Posted on

The meaning of plants on World Coins

Many spectacular world coins feature an array of plants, but why does this iconography hold such significance? Today we look at five coins and the meaning behind the plants that are depicted on them.

Coins of Jaipur – Jhar leaf

A gold mohur coin fromIndia, Princely States, Jaipur. A green icon illustrates the Jhar leaf.
INDIA, PRINCELY STATES, JAIPUR, IN THE NAME OF BAHADUR SHAH II (1837-1858 AD), GOLD MOHUR

Jhar leaf is one of the most recognizable symbols on Indian coins and it appears on gold, silver and copper coinage of various Princely States. Most notably, it is a symbol of the Princely State of Jaipur and Jaipur mint. It appears on coins of Jaipur with a bud on top is the symbol of the Jaipur mint, which was adopted by the state of Kishangarh as well.

Coins of Sikh Empire – peepal (sacred Fig)

The sacred fig or peepal tree appears on a number of Indian coins, but it is especially prominent on coins of the Sikh Empire. It is a species of fig native to India and Indochina. This tree has great religious significance in three religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Hindu ascetics consider the species to be sacred and suitable for meditation under its leaves because it is believed that Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment under a peepal tree.

INDIA, SIKH EMPIRE, SHER SINGH (VS 1897-1900 / AD 1841-1843), SILVER RUPEE. Green Icon depicts the sacred fig.
INDIA, SIKH EMPIRE, SHER SINGH (VS 1897-1900 / AD 1841-1843), SILVER RUPEE.

Coins of korea – plum flower

KOREA, GWANG MU (1897-1907), BRONZE ½ CHON, 1906. A green icon highlighting the plum flower.
KOREA, GWANG MU (1897-1907), BRONZE ½ CHON, 1906

The Imperial Seal of Korea or Ihwamun was one of the symbols of the Korean Empire and it features a plum flower (Ihwa or Ehwa). It was originally the emblem of the royal family and was subsequently used for the coat of arms of the short-lived Empire, it can still be seen on some buildings. Plum blossoms are associated with the transition of season and they are as the heralds of spring in Korea.

coins of japan – Chrysanthemum

JAPAN, MEIJI (1868-1912), SILVER 10 SEN, 1887

The Imperial Seal of Japan or National Seal of Japan is also called the Chrysanthemum Seal  (kikumon) or Imperial chrysanthemum emblem. It is one of the national seals and a crest (mon) used by the Emperor of Japan and members of the Imperial Family and it was adopted 839 years ago. During the Meiji Era, only the Emperor of Japan had the right to use the sixteen-petalled chrysanthemum seen on coins. Other members of the Imperial family used a slightly modified version of the seal. Shinto shrines also displayed the Imperial Seal or incorporated elements of the seal into their own tag.

coins of japan – paulownia

JAPAN, MEIJI (1867-1912 AD), ELECTRUM 2 BU, C. 1868-1869. A green icon highlights the Paulownia plant.
JAPAN, MEIJI (1867-1912 AD), ELECTRUM 2 BU, C. 1868-1869

The Government Seal of Japan and one of the country’s national seals, is the emblem (mon) of Paulownia, also known as Kiri crest (kirimon) or the Empress Tree. It is used by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Government of Japan on official documents. It is stylized as Paulownia with flowers arranged in 5-7-5 formation, although through history many other varieties appear on Samurai Kobans and Bu denominations. It resembles a stylized paulownia with 5-7-5 flowers. Before the Chrysanthemum Seal was used extensively, the Paulownia Seal originally was the private symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family, from as early as the 16th century.

Written by Ema Sikic, World Coin Expert. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Ema by email (ema@baldwin.co.uk).

Posted on

How to Read Ancient Coins

Deciphering a coin can seem like a daunting task, especially for beginners. There is frequently used terminology that you may or may be aware of, and it might be difficult to recognise what it is that you’re looking at. Understanding the coin that sits in your hand, whether it be milled or hand-struck is a huge part of interpreting in the culture, technology and even politics at the time of those who created it. What do the patterns mean? What does the text say? By looking a little closer at some famous coins, we can crack the codes and discover the fascinating stories behind the money. We’re going to look at 3 ancient coin examples to begin breaking down those complex visuals.

The Basics

Labelled obverse of a Marcus Aurelius Gold Aureus.

Constantius II (AD 337-361), Silver Siliqua 

Obverse

Labelled diagram of a roman silver SIliqua coin of Constantius II.
Obverse, Silver SIliqua coin of Constantius II.

