Garys September Coin of the Month

Septembers Coin of the Month (Volume 2, Number 1) is an NGC AU-55, 1897 close date, Cuba Souvenir Peso.

Modeled after the Columbian Exposition Half Dollar, the purpose of the 1897 Cuba Souvenir Peso was to raise money for the Cuban Revolutionary Party and their war for independence against Spain. On May 10, 1897, the head of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Don Thomas Estrada Palma, placed an order with the Gorham Manufacturing Company for three million souvenir pesos. As per their agreement, delivery of the first ten thousand coins was to be within sixty days.

Among those ten thousand coins (minus 30 defective strikes) are three distinct types, of which my coin is the type 2 close date featuring the right star below the 97 baseline. The other two types are the type 3 close date with the star above the 97 baseline and the type 1 wide date. The 1897 Cuba Souvenir Peso is 36 mm in diameter and weighs 22.55 grams. The metallic composition of this coin is 90% silver, and 10% copper with an actual silver weight of .6525 ounces. Mintages are as follows; 828 Type 1s minted in Philadelphia, 4,286 Type 2s and 4,856 Type 3s minted in Providence, Rhode Island. Curiously, these were the only souvenir coins delivered.

The Cuba Souvenir Peso sold for one dollar each with the promise to redeem them after the war to honor the faith and investment in liberty of those who purchased them. When Cuba finally became independent in 1902, they honored their commitment by exchanging the souvenir peso for one dollar.

In 1897, the Silver Cuba Peso Souvenir contained about thirty-eight cents worth of silver, which meant that after expenses the Cuban Revolutionary Party would make a handsome profit from the sale of these coins. Unfortunately, the order for three million pieces never materialized. However, with the entry of the United States into the Spanish-American War in 1898, the need for the Cuban Revolutionary Party to raise money for their independence became a moot point.

Based on a design by Estrada Palma, medalist Phillip Martiny prepared the plasters and engraved the dies for the 1897 Cuba Souvenir Peso. The obverse of the souvenir peso features a bust of Lady Liberty modeled by Leonor Molina. Leonor was a Cuban-American relative to the treasurer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and as such became the face of the revolution. The motto PATRIA Y LIBERTAD inscribed around the rim of the obverse translates to COUNTRY AND LIBERTY.

The reverse features the Cuban Coat of Arms as the central device behind which is a fasces surmounted by a Phrygian cap and an oak and laurel wreath. The top portion of the coat of arms displays a key over the water between two landmasses with the sun rising behind it. This represents Cuba as the key to the gulf, geographically located between the Florida Keys and the Yucatan Peninsula. The rising sun represents Cubas emergence as an independent state. The bars on the lower left portion of the arms represent five Cuban provinces. To the right of the bars is a palm tree representing the Cuban countryside. The fasces crowned by a Phrygian cap are representative of the people united by liberty. The oak branch represents strength and the laurel branch honor and glory.

Responding to Spanish abuses, including, arbitrary governance, excessive taxation, and human rights violations, the first organized conflict for Cuban independence began in 1868 with the 10-year war. This conflict eventually ended in a stalemate and the Spaniards retaining power, but also gave the slaves who had fought with the insurgents their freedom.

A group of Cubans who had not signed on to the agreement ending the 10-year war started the next war, named the little war (1879-1880). This war concluded with a crushing defeat of the insurgents.

The founding of the Cuban Revolutionary Party by Jose Marti followed in 1892. Their objective was to raise money for the Cuban War for Independence and establish a government after the war. Based largely in New York, many of this organizations early fund-raising activities occurred in the United States.

Armed conflict in the Cuban War for Independence began in 1895. While the American public was sympathetic to the revolution, the United States economy profited from Cuba resulting in the US Government officially taking a neutral stance in the conflict. Consequently, in an effort to quell the violence and pursue a diplomatic solution with Spain, the US Government enforced a naval blockade on ships carrying arms and supplies to the Cuban insurgents.

All this tension finally came to a head with the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. The American Press anxious to sensationalize the news against Spain to gain a competitive edge in circulation, (a practice called yellow journalism) whipped up a public fervor for war. Furthermore, this occasion presented an opportunity for America to flex her emerging naval muscle worldwide. Consequently, the United States declared war with Spain on April 25, 1898. Interestingly in 1974, research into the USS Maine incident by Admiral Hyman George Rickover concluded that the explosion came from inside the ship and was likely caused by the spontaneous combustion of coal fumes.

After crushing the Spanish Army and Navy, the war came to a quick close with The Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898. As a result of the war, the United States gained control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Moreover, were not the Cubans persistent about their independence, the US would have likely annexed Cuba. Consequently, on May 20, 1902 Don Thomas Estrada Palma was inaugurated Cubas first president and the Cuban flag flew over Havana for the first time. Today Puerto Rico and Guam remain as US territories.

In the end, there are multitudes of what if questions that would have profoundly changed history had not the Spanish-American war occurred. Most assuredly, it would have also affected the numismatic history of the lands involved with this war. For instance, there might not be a Guam and Puerto Rico quarter and no Philippine US Territory coins. History is strange that way, which is what makes it so fascinating.

