The “Rex Romanorum” meaning King of the Romans, a title of the Emperor before being
crowned by the pope of the day. The other legend on Genoese coins is a plea to god to protect the doge of Genoa. As
 well as the Mahona gros, I show a gold genovino of the 14th century Doge Simon Boccanegra. He is also famous from
a Giuseppe Verdi opera of the same name. The legends can be compared. The Mahona coin may in fact be trying to
 portray Simon Boccanegra.

The basic design of the Mahona gigliatio on the reverse is similar to that of the knights of St. John, who occupied
Rhodes at a similar time. The name gigliato, means lilied and refers to the fleur de lis in each angle of the cross
obverse (portrait side) legend, somewhat mangled is DVX IANVENSIVM QVEM DEVS PTEGA(T), which translates
to The Duke (Doge) of Genoa who may God Protect. The reverse (cross side) legend is CONRADUS REX
 ROMANORVN(M). The doge is shown with a hat and chin strap hanging. He is seated on a chair with arm rests in
the shape of lions seated.  He is holding a lilied cross and orb.

Few of these gigliati are ever found in great condition, and if they are, they are priced accordingly.
Mine has a scratch on the obverse and part of the legend is double struck, but these coins are quite
scarce. Purchasing one at auction is always competitive.

Mahona Gigliato. Late 14th century.

Genoa: Simon Boccanegra (1356-63) as fourth doge. (He was also the first doge 1339-1344). Au Genovino.

Mottos on United States Coinage.
The states that make up the USA which were formed as English colonies, which were used as places of refuge for many
 people who were persecuted in Europe for their religious beliefs, and it is no surprise that many Americans today are
 still highly religious. William Penn for example founded Pennsylvania and the city of brotherly love Philadelphia as a
 haven for Quakers persecuted in England and Germany. After the American war of Independence, Philadelphia was the
 capital of the USA, until Washington DC was created. Philadelphia is also the main mint of the USA, and any US coin
 which does not have a mintmark, can be assumed to have been struck in Philadelphia.

US coins often, but not always bear the Latin motto “e pluribus unum”, which means “out of many, one”, a reference
to the 13 states forming one country. It features on a scroll held in the eagle’s mouth on the great seal of the USA,
 designed during the American war of Independence.

During the first part of the 19th century, the USA became a powerhouse of industry and agriculture, with the westward
 movement of people. Religion was not so important. However, the American Civil War in the 1860s over the issue of
 slavery and states’ rights brought religion back to the fore. The war was a bloodbath and almost every American family
 lost sons. More men were killed in that war than in WW1 and WW2 combined.

The film “Gone with the wind” is a story of the old South and its destruction. The details of the battles and the war is
 way beyond this note.

During the war, the motto “In God we trust” was added to the coinage, where it has stayed (mostly) ever since, but
with a few gaps. I have some nice ante-bellum coins of the USA. One is a silver 50c or half dollar of 1824, with capped
 bust. This was minted during the presidency of James Monroe. This shows the “e pluribus unum” motto, detached from
 the eagle’s mouth. The other is a golden eagle, a $10 coin of 1843. At this time the US president was John Tyler. Both
 coins were minted in Philadelphia. The East Coast obviously had sufficient gold mines to supply the mint, but in 1849
 the California gold rush started and the gold from that found its way into the later coinage. Interestingly, in the 1830s
 the fineness of the gold coinage changed. Early US gold was on the 22-carat gold standard of most of Europe, with up
 to half the alloy being silver. The standard was reduced slightly in 1837 and then slightly increased to a standard of
 0.900 fine. The coinage notes this by omitting the “e pluribus unum” motto. Note that the 1843 golden eagle has no
 mottos at all. Two other small ante-bellum coins are also interesting. One is a gold dollar of 1853 and the other a
liberty seated half dime of the same year. No mottos on either.

It was not until the cold war era of the 1950s under President Dwight D Eisenhower, that the “In God we trust” motto
 was officially adopted as the USA motto, and became mandatory on coins. The idea was the Soviet Union declared
 itself to not believe in any deity, whereas the US wished to distinguish itself from its arch enemy. There was a lot of
 argument that the USA as a secular state should separate it from any religious belief, but the motto stays.  The upshot
of this story is that some coins have both mottos, some none and some one or the other. Each coin needs to be looked
at separately, and there is no universal guide.

1824 capped bust 50 cents. E pluribus unum.

1843 gold eagle ($10). Coronet bust. No mottos at all. 0.900 fine.

1853 gold dollar. No mottos            1853 liberty seated half dime. Arrows. No mottos

1884. After civil war. Gold double eagle. Coronet bust. Both mottos on reverse.

1885. Gold half-eagle. ($5). In god we trust.

1915. Barber half dollar. Both mottos. San Francisco mint. (s under eagle tail)

1905 Barber dime. No Mottos.    

1943 Mercury dime. Both mottos, one on obv. and the other on rev. AW monogram of designer. D for Denver mint.

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7th June 2020