The Legend: Throughout history, coins have needed to convey lots of information on very small surfaces, words in the legend are often abbreviated. This coin reads: 

  • [DN] Dominus Noster, the Latin translation for ‘Our Lord’. This once controversial title was, by the 4th Century AD, a common motif across Roman coinage. The Roman people were generally against anyone referring to themselves as ‘lord’. However during the reign of Diocletian, the position of the emperor as supreme lord was well established. 
  • Constantius, the emperor. 
  • [PF] Pius Felix, meaning ‘pious’ (devoutly religious), happy’.   
  • [AVG] Augustus, relating to Emperor Augustus. All emperors after Augustus claimed authority from him and used his name ‘Augustus’ as a title – including on coins.

Portraiture:

  • The Generic Portrait. By this period of Roman history the artistic style of Roman emperors show little evidence of Individuality 
  • Draped and Cuirassed bust. Cuirassed busts became very common features of coins struck during the 3rd Century – a period of military emperors and turmoil in the empire. The tradition continued into the 4th Century, with emperors reminding the masses of their military might through this subtle feature. 
  • Pearl Diadem – The diadem appeared as an icon of the emperor during the 4th Century AD. Originally a Hellenistic royal object. The diadem may have re-emerged as a result of Constantine’s shift of Roman Power from West to East.

Reverse

Labelled diagram of a roman silver SIliqua coin of Constantius II.
Reverse, Silver SIliqua coin of Constantius II.

Inscriptions:

  • [VOTIS XXX] Prayers for the 30th Anniversary. An ‘X’ meaning 10 in roman numerals. 
  • [MVLTIS XXXX] Looking forward to 40 – The inscriptions relate to formal vows taken by the Emperor for the welfare of the imperium and the prosperity of the empire. 
  • [SIRM] Sirmium – Mint-marks appear in the Exergue of coins struck during this period. The abbreviated name allowed officials to pinpoint coins to the mint in which they were struck, and often to the specific workshop. 

Design:

  • It’s common for many coins to have a decorative border, and this ancient coin is no exception, it boasts a border of dots around the outside, also known as ‘beading’. 
  • Around the text in the centre is a Laurel Wreath – a Roman symbol of victory and celebration. 

Nero (AD 54-68), Gold Aureus 

Obverse

Labelled diagram of an obverse of a Nero (AD 54-68), Gold Aureus coin.
Obverse, Nero (AD 54-68), Gold Aureus.

The Legend: 

  • [NERO], Nero, relating to emperor Nero. ‘Nero Caesar Augustus’. 
  • [CAESAR], Caesar. ‘Caesar’ paid tribute to the famous Roman statesman, and was a title adopted by every Roman Emperor. 
  • [AVGVSTVS], Augustus. ‘Augustus’ was a title which paid tribute to the first Roman Emperor, and became part of the titulature of every Roman Emperor. 

Portraiture: 

  • The Portrait. Arguably the most important feature of the coin, the portrait promoted the emperor and helped make the piece a trusted unit of currency, backed by the Roman state. 
  • ‘Warts and All’. Despite Nero’s notoriety as a vain ruler, Roman Emperors of the Early Empire preferred to have themselves depicted much as they appeared in real life. The result is that, towards the end of his reign, we see Nero as the obese glutton that he was. 
  • Laureate Crown. The laurel wreath was an ancient symbol of victory, often associated with kingship. It was adopted as an icon of the Roman Emperor. 

reverse

Labelled diagram of an reverse of a Nero (AD 54-68), Gold Aureus coin.
Reverse, Nero (AD 54-68), Gold Aureus.

Legend:

  • [IVPITER] Jupiter. Mythological God of the Sky who Romans believed oversaw all aspects of life. 
  • [CVSTOS] meaning to ‘custos’, translating in Latin to ‘Guardian’.  

Design:

  • A decorative border of dots is used to identify the outer limit of the die design, aka ‘beading‘. 
  • Portrait of Jupiter. Arguably the most important Roman God, Jupiter was an ideal choice to grace the coinage of a Roman Emperor, invoking the power of the King of the Gods.
  • Throne and Sceptre – a must for any powerful leader.
  • Thunderbolt – Jupiter was said to have struck down his enemies with bolts of lightning – similar (or derived from) the ancient Greek god, Zeus. The roman empire worshipped Zeus and depicted him on their coinage. 

Kingdom of Thrace, Lysimachus, Gold Stater, c. 323-281 BC. 

obverse

Labelled diagram of obverse of Lysimachus, Gold Stater coin.
Obverse, Lysimachus, Gold Stater.

The Legend. This coin features no legend on the obverse, it is termed ‘anepigraphic’.