This post marks the first year of my Coin of the Month articles. I hope you have enjoyed reading Volume 2, Number 1 of the Coin of the Month. Until next month, happy collecting!

Garys August Coin of the Month

This Months Coin of the Month is an NGC MS-66, 1971, 200 Rupee gold coin (KM# 39) from the island nation of Mauritius and is dedicated to my wife Linda.

The Island of Mauritius is a small island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The island was uninhabited when Arab sailors first landed there during the Middle Ages. In 1505, the Portuguese became the first Europeans to discover the island. Eventually, the island came under the control of the Dutch (1598-1712), the French (1715-1810), and the British (1814-1968). In 1968, Mauritius finally gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

The 1971 Mauritius 200 Rupee coin commemorates Mauritian independence from Great Britain and is 27.28 mm in diameter with a weight of 15.56 grams. It has a metallic composition of .9170 fine gold and an actual gold weight of .4587 ounces. The coin has a mintage of 2,500.

Medalist and sculptor, Cecil Thomas is this coins obverse designer, which portrays a crowned, right facing bust of Queen Elizabeth the Second. English painter and coin designer, Christopher Ironside designed the reverse which highlights a courting couple amidst the native flora of Mauritius. Additionally, the reverse of this coin represents a scene from the French novel, Paul and Virginia, written by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and first published in 1788 on the Eve of the French Revolution.

Paul and Virginia is a metaphoric novel by which its author criticizes the ruling and financial social classes of pre-revolution France. Thus, this popular novel became an important piece in shaping the ideologies of the revolutionaries.

The main characters of the novel are childhood friends Paul and Virginia and as fate would have it, Paul and Virginia eventually fall in love. On Mauritius, Paul and Virginia live in harmony with nature, detached from the corruption of 18th-century France. Tragedy occurs when Virginias aristocratic aunt separates her from Paul.

Since I do not necessarily agree with the metaphoric and Idyllic premise of Paul and Virginia, this coin then has come to represent something entirely different. The Mauritius 200 Rupee coin that I bought almost four years ago characterizes my wife Linda and represents the love we have for each other. Therefore, this coin resides in the Special Ladies section of my custom set, Inspirational Ladies.

Thirty years ago, today, Linda and I were married. Since then we have raised two wonderful children. During that time, we have seen both good times and bad. After thirty years, we can say we have come through the refiners fire as pure gold. Perhaps for this reason, the coin representing our love should be made of gold. Therefore, the coin no longer represents Paul and Virginia, but Gary and Linda.

Certainly, I am the person I am today because of Linda, and it is she who inspires me most. I sincerely thank her for her incredible love, loyalty, and support. I love her dearly. On occasion, faith, life, and coin collecting do converge at the same point. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I would be amiss if I failed to recognize God in our marriage by thanking him for all he has done in our lives. I pray that we have many more anniversaries together.

Posted below is a photo that Linda and I created together. Linda picked the background color and I assembled the clip art. I hope you like our anniversary Coin of the Month! Happy Anniversary Linda!

Julys Coin of the Month and our first 100 years of Independence

The Coin of the Month for July is an 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Medal designed by William Barber.

To help finance the exposition, Congress authorized the striking of commemorative medals in June of 1874. Overall, there were two different medals, each struck in a variety of metallic compositions. One medal was 38mm in diameter and the other 57mm. My Coin of the Month is the 57mm Julian CM-11 medal struck in white metal and graded MS-61 by NGC. White metal is an alloy composed of 82 parts tin, 12 parts antimony, and 6 parts copper. Mintages for the 57mm medal include a unique gold medal, nine silver medals, 7000 bronze medals, 2100 gilded copper medals, and 583 white metal medals. The original issue price for the 57mm medals ranged between two and five dollars.

Amidst a backdrop of economic depression, political scandal (William Magear Boss Tweed), and widespread tent meetings held by evangelist Dwight L Moody, America was celebrating 100 years of independence. Other events influencing American culture in 1876 were Custers defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Transcontinental Express traversing the North American continent in 83 hours and 39 minutes, Colorados admission to the Union as the 38th state, and the forming of baseballs National League.

To celebrate her centennial birthday on a grand scale, America was throwing the world a party by hosting her first World Exposition. Held at Fairmount Park, the exposition covered 285 acres with 250 pavilions. There were 37 nations represented and over nine million people attending the exposition held from May 10, 1876 to November 10, 1876. Of certainty, the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition lived up to its billing and did not disappoint.

On display for the entire world to see, representing Americas ascendency in mechanization was the telephone, the typewriter, and the Corliss Steam engine that provided power for virtually all the exhibits. These innovations in technology developed by American inventors ushered in a gilded age of industrialization from which grew a prosperous American middle class.

This then is where my medal so rich in history and allegorical content comes into play. Through the allegories represented on my medal, America was showing the world how liberty and freedom maximize human innovation and ingenuity to provide a prosperous life for the most people within a society. Furthermore, where the human spirit is free from the shackles of tyranny, liberty and freedom provides the fertile ground in which the arts thrive and grow. Among American arts is the literary art masterpiece, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer written by Mark Twain and published in 1876.

The reverse of my medal illustrates Lady Liberty rising from a kneeling position with a drawn sword preparing for battle against the enemies of liberty. Her left arm reaches towards a glory of thirteen stars in which her gaze is fixated. From the united circle of stars representing the thirteen colonies, Lady Liberty receives her strength and resolve. Underneath Liberty is the date 1776 representing the year of our Declaration of Independence. Around the perimeter of the reverse are the words of Virginian Richard Lee to the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776. These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States.

Lady Liberty with her sword sheathed is the central image on the obverse of my medal. Resting against Lady Libertys left leg is a Union Shield representing the United States. Kneeling to Lady Libertys left is a feminine allegorical representation with a palette of paints at her feet representing the arts. Kneeling to Lady Libertys right is another feminine representation. With an anvil at her side, she is illustrated holding a hammer and a large gear to represent industry. Together Lady Liberty is crowning Arts and Industry with laurel wreaths to represent victory, fame, and achievement. Etched on the platform of which Lady Liberty is standing is the date 1876. Around the perimeter are the words, In Commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of American Independence. Thus, this medal represents the first 100 years of American history by first illustrating Americas fight to obtain liberty and 100 years later reaping the rewards of liberty.

In summary, I wish I could say that America had always lived up to her promise of liberty. Yet in 1876, the newly freed slaves did not fully enjoy the guarantees of Liberty. Neither did Native Americans who were herded into reservations. In fact, their internment led to the death of George Custer at the early age of 36. Nevertheless, in spite of these wrinkles in American history, nothing takes away from the truth of Liberty. Therefore, no matter where in the world Liberty is espoused, people prosper. This then is not about governments or governmental systems, its not about money either, but about individual liberty and the right of self-determination. Liberty then is precious and needs protection because the enemies to liberty are always on the prowl to enslave people under the yoke of tyranny, be they governments, religions, or dictators.

Finally take time this Fourth of July to remember those who sacrificed the most for us to enjoy liberty and freedom. It is during this time of the year that I most often think of Lee Greenwoods song, God Bless the USA. Somehow hearing this song causes my eyes to well up with pride for the country in which I live. God bless the USA!


The Story of Lady Liberty on Morgan’s Dollar

The Morgan Dollar is one of only a few coins to have the distinction of being named after its designer George T. Morgan. Minted between the years of 1878 and 1904 and then again in 1921, the Morgan Dollar is 38.1 mm in diameter and weighs 26.73 grams. The metallic composition of the Morgan Dollar is .900 Silver, .100 Copper, and has an ASW of .77344 oz. pure silver. This PCGS MS-65 dollar with satin-like luster has a mintage of 9,976,000 and an approximate survival rate in MS-65 or better of 15,809 (PCGS CoinFacts).

In anticipation of the return of the silver dollar as a circulating coin, Mint Director Henry Linderman hired George T. Morgan in 1876 as an assistant engraver for the express purpose of designing a new silver dollar. Shortly thereafter, Morgan finished the reverse design, but the obverse design of the new dollar would be quite another issue. Then later in 1876 through a common friend, Thomas Eakins, Morgan found in the facial profile of Miss Anna W. Williams the perfect representation of the Goddess of Liberty for his dollar coin.

Miss Anna Williams, an art student in Philadelphia, was a modest 18-year-old girl. She did not crave notoriety or fame, but rather desired to pursue her passion as a schoolteacher in relative obscurity. When first asked to model for Morgan, she soundly refused. Through the encouragement of her friend Thomas Eakins, she finally agreed to model for Morgan under the stipulation that her identity remained anonymous. The official cover story would be that Morgan got the inspiration for his dollar from a Greek figure at the Philadelphia Academy of Art.

With final approval for the silver dollar design and passage of the Bland-Allison Act occurring on the same day, minting of the Morgan Dollar began in 1878. Unfortunately, the secret identity of Lady Liberty on the Morgan Dollar would be short-lived and in the summer of 1879, a Philadelphia newspaper revealed Anna Williams identity and dubbed her The Silver Dollar Girl.

This in turn brought a deluge of unwanted attention to Miss Anna W. Williams, then a schoolteacher at The House of Refuge. Fortunately, for Anna, this sudden surge of notoriety eventually subsided. However, in years to follow, Anna would reappear in the limelight and her decision to model for Morgan would vex her for the rest of her life.

In 1891, Anna Williams accepted a $60/month offer as a teacher of kindergarten philosophy at the Girls Normal School. In spite of the unwanted publicity as The Silver Dollar Girl, Anna became an accomplished teacher in her own rite. Annas literary talents allowed her to publish numerous articles in current periodicals and win an award for the best original essay on psychology. Consequently, this talent called her to several cities where she gave lectures on the topic of kindergarten teaching. Later Anna became the supervisor of kindergartens in Philadelphia, a position she held for more than 25 years until her retirement. Anna rarely granted interviews, but when she did, she used her notoriety as Morgans Goddess of Liberty as an opportunity to talk about the issues with which she was passionate.