  • Portrait of Alexander. Coins of Lysimachus depict the portrait of Alexander the Great, the renowned Macedonian King. This was an attempt to legitimise the Thracian king’s domain, which was once ruled by Alexander. 
  • The Horn of Ammon. The distinctive horn is a reference to Alexander’s belief that he was a son of the God, Ammon.  
  • Gazing Eyes. Alexander’s is depicted gazing upwards towards the heavens, his eyes wide open. This is a symbol of his divinity. 

reverse

Labelled diagram of reverse of Lysimachus, Gold Stater coin.
Reverse, Lysimachus, Gold Stater.

Inscriptions

  • [Λ]ΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ is a Greek inscription meaning ‘Lysimachus‘.
  • BAΣIΛEΩΣ meaning ‘King‘ therefore the coin reads ‘of King Lysimachus‘.

Design: 

  • Portrait of Athena. The Greek Goddess of wisdom and war appears seated on a throne and resting on a shield decorated with a lion’s head.
  • Nike. Athena is depicted holding a small Nike, the symbol personification of Victory. This was a suitable symbol at a time when rulers, including Lysimachus, were sparring over the deceased Alexander’s enormous domain.

If you would like to find out more about ancient coins and what they mean, please feel free to contact our ancient coin specialist, Dominic Chorney by email. For further viewing, you can watch Dominic read an ancient coin with Henry Cole as part of the TV series ‘The Great British Treasure Hunt’.

Posted on

Buyers Beware? Navigating the World of Rare Coins on Ebay

Our coin experts discuss the pitfalls and pleasures of purchasing on eBay…

It sounds like the plot of a bizarre TV drama. A well-connected antiques dealer with a penchant for Savile Row suits is arrested on forgery allegations. Then more details emerge: the staff of Moses is among the ‘rare’ items he’s offering for sale. Numismatists can also purchase two of the 30 silver coins that Judas was paid for betraying Christ. Amazingly, this isn’t fiction. It’s a true story involving Kochi resident Monson Mavunkal, who was arrested last year.

Coins and con artists

Even without bizarre cases such as the Judas silver, the world of coin collecting and buying is no stranger to con artists out to make money. It’s said that the first coins, minted around 600BC in what is now Turkey by King Croesus, created an instant market for forgeries. And it’s been an ongoing fact of numismatic life ever since, which can make the world of dealing and collecting even more difficult to negotiate.

Added into this problematic mix in 1995 was the huge online marketplace that is eBay. This boasts an estimated two billion daily transactions, making it difficult to police… meaning the treacherous can more easily exploit the trusting. Should numismatists avoid it and its imitators at all costs? We sought expert advice…

“A massive, international marketplace”

Ema Sikic, World Coin Expert.

Ema Sikic, World Coins Specialist at Baldwin’s, doesn’t think collectors can easily dismiss the planet’s biggest marketplace. “We can’t discount eBay because it’s massive and it’s international,” says Ema, who’s also an archaeologist. “Many reputable dealers use eBay because it’s easy and approachable. “However, always be mindful that your dealer has good feedback, a solid reputation and is a member of a numismatic trade association. It’s better to be on the safe side.”

Chris Tyrimos, our British Coins Specialist, is also open to what eBay has to offer. He explains: “It can be a misleading marketplace filled with non-accredited sellers. Overpriced and wrongly described items seem prevalent there, too. “Equally, there are recognised dealers selling in line with British Numismatic Trade Association [BNTA] guidelines. It can be a great place to browse and learn for people in or out of the trade at any level.”

“Be extremely careful”

Dominic Chorney, Ancient Coin Specialist.

Ancient Coin Specialist Dominic Chorney, who sits on the council of the British Numismatic Society, is less enthusiastic. He issues the following words of warning: “Be extremely careful. Many reputable dealers have eBay accounts and buying from a BNTA authorised dealer over eBay should be completely fine. “However, online auction websites can be a minefield when it comes to forgeries. I’d exercise extreme caution.”

Specialist Consultant Jeremy Cheek, who’s held the position of Honorary Numismatic Consultant to the Royal Collection since 2008, echoes this view. “It’s very risky buying from eBay, rather than a coin specialist online,” says Jeremy. “The chances of buying a forgery without an enduring guarantee or paying far too much are high.”

“Forgeries listed as genuine”

Baldwin’s Managing Director Neil Paisley perhaps gives the most succinct analysis of the perils of eBay. “I’d definitely say ‘Buyer beware’,” adds Neil. “The majority of eBay sellers are not members of the BNTA. If you’re dissatisfied with your purchase, it’s often difficult to get a refund. You’re also buying from a picture, which often makes it difficult to see if there are any problems or if the coin’s been cleaned. There are many forgeries listed as genuine, too. These can fool a lot of collectors and they only learn of their mistake when they come to sell the coin at a later date.”