Anna returned to the limelight in 1892 when she found herself and a print of her bust the subject of an article in The Ladies Home Journal. In 1896, Anna announced her engagement to be married. That announcement in turn was reprinted in the May 1896 issue of the ANA journal, The Numismatist. For whatever reason, the engagement broke off and Anna never married. While there are several theories as to why this occurred, I believe the excessive publicity surrounding the engagement eventually doomed it.

For me, this incident represents a sad chapter in Annas life and the constant struggle for any sense of normalcy in her life. This in turn is why I choose the 1896 Morgan Dollar to represent Miss Anna W. Williams story. I wonder if every time Anna handled one of these coins, it served as a constant reminder to her. Fortunately, for her, Morgan Dollars in Philadelphia circulated about as much as dollar coins do today.

Always the schoolteacher, Anna even in retirement advocated for compulsory kindergarten education for all students in Philadelphia. Then on April 17, 1926, Anna Willis Williams died in her hometown of Philadelphia at the age of 68. Annas obituary also appeared in the May 1926 issue of The Numismatist.

In summary, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is still some speculation as to the identity of Lady Liberty on the Morgan Dollar. A letter sent from Morgans daughter to her daughter is the primary reason for doubt. In that letter Morgans daughter states, Father always said no matter how many models posed for him that he never bid any, and that he made up the obverse himself. However, from Annas perspective, she is quoted describing her role as Lady Liberty as, an incident of my youth. I think regardless of what happened, Morgan was going to keep up his end of the anonymity bargain, and the model for the Morgan Dollar is indeed that of Anna W. Williams. I am also posting a photo collage of a print I purchased on ebid alongside the obverse of the 1896 Morgan Dollar from my collection. For me this is the primary piece of evidence to the identity controversy concerning the Morgan dollar, as the resemblance is unmistakable.

Junes Coin of the Month is Out of this World

Junes Coin of the Month is a NGC PFUC-69 French 2009 10 Euro coin that commemorates the International Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of mans first steps on the moon.

Greetings everyone, ever since I was a boy, I have had two enduring interests. The one is obvious, and it has to do with collecting coins. The other is not quite as apparent and has to do with science fiction and space exploration. This month, my Coin of the Month post brings both of these unrelated interests together into one coin.

The United Nations declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. This event was to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations through a telescope by Galileo Galilei. Some of the worldwide objectives of the International Year of Astronomy were to increase scientific awareness, improve science education, and promote widespread access to knowledge and observation. Coincidently, 2009 is also the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrongs and Buzz Aldrins historic walk on the moon. To commemorate both these events, France has released a special 2009 silver 10 Euro coin.

Struck at the Paris Mint, this proof coin is 37mm in diameter and weighs 22.2 grams. The fineness of the coin is 900/1000 fine silver, and the mintage is 10,000. There are also colorized gold and five-ounce silver versions of this coin with identical designs. I bought this coin in 2009 directly from the Paris Mint.

The obverse of this coin has a relief similar to that of a shallow birdbath and pictures a mirrored Saturn and stars in a field of frosted space. Around the edge of the coin is a mirrored rim with engravings and astronomical symbols. The English translation of the engravings is 2009 International Year of Astronomy. The symbols around the bottom circumference represent the sun and the moon and each of the planets in our solar system. Noticeably missing from the symbols is the symbol for our home planet, Earth.

The symbols from left to right represent the moon, the sun, and the planets in order according to their distance from the sun. The first planetary symbol is the winged caduceus of Mercury, the god of commerce and communication. Next is the hand mirror of Venus, the goddess of love. The shield and spear of Mars, the god of war follows Venus. A thunderbolt, an eagle, and the letter zeta or Z represents Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Zeus. A sickle represents Saturn the god of time. A globe surmounted by the letter H represents Uranus the god of the sky, the H is for William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus. The trident represents Neptune the god of the sea. The symbol for Pluto, the god of the underworld, is reminiscent of Neptunes trident except that a globe replaces the center prong.

The reverse relief is similar to that of a convex camera lens and pictures a frosted image of a crescent moon. Emblazoned on the moon is a mirrored footprint to represent the historic walk on the moon of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. In the dark portion of the moons crescent with a mirrored backdrop is the coins face value of 10 Euros, the date, the letters RF representing the Republic of France, and two privy marks of which the cornucopia represents the Paris Mint. The inscription around the rim of the dark crescent translates to 40 years of the first steps on the moon.

Finally, I hope that you have enjoyed reading my post and learned a little more about the solar system we live in, just as I have.

Garys May Coin of the Month

In 1936, the United States Mint issued an unusually large assortment of commemorative half-dollars. I believe that much of the reason for this was due to political excesses and abuse regarding the purpose of commemorative coins. This resulted in a glut of coins that celebrated and financed regional events rather than those with a national interest. Consequently, except for the Bicentennial coins, there were no new commemoratives minted after 1954 until the Washington Half-Dollar in 1982.

The aforementioned abuses have given coin collectors a treasure trove of collectible coins representing little-known events in American history. One such coin commemorates the sesquicentennial of Columbia as the capital of South Carolina. Regarding this coin, many people in the numismatic community think its design is simple and uninspiring. However, for the person who examines this coin a little closer, they will find a gold mine of South Carolinian history of national significance.

Since most of the commemorative coins issued in 1936 were regional in nature, their mintages tended to be very low. Correspondingly, this PCGS MS-63, 1936-S Columbia Sesquicentennial Half-Dollar has a mintage of only 8,007. For type collectors, this coin also has mintages from Philadelphia and Denver at 9,007 and 8,009 coins respectively. The composition, weight, and size of this coin are that of a standard 90% silver, US half-dollar and the coins designer is A. Wolfe Davidson, who was an art student at Clemson College.

The central device on the obverse of this coin is an image of Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice. In her right hand, she is holding a double-edged sword and in her left hand, a set of scales. Typically, Lady Justice is also wearing a blindfold to represent impartiality before the law. However, in this instance, she appears as she originally did in ancient Rome, which was without a blindfold. The scales representing truth and fairness equally weigh both sides of an issue. The double-edged sword representing reason and justice cuts both ways, for or against either party.

Behind Lady Justice, are images of the old and the new statehouses of South Carolina identified by the dates 1786 and 1936. Construction of the old statehouse began when Columbia became the state capital in 1786. Nearly three-quarters of a century later construction of a new statehouse began on an adjacent property. Adding to the mystique of this coin are the significant votes that took place in the old statehouse. One such vote on November 10, 1860, shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln, called for a convention to draw up an Ordinance of Secession. Subsequently, on December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Unfortunately, the old statehouse burned to the ground under General Sherman’s occupation. Ironically though, the stone exterior of the new statehouse withstood the artillery bombardment of Shermans troops. Subsequently, brass markers identify the damage in the new statehouse by Union artillery shells. Economically devastated by the war, construction of the new statehouse was finally completed in 1903.

The central device on the reverse of this coin is a palmetto tree that is reminiscent of the state seal of South Carolina. At the base of the tree are a banner, twelve crossed arrows or spears, and a fallen oak.

The state seal of South Carolina is made up of two ovals connected to each other by palmetto branches. Atop the palmetto tree in the left oval are two shields with the dates’ March 26 and July 4 representing the date of the first South Carolina constitution and the declaration of Independence. Written on the banner at the base of the tree, at the point the twelve arrows cross, representing the twelve other colonies, is a Latin phrase translated, “who shall separate.” The fallen oak signifies the defeat of the British fleet attacking the fort at Sullivan’s Island on June 28, 1776. Underneath the tree is the phrase, “having fallen it has set up a better.” The right oval features Spes, the goddess of Hope holding a laurel branch and walking on a beach at dawn among discarded weapons. Written on the rim of the left oval is the state name and motto, “prepared in mind and resources,” and the phrase around the right oval is, “while I breathe, I hope.”

I must confess that without this coin I would not have had the occasion to learn the history represented on this coin. Therefore, in the context of history, commemorative coins serve to teach American history to current and future generations of Americans.

I will close this post with a fond memory I have from a vacation with my wife and kids as I was passing through South Carolina. Often while on a road trip, you make stops based on billboards along the way of places and things that look interesting. One such sign led us to a roadside market where I purchased a basket of the best peaches I have ever tasted (sorry Georgia). As I remember those peaches were as large as softballs, delectably sweet, and full of juice as evidenced by my sticky hands and soaked shirt! So until next month, happy collecting!

Garys February Coin of the Month

Februarys coin of the month is a beautifully conserved, chocolate-brown, NCS/NGC, 1858/6 AU-55 Great Britain halfpenny.

This month I am beginning a three-part series of articles examining the coins of three nations with seated, feminine national personifications. A British halfpenny from my collection is the first coin in this series because I believe the Seated Liberty coinage of the United States uses as its model the Seated Britannia coinage of Great Britain. Subsequently, the South American nation of Peru after their liberation from Spain in 1824 modeled their coinage after Lady Liberty of the United States.

The 1858/6 Great Britain halfpenny (KM#726) is a copper coin, 28 mm in diameter, and weighing 9.1-9.5 grams with a mintage of 2,473,000. The obverse features the young-head bust of Queen Victoria, the date, and a Latin inscription around the rim of the coin. The obverse inscription is translated, Victoria by the Grace of God. The reverse features Britannia in a right facing seated position holding Poseidons trident and a shield displaying the Union Flag. Underneath Britannia are a shamrock (three-leafed clover), a rose, and a thistle. These flowers represent the three kingdoms of the United Kingdom: Ireland, England, and Scotland respectively. The Latin inscription around the rim of the reverse is translated, Queen of the British Territories, Defender of the Faith.

Britannia is an ancient Latin term tracing back to the first-century BC used to describe a group of islands, including Albion or Great Britain. In AD 43, the Romans invaded Great Britain and established a province there they named Britannia. During the second-century AD, Britannia became personified as a goddess typically seen wearing a centurion helmet, and armed with a spear and shield (much like that of Minerva).