“I’d definitely say Buyer beware”

Neil Paisley, Baldwin’s Managing Director.

Join in the conversation on instagram and find a list of approved bnta members


Sources:

  • https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/antique-dealers-links-with-cong-leader-sparks-controversy/cid/1832477
  • https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/judas-s-coins-krishna-s-pot-list-antiques-con-artist-monson-claimed-have-155935
Posted on

10 Symbols of Celtic Britain

The coins of Celtic Britain are some of the most diverse of the entire ancient world. Just as the ancient Greek city-states had their own symbols (the owls of Athens and turtles of Aegina being two of the most well-known), the tribes of Britain had theirs.

The earliest Celtic coins were simple copies of Greek originals – most notably the gold staters of Philip II of Macedon, but through time these designs would become stylised, incorporating the popular ‘La Tene’ art style. Celtic coins would forge their own path, with countless beautiful symbols appearing, inspired by the beliefs and traditions of the Iron Age world. Roman coins would also influence those tribes which were friendly to the ever-expanding Empire, though some would reject Latin influence.

Horses appear very frequently in the numismatic record of ancient Britain, they are depicted in wild and beautiful designs, supported by patterns and symbols. In this concise blog, we’re going to be delving into some of the more unusual Celtic motifs. Looking past the more well-known animal symbols – wolves, wild boar and, most commonly, horses, we’ll explore ten of the most the obscure, mysterious, weird and wonderful numismatic symbols of prehistoric Britain and attempt to decipher their significance.

Domino

The ‘domino’ symbol appears on scarce gold staters of the Corieltauvi tribe. They were issued around 45–10 BC by an unknown ruler of the tribe. It is possible that the motif resembles a row of seeds in soil, as suggested by Rudd (Auction 108, 2022), similar to the Egyptian symbol for ‘earth’. It may also represent some sort of mark of value. Some rare examples show a ‘V’ in front of the horse. Dr. Jeffrey May has suggested this may be in reference to the king, Vepo, who may have been responsible for this issue of and a pioneer of inscribed coins of the Corieltauvi.

Corieltauvi, ‘Domino’ type, gold stater, c. 45-10 BC. Corieltauvi, Gold Stater, Domino Type | Baldwin’s

Vine Leaf and Ear of Barley

These two motifs were adopted by two of Iron Age Britain’s greatest kings. Verica, ruler of the Atrebates, adorned his coins with a large vine leaf. His rival, Cunobelin, king of the enormous Catuvellauni and Trinovantes tribes, chose the humble ear of barley as his emblem. These intricately engraved obverses show the plants in fine detail and have been the subjects of much debate over the years. Victorian scholars chose to interpret the rival designs as symbolising British beer, vs. Roman wine (Creighton, 2006), evidence of Verica’s pro-Roman beliefs, and anti-imperial sentiment from Cunobelin. This has been disproven through archaeology, with both tribes showing rich evidence of imported Roman luxury goods including wine and fish sauce. The two designs may simply have emerged through changes in the numismatic traditions of Britain. Roman influence was displacing the traditional Greek-derived designs.

The ear of barley used by Cunobelin, along with its Latin inscriptions, may have merely been a symbol of the wealth and abundance of grain from his enormous domain. In the Greek world, the coin designs of Metapontum served a similar purpose in promoting the city’s prosperity. Verica, also seeking an emblem, may have chosen the vine leaf as a symbol of Roman power, it having been a key symbol of the principate under Augustus. Creighton suggests these symbols may have been seen as the building blocks of how to create an empire.

Cunobelin, (c. AD 10-43), gold stater. Cunobelin, Gold Stater | Baldwin’s

Starfish

While the larger staters of the Durotriges derive from the Greek gold pieces, bearing designs of the stylised Apollo head, horses and chariot, the silver units of the South-Western tribe are much more intriguing. Of particular interest is the ‘starfish’ type silver ¼ stater. Issued towards the end of the 1st Century BC, it features a prominent five-armed starfish of excellent style. While this may be a solar symbol, the large coastline of the Durotriges, stretching from the Wash, down the Jurassic Coast and west to what is now Devon, may suggest marine influence. The Durotriges tribe was home to many key ports including Poole harbour and Hengistbury Head, where large quantities of foreign goods were imported. A fascinating and unique Celtic coin motif.

Durotriges, ‘Starfish’ type, silver unit. Image: Baldwin‘s

Crab

The ‘Chute’ staters of South-Western Britain, minted around 80-50 BC, are difficult to pinpoint, but they have been narrowed down to either the Durotriges tribe or Belgic settlers. They are uninscribed and feature the standard stylised stater design, with a key addition, that of a small crab-like emblem between the horse’s legs. The meaning of the symbol is uncertain, but it may be indicative of maritime influence.

Durotriges/Belgae, ‘Chute’ type, gold stater. Belgae, Gold Stater. ‘Chute’ Type | Baldwin’s

Wine Cup

Verica, ruler of the Atrebates and client king of Rome, was instrumental in the justification for Rome’s invasion of Britannia in AD 43. His coinage is heavily inspired by the coins of the Roman Empire and can be seen to promote all things Roman. The ‘Wine Cup’ silver unit is indicative of this. Taking pride of place on the small silver coin, the wine cup reflects the substantial Roman imports of luxuries into Southern Britain at the time and is a fitting accompaniment to his larger issue of gold staters featuring the vine leaves.

Verica Wine Cup. c.AD10-40.  Image: Baldwins.

TREE OF LIFE

The coinage of the Dobunni is notoriously difficult to date accurately. Inhabiting the Cotswolds and areas around what is now Gloucestershire, North Somerset and West Oxfordshire, their coins were issued under various rulers, many of whom are believed to have ruled simultaneously. The tribe is distinctive for its main emblem, that of a stick-like object. The exact nature of this image is still debated. Some consider it a form of the ‘Tree of Life’, or perhaps merely a tree. Others have suggested a fish skeleton, or perhaps, somewhat more macabre, a human ribcage.

Dobunni, Eisu (c. AD 20-43), gold stater. Dobunni, Eisu, Gold Stater | Baldwin’s

NORFOLK GOD

Attributed to the reign of Boudica by the numismatist, Van Arsdell, silver units of the Iceni tribe are some of the most fascinating issued in East Anglia. Depicting a stylised portrait with wild hair, facing right, debate has raged as to the true date of these issues, with many settling on a period around 20 BC – AD 10. The type has been named the ‘Norfolk God’ in ‘Ancient British Coinage’, alluding to the mysterious nature of this Celtic portrait. Allen (1970) has suggested that this issue was inspired by Roman Republican silver denarii issued by Fabatus in 64 BC, though adapted to fit the beliefs of the Iron Age Britons. De Jersey has suggested that the copying of a Republican coin type suggest that much of the Icenian silver may have come to Britain in the form of Roman Republican denarii.

Iceni, ‘Norfolk God’, silver unit, c. 20 BC – AD 10. Iceni, Silver Unit | Baldwin’s

HIDDEN FACE

Secret faces gaze out from many Celtic coins. This ‘hidden face’ is one of the most instantly obvious – appearing on an uninscribed gold stater issued by the Corieltauvi tribe, who inhabited much of what is now Lincolnshire. Why the Iron Age die-engravers took such care to engrave these hidden faces is still a mystery. They never appeared on the ancient Greek prototypes which were copied by the Celts, but were brand new additions, showing ingenuity and originality on behalf of the designers, who were working in their own art style.

Corieltauvi, uninscribed, (c. 60-20 BC), gold stater. Corieltauvi, Gold Stater | Baldwin’s

THREE MEN IN a boat

The unusual depiction of a strange crescent-shape and three ‘blobs’ has puzzled numismatists for decades. Nicknamed the ‘Three Men in a Boat’ design, these coins were inspired by imported gold coins issued by the ‘Morini’ tribe of Gaul. The Durotriges adopted the design and used a version for their gold and silver ¼ staters (‘Duro Boat’ types). These designs have been interpreted as three figures in a boat, various animals, a devolved ‘Romulus and Remus’ design (Rudd 2021) and many more. What do you think the design represents?

DUROTRIGES, SILVER 1/4 STATER | Baldwins

Please view our selection of ancient British coins here and contact our specialist, Dominic Chorney, for more information.

Posted on

The Nicholas Briot pattern Halfgroat of Charles I

Pattern coins, whether they be hammered or milled, silver or gold, an off metal striking in an exotic metal, piedfort, standard or thin flan sizes – they will always hold a special place in the numismatist’s mindset. The allure of a pattern coin within a collection is axiomatic; they are struck or minted using specially and carefully prepared dies. In many cases, they have frosted fields, display a relief in the main design or around the legends, ultimately more intricacy and a higher level of precision in their execution is evident, the planchets are also usually specially selected. Herein, the whole process differs significantly to currency coins of the day.

In our upcoming Auction (number 105) we have on offer a Charles I, Pattern Halfgroat issued by Nicholas Briot. Briot’s pattern Halfgroats for Charles I seem to either be the portrait type or the 1640 no legend, large crown (North 2688), non-portrait issue.