Britannia first appeared in a seated position on bronze coinage during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). That first Britannia commemorates Hadrians visit to the province and the building of the Hadrian wall in AD 122. Originally, this coin signified that Britannia was bound and subjugated by her Roman occupiers. Over time, the seated position of Britannia would come to mean something altogether different.

Long after the withdrawal of the Romans from Great Britain in AD 410, the name Britannia referring to the British islands remained popular among the Britons. During the Renaissance period more than a thousand years later, Britannia came to be viewed as the national personification of Great Britain.

On British coinage, Britannia first appeared on the farthing in 1672 and the halfpenny later that year. On those first coins, Britannia appeared seated on a globe holding an olive branch with her right hand and a spear with her left. A shield bearing the Union Flag of England and Scotland leans against the globe. As such, Britannia became a symbol of British power and a strong rallying point among Britons. First appearing during the reign of Charles II, Britannia has graced the coinage of every British monarch since.

With the official unification of England and Scotland in 1707, and the subsequent adding of Ireland to the union in 1801 came an exponential rise in power and influence all around the world. Thus, the British Empire would become the largest empire the world has known. To reflect this rise in power and in particular naval superiority, Britannia wearing a centurion helmet donned a more militaristic look, arming herself with Poseidons trident and a shield. Other views of Britannia show her overlooking a British harbor with a lighthouse and a tall-masted British sailing ship on the horizon. At other times, Britannia appears with a lion by her side.

Britannia also represents Liberty and Democracy to the people of the United Kingdom much like Lady Liberty does for the United States, and Marianne does for France. Britannia even became a pop-culture icon in the 1990s known as Cool Britannia. Today Britannia makes an annual appearance on the Silver American Eagle equivalent two-pound Britannia.

In summary, while I did my best to research and describe Britannia in this post, I believe the people who know her best capture the essence of her significance to the United Kingdom. Therefore, the following paragraph is copied from a 2006 Standing Britannia certificate of authenticity: Philip Nathans original design of 1987 which shows the standing figure of Britannia, wearing a Grecian helmet, with her hair and gown flowing freely in the wind. In her right hand she grasps a trident, the symbol of naval supremacy, while her left hand grips the rim of her shield embellished with the flag of the United Kingdom. This warlike stance is moderated by the olive branch in her left hand, symbolizing her readiness to make peace rather than war.

As symbolic as Britannia is, so is the flag of the United Kingdom on her shield. The flag of the United Kingdom is overlaid with St. Patrick’s cross representing Ireland, St. George’s cross representing England, and St. Andrew’s cross representing Scotland. In 1922, Ireland became a free state. However, Northern Ireland seceded from Ireland and rejoined the United Kingdom.

Finally, as mentioned, this coin has been conserved by NCS. Originally blotted with large dark carbon spots you can still see light spots where conservation has enhanced the appearance of the coin. Because what remains doesnt distract from the overall appearance, the coin was crossed over to an NGC holder where I believe it is under-graded at AU-55. Personally, I think this coin should have at least been graded AU-58. However, I am glad to have it graded and in an NGC holder. So until next time, happy collecting

Gary’s April Coin of the Month

The coin featured this month comes from Peru and completes my three part series on Seated National Personifications.

Some time ago, I remember Collectors Society member Jackson opining about a Peruvian gold coin he won at auction almost by accident. What caught my eye about this coin though is that with a few exceptions, it resembles the Seated Liberty motif on our coins. After reading Jacksons post, I thought to add a coin like his to my Inspirational Ladies custom set. However, I did not want to buy a gold coin to do it. Fortunately, this design is prevalent through several denominations of Peruvian coins, and I found an inexpensive silver coin to add to my set.

The nation of Peru declared their independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. They finally won their independence by defeating the Spanish troops in the Battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824. As a result, this battle effectively ended Spanish rule in South America. Peru is also a country rich in natural resources and culture. The abundance of gold and other minerals led to the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards beginning in 1532. Before 1532, Peru was the center of a highly developed Inca civilization and central to that civilization is the worship of the sun god Inti. Curiously, my coin of the month incorporates all of this history in the images present on my coin.

Immediately following their independence from Spain, the Republic of Peru began incorporating Lady Liberty into their coinage. Lady Liberty first appeared on Peruvian coinage in a standing position wearing a Grecian garment and a helmet. She is seen holding a pole atop of which is a Phrygian cap, and the rim of a shield resting on the ground. Engraved on the shield is the Spanish word libertad for liberty. Browsing through the Krause Catalog of World Coins it seems that Lady Liberty first appears in a seated position beginning in 1858. This motif would continue to appear on a variety of regular circulating and gold Peruvian coins before disappearing in 1970.