Our example is the Silver type [they were also offered in Copper], bare headed bust facing right in an elaborate ruff contained within an inner linear circle, the legend reads CAR DG MAG BRIT FRAN ET HIR, lozenge stop above King’s head. These exact coins were fastened to Briot’s first coinage between 1631-2 (references: North 2687; Brooker 1255). The reverse displays two crowned interlocking C’s which denote the denomination of a two pence or half-groat, a ‘B’ signed below for the designer, all contained within a linear circle, beaded borders both sides, the legend reads FIDEI DEFENSOR, which translates to defender of the faith. A fascinating little coin, a classic example of the proficiency and ability of Nicholas Briot, with an excellent provenance trail. Be sure to register and set a reminder for this auction.

Posted on

Chinese Coins – From Empire to Republic

In our March Auction 104, we were pleased to present some fantastic, rare coins of China, from the eventful and turbulent period of the transition from the Qing Empire to the Republic. A great variety of coins was produced during the period, with the changing iconography as the country was seeing a political shift and economic development, as well as challenges from other countries.

The end of Qing Dynasty

‘In the time when China was called a republic and humanity had advanced to the 20th century, I was still living as an emperor, breathing the dust of the 19th century.’ – From Emperor to Citizen, Aisin-Gioro Puyi.

China, Qing Dynasty, Hsuan Tung (1909-1911), silver 10 Cents, 1911, 3rd year, Tientsin mint, (LM 41; K. 230). In PCGS holder graded AU 55. Price realised £7,000.

Puyi was the last emperor of China, the final Qing Dynasty Emperor. He ascended to the throne at the age of only 2 years, taken from his parents and siblings to be raised in the palace, with only his wet-nurse as the companion for many years of his childhood. The life in the palace was restrictive and one of the greatest influences in his life was his English tutor Johnson who taught him about the world and the life outside the Forbidden City. Puyi’s life was extraordinary as he lived to see the change of his status of an Emperor to a private citizen, which he vividly described in his memoir ‘From Emperor to Citizen’. His era name as Qing Emperor, Hsuan-Tung or Xuantong, means ‘proclamation of unity’. Unfortunately, his short-lived era was anything but.

In October 1911, the army garrison in Wuhan mutinied. Soon the revolt spread widely in Yangtze valley demanding the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. General Yuan Shih Kai was sent by the court to extinguish the revolution, yet was unable to. The public opinion turned strongly against the ruling Qing Dynasty.

The silver 10 Cents of Puyi from our auction feature, on the obverse, the Imperial dragon chasing the cosmic pearl, from the last year of his reign. The familiar depiction that comes from a well-known Chinese folklore story, where the dragon is venerated as the protector of the land. Puyi was briefly re-instated as the Emperor during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, which became the puppet state of Manchukuo.

The President and the Warlord ErA

China, Republic, Yuan Shih Kai (1912-1915), silver Dollar, 1914, year 3, variety: on reverse a hooked ribbon on the right to 6 o’clock, 26.84g (LM 63; KM Y-329). In NGC holder graded AU 55 – Hooked ribbon on right. A previously unrecorded variety, this is the only recorded example of this subtype in NGC population. The 1914 date for silver Dollars of Yuan Shih Kai brings a lot of varieties that were thoroughly recorded throughout the years, such as the ‘circlet in ribbon bow’ and ‘curved ribbon end’ to name a few. However, the ‘hooked ribbon on the right’ is a previously unrecorded variety and is currently the only known example of this subtype in NGC coin census. Price realised £1,000.

Puyi’s reign came to an end in February 1912, although it seemed that he was not aware of it for some time. In 1913, when the Empress Dowager Longyu died, the President Yuan Shih Kai came to the Forbidden City to pay his respects. This signified changes of great magnitude for Puyi, as Yuan had planned to restore the monarchy with himself as the new Emperor. In 1915, Yuan did proclaim himself as the Emperor and even planned on marrying his daughter with Puyi. During the short-lived attempt at restoration of the hereditary monarchy, he was the Hongxian Emperor. However, he soon had to abdicate due to the popular opposition.

Yuan died in 1916 which led to the dispersion of Chinese central authority into regional fractions. The previous main authority, the Beiyang Army which was a powerful army established by the Qing Dynasty, lost its complete grip on power. Thus began the Warlord Era. The Warlord Era was a period when the Republic of China was controlled by the military cliques( formed of the Beiyang Army) and other fractions in different provinces. It lasted from 1916 until 1928, during which time these interesting Dragon & Phoenix coins were produced. These very popular and rare Chinese Republican coins feature the state emblem of China from 1913 to 1928 with Fenghuang (Chinese phoenix) and dragon. The emblem is based on the ancient symbols of the Twelve Ornaments which were considered highly auspicious.