The basic decimal monetary unit in Peru is the sol, which is the Spanish word for sun implying that the monetary system in Peru has its roots in ancient Incan culture. Accordingly, the coin of the month for April is a 1916 NGC MS-64 1/5 Sol (KM# 205.2). This coin has a silver fineness of .900 and an ASW of .1447 Oz. with a mintage of 425,000. The total weight of this coin is 5 grams, which directly correlates to the exact weight and fineness of the US twenty-cent piece. Incidentally, many of Perus other silver coins also have their weight and fineness equivalency in US silver coins. As an aside, there are other similarities and ties between the US monetary system and that of Peru, including that certain Peruvian coins were struck in the United States and appropriately mint-marked.

The obverse of this coin has as its center device the Peruvian coat of arms. The inscriptions in the field at the edge of this coin denote that it is from the Republic of Peru, minted in Lima, which is the capital of Peru, has a silver fineness of .900, and that the assayers initials are F.G. The Peruvian coat of arms has as its central device a shield divided into three parts. The upper-left portion of the shield with a blue background is a vicuna representing the fauna of Peru. The upper-right portion of the shield with a white background is a cinchona tree representing the flora of Peru. (The cinchona tree is also the source of a powerful anti-malaria drug called quinine). The bottom portion of the shield with a red field is a cornucopia full of gold coins and represents the mineral resources of Peru. Surrounding the shield in a semi-circle is a palm and laurel branch tied by a bow into a wreath to represent victory and glory. The wreath above the shield is a Holm Oak Civic Crown. The civic crown has its roots in ancient Rome and is the second highest military honor a person could receive. To earn such an honor a person was required to save the life of a Roman citizen in battle, slay his opponent, and hold the ground on which this took place. The only battlefield testimony allowed in determining the worthiness of the recipient was that of the soldier whose life was saved.

The reverse of this coin has as its central device Lady Liberty, who appears in a seated position holding with one hand a shield depicting an image of the radiant sun god Inti, and a liberty cap atop of a pole with the other. In front of Lady Liberty is a short column with a banner wrapped around it and a wreath resting on top. Written on the banner is the word Libertad, which translated, is Liberty. The inscription around the rim of the reverse is Perus national motto and is translated, Steady and happy for the union. In describing the reverse of this coin an article in the E-Gobrecht Newsletter, Volume 5, Issue 5 suggests that the wreath on top of the column is a Laurel Wreath. However, I believe that rather than a laurel wreath, the wreath on top of the column is another representation of the civic crown. The reason for this is that a civic crown is thick, tightly bound, and closed in a circle; a laurel wreath looks as if to be two separate laurel branches tied together by a bow on one end and open on the other. Rather I believe the ornamental leaves towards the top of, and around the column are laurel leaves symbolizing victory. The civic crown then, in this case, signifies that liberty is attained and held through self-sacrifice, courage, and determination.

All around the world Liberty is a highly valued virtue as evidenced by the coins of the three nations I have highlighted in this series. These three nations are not the only nations of the world to depict Lady Liberty in a seated or standing position. In fact, the issue of the E-Gobrecht Newsletter I referenced has a list of coins from other nations in which Lady Liberty is seated that I may develop into another custom set.

For those of you who collect anything seated, may I recommend the E-Gobrecht Newsletter. They have an extensive archive of newsletters with an abundance of good information. The link to their site is: Now until next time, collect what you love and love what you collect.

Gary’s March Coin of the Month

This month my attention turns from Britannia to Lady Liberty in this second of three journal posts on coins displaying feminine seated national personifications.

The coin I selected for this months Coin of the Month is an NGC XF-40, 1853 arrows and rays, Seated Liberty Half-Dollar. I own several coins that include the Seated Liberty motif, but I picked this coin because of its significance as a type coin. To fill the arrows slot in my type set, I could have chosen any half-dollar dated 1853 to 1855, but the 1853 is the only date with a glory of rays emanating from the eagle on the reverse. Although the picture does not show it my coin also has a double die reverse. With a mintage of 3,532,708, this coin has a survival rate of only 6000 in all grades according to PCGS Coinfacts. Grading XF-40, this coin is affordable at $282 FMV. However, in AU-50, it rises to $540 and in MS-60 to $1440. With a PCGS Coinfacts survival rate of 30 in MS-65 and higher, this coin can fetch $23,440.

As an added bonus, this coin brings with it another story line. In the early 1850s, with an abundance of gold on the market from California, the intrinsic value of the gold dollar fell. This drop in value disrupted the established silver-to-gold ratio set at 16:1 by Congress in 1837. By 1853, the melt value of two half-dollars rose to $1.06 relative to one gold dollar. As a result, you could buy two half-dollars with one gold dollar, melt them down, and use the proceeds to purchase approximately 6% more in gold. Naturally, this easy money scheme caused a serious shortage of silver coins in the United States. It is estimated that in 1850 and 1851 alone, over 25 million dollars in silver coins disappeared from circulation. To bring the value of silver coins in line with the gold dollar, the weight of the half-dollar was reduced from 13.36 grams to 12.44 grams. To denote this reduction in weight one arrow on each side of the date appears on the obverse. On the reverse, rays emanating from the eagle were added. When the mint determined that the Arrows and Rays half-dollars were more expensive to produce, the rays were removed, and only the arrows appeared on coins dated 1854 and 1855. The reduction in weight of every silver denominated coin with the exception of the dollar worked. Now for the first time in our nations history, we had a sufficient supply of small silver coins for commerce.