China, Republic, Dragon and Phoenix silver 10 Cents, 1926, year 15, Tientsin mint, dragon and phoenix over symbol of longevity. Rev. Denomination in wreath, 2.74g (LM 83; KM Y-344). In NGC holder graded MS 62. Price realised £2,900.

Written by Ema Sikic (ema@baldwin.co.uk)

Posted on

What makes this Philip II of Macedon Gold Stater so different?

Gold staters of this type were originally struck during the reign of Philip II of Macedon (359-336 BC). Featuring a portrait of Apollo on the obverse and a biga of horses on the reverse, they were a symbol of the king’s power and success. The trusted type continued to be struck during the reign of Alexander the Great, in the name of his deceased father, and many more were issued into Philip III’s reign. 

This coin, however, stands out from the rest. The dies used to strike this particular gold stater have been engraved with exceptional skill, resulting in a familiar-looking portrait. Why was so much effort put into producing this short-lived issue, and why does the portrait of Apollo look so different? 

The portrait of Apollo we see here has, remarkably, been modelled on Alexander the Great’s. His eyes, wide open, reflect what we see on contemporary Hellenistic portraiture, as well as later coins struck during the reign of Lysimachus in Thrace. Alexander may have been portrayed using a similar method on silver tetradrachms struck in his name, but none are as convincing or lifelike as this portrait. But why was Alexander’s face placed on this issue of coins? 

Statue Silhouette of Alexander the Great
Statue Silhouette of Alexander the Great.

The answer is one of legitimacy and unity. Alexander had died in 323 BC – the year before this enigmatic coin was struck. He had supposedly nominated his cavalry commander, Perdiccas, as his successor on his deathbed. Perdiccas did not seize power, instead opting to find out the gender of Alexander’s yet-unborn child. If male, the baby could have been a legitimate successor to his father. The army, however, supported Alexander’s brother, Philip, as ruler. The result was a ‘joint’ rule of Philip III and Alexander’s newly born son, Alexander IV. 

These gold staters, likely minted in Kolophon, have been interpreted as a way of shoring up the somewhat shaky regime which emerged after Alexander’s death. Generals were wanting to carve up the Macedonian king’s vast empire, and this gold coin, which would have likely been seen by the key political figures of this time, may have been intended to remind them of the unity which Alexander brought. It was a statement, that Alexander’s great empire should remain whole, ruled by his ‘rightful’ successors – who were of course, pawns, of the powerful Macedonian generals.

This coin will feature in our upcoming auction on 10th March 2022.

Posted on

The 7 Pennies of 1933

It has been a fact of Numismatics for many years that one of the most famous coins is the 1933 Penny. The primary factor for this fame is, of course, its rarity within such a common denomination and the reasons for that rarity.  

In 1933 the Royal Mint decided to temporarily cease the production of pennies. This was due to the millions of Victorian and Edwardian pennies already in circulation. Despite the lack of necessity, it was still decided to strike a small number of pennies from that year, the main reason for this is that it was customary to place complete sets of dated coins beneath the foundations of buildings constructed in that year. 

Justifications for this particular tradition vary but superstition seems to be the most common explanation. The mint released 1933 pennies especially for this purpose, and packaged them in sets with other coins, to be buried beneath three buildings. One of these buildings, the Church of St Cross in Middleton, had its set of coins stolen from beneath the foundation stone. As a result of this crime a second set, which had been buried within the foundations of St Mary’s Church in Leeds, was removed on the instructions of the Bishop of Ripon and sold. As far as we know the third set is still in place beneath the Bloomsbury buildings of the University of London. 

As well as these three sets a handful of additional coins were kept by the Royal Mint. It is not known exactly how many were minted, but it is believed to be no more than seven, three of which reside, as popular exhibits, within the British Museum, Mint Museum and the University of London. These coins rarely come up for sale but when they do, it tends to cause quite a stir. 

In addition to the seven known 1933 British penny examples, and of even greater rarity and value, is a 1933 pattern penny, engraved for the Royal Mint by French artist Andre Lavillier who was bought in to solve the issue of ghosting caused by the portrait of George V. Only four of the 1933 pattern pennies are known to exist. The pattern differs from the “regular” 1933 penny in a few details, including a different set of designer’s initials. 

In 2016 a 1933 pattern penny was sold at auction for £86,400 (including buyer’s premium) by AH Baldwin & Sons. This was a monumental shift in value as our team explained at the time –  “No other bronze coin has ever come close, I think the last was in the region of £15,000”. The final hammer price was double that of the auction guide price and set a new world record for a penny. 