It is amazing that after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 the United Kingdom continued to influence our culture. This influence also reached into the halls of government and in particular, Mint Director Robert M. Patterson. Upon his appointment as director, Robert Patterson sought fundamental changes to the designs of our coinage using a seated likeness of Britannia as a pattern. For the artwork and drawings, Robert Patterson sought the services of artists Thomas Sully for the obverse and Titian Peale for the reverse. It is alleged that Thomas Sully used his daughter Blanche as a model on a sketch of Seated Liberty he presented to Mint Director Patterson for approval. Titian Peale used Pete, the Philadelphia Mints mascot bald eagle for his model of the flying eagle that graces the reverse of all Gobrecht Dollars. Finally, Christian Gobrecht as the chief engraver created the dies for the new Gobrecht Dollar based on Sullys Seated Liberty and Peales flying eagle in 1836.

The Seated Liberty motif first appeared on the half-dollar in 1839 and upon all our silver coinage from the half-dime to the dollar. As a design, the Seated Liberty motif was officially retired in 1891 after a remarkable run.

The obverse of my Coin of the Month displays a left facing image of Lady Liberty at rest, seated on a rock, and dressed in a Grecian garment called a chiton. Her right arm supports a Union Shield with the word liberty engraved across it. In her left hand, she holds a pole with a pileus or liberty cap atop it. As such, the imagery on this coin represents preparedness and freedom. Lady Liberty, seated, and at peace, appears to look over her shoulder alert and prepared for any threat to freedom that may come her way. The liberty cap, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome was given to liberated slaves as a sign of their freedom. In a ceremony proclaiming the former slaves freedom, a Roman praetor would touch the cheek of the one set free with a pole, thus giving significance to both the pole and the cap. The reverse of my coin features the heraldic eagle design of John Reich.

Upon its release, the Seated Liberty motif was an instant success with the American public espousing the virtues of freedom and liberty that we had fought so hard for to obtain. This message still resonates today on our coinage and in particular on the 2008 Van Burens Liberty First Spouse Coin.

This then concludes my March 2012 Coin of the Month post. Next month join me as I travel to the South American nation of Peru for the final post in this three part series. Until then, collect what you love and love what you collect!

Collecting Small European Gold Coins (9/19/2009)

My experience building a Netherlands 10 Gulden registry set.

First, I wish to offer my thanks and kudos to NGC and Collector’s Society for introducing new registry sets featuring small European gold coins. Collecting small European gold coins can offer real value as the demand for these coins in contrast to their US counterparts is significantly lower.

My interest in small European gold coins started when I added several examples of them to my “Inspirational Ladies” signature set. Then early in May, NGC introduced two “Netherlands 10 Gulden” registry sets. The one of particular interest to me was the “Wilhelmina I” 1897 to 1933 set. Many things attracted me to this set; first, I have admiration for Queen “Wilhelmina I” of the Netherlands as one of the great world leaders of the 20th Century. Next, this series with only 11 coins allows me to add small gold coins to my collection, many for as little as $50.00 over spot gold price. These factors made it almost impossible for me to resist, and I decided to start the set.

For all the fees E-bay charges its sellers, buyers pretty much get a pass. For the savvy, patient buyer, there is a fair amount of good buys on E-bay. Searching E-bay for coins to populate my set, I quickly added six graded coins to my set, two graded MS-66, three graded MS-65, and the key date, an 1898 10 Gulden graded MS-63, a good grade for this particular date. Soon after this, certified examples for auction on E-bay dried up.

At this point, my options were to either wait for graded examples to come up for sale or buy the coins raw with the hope of getting favorable grades on my submissions. Over the summer months, I purchased the remaining five coins raw. As many of you know, purchasing raw coins on E-bay can be risky, but there are ways to minimize your risk. First, as best I could, I tried to buy my coins from sellers I knew to be reputable dealers. Buying from dealers is a little more expensive, but if a particular coin lists for a long time without a buyer, often a dealer will snap up your best offer. This occurred on one of my raw purchases. Where this is not possible, I had to make my judgment based on the photos of the coin. I looked for mint luster, strike, and contact marks to determine if the coin was cleaned or a counterfeit. This is where the risk comes in, in the absence of a reputable dealer to make that judgment for me, is my judgment sufficient to protect myself from being ripped off? I would find this out soon as I prepared my raw “10 Guldens” for submission to NGC.

This week my coins cleared quality control and my heart was racing as I clicked on the link to see my results. My submission showed three coins grading MS-63 and two coins grading MS-64. While I had hoped for MS-64s and 65s, I am in no way disappointed with these results. For the most part, I have found that “Mint State” raw coins sold on E-bay are often poorer in quality.

Now with my set 100% populated, my next goal is to upgrade my set with MS-65 or higher coins as they become available. With lower grade coins to sell, I should be able to upgrade my set inexpensively. Please enjoy my photo collage of the four major obverse designs in this series. Happy collecting!