This coin is still of great interest to the general public today, as illustrated by the recent video created by popular YouTuber Tom Scott featuring our very own MD, Neil Paisley…

With no precise record of the number minted, and with the coin having been struck to ordinary circulation standard, it is entirely possible that one might turn up in everyday use. And to this day coin enthusiasts will eagerly search through change jars and boxes of old pennies searching for the elusive penny of 1933. 

ADDITIONAL LINKS 

Posted on

Christmas Gifts for Coin Collectors

Christmas presents and decorations with the words 'Gift Guide' and the Baldwins logo.

For the Christmas holidays, we would like to offer up some gifting ideas for the collector in your life. Coins are the perfect gifts for collectors – they are shiny, portable and they will fit perfectly into any Christmas stocking! They bring interesting stories to life and are perfect gifts for history lovers. They have a lasting value and can even be a fantastic asset for the future. This Christmas, why not choose a beautiful coin? You will find some inspiration below – and our dedicated team of hard-working numismatic elves will be happy to help with any queries you might have.

Gifts for Him  

Coins of Alexander The Great

Alexander the Great Silver Coin from Baldwins.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT, POSTHUMOUS TETRADRACHM

If you are looking for a truly classic gift for the man in your life, a gift that has wow-factor and amazing history, then look no further than the coins of Alexander the Great. From our ancient Greek selection, coins of Alexander the Great have been a long-time favourite, and they’re perfect if you’re looking for unique gifts for coin collectors.  

British & World Modern Gold Coins

QUEEN VICTORIA, 1880 GOLD SOVEREIGN
VICTORIA, 1880 SOVEREIGN
GREECE, GEORGE I (1864-1913), GOLD 20 DRACHMAS
GREECE, GEORGE I (1864-1913), GOLD 20 DRACHMAS

This is a gift that evokes eternity and is a wise investment as well – you can’t go wrong with modern gold coins. A simple, yet elegant gifting solution, proven successful by many centuries in which precious gold coins were given as presents, from ancient royal courts to modernity. We offer a fine selection of modern gold coins from the UK and the rest of the World, including Sovereigns, Francs and Dollars to name a few. 

For her

Roman Empresses on silver and gold coins 

FAUSTINA JUNIOR, GOLD AUREUS
FAUSTINA JUNIOR, GOLD AUREUS
JULIA DOMNA (WIFE OF SEPTIMUS SEVERUS): DENARIUS SMALL OLD DRAPED BUST REV DIANA LUCIFERA
JULIA DOMNA (WIFE OF SEPTIMUS SEVERUS): DENARIUS SMALL OLD DRAPED BUST REV DIANA LUCIFERA

In the ancient Roman Empire, the Empresses wielded substantial political power and had coins minted with their likeness, showcasing their virtues and hairstyles, setting trends. These coins often have amazing mythological symbolism and beautiful artistic execution. A stylish and thoughtful choice.

Coins of Elizabeth I

ELIZABETH I (1558-1603), POUND, SEVENTH ISSUE, MINTMARK 1
ELIZABETH I (1558-1603), POUND, SEVENTH ISSUE, MINTMARK 1

For the history enthusiasts in your life, especially ones that love the Tudor period, the ultimate gift are the coins of Elizabeth I. There are few other coins out there that convey such power and craftsmanship in numismatics, such as the ones of this distinguished monarch. A gift that is a powerful statement and a special piece.

KID’S CORNER 

Roman bronze coins

DIOCLETIAN, ANTONINIANUS
DIOCLETIAN, ANTONINIANUS

For young collectors that are just starting their numismatic journey, why not start from the beginning, with ancient coins! Roman bronze coins are the most popular choice of gift for young coin collectors, because they are sturdy to handle, affordable in price and infinitely interesting for enticing further research of history! Our experts will be happy to advise on how to start, develop and safely store your coin collection.

GRANDPARENTS

Military Medals

A GREAT WAR IMMEDIATE MSM GROUP OF THREE TO ACTING CORPORAL WILLIAM ROBERT BASKETT
A GREAT WAR IMMEDIATE MSM GROUP OF THREE TO ACTING CORPORAL WILLIAM ROBERT BASKETT
FRANCE, LEGION D’HONNEUR
FRANCE, LEGION D’HONNEUR

Grandparents are our connection to the past and previous generations. It is often difficult to find something meaningful to gift to them that will truly be a surprise. A sincere gift that they will deeply appreciate might be a military medal. Each medal is not simply a collectable object, it contains a life story of bravery and sacrifice. We provide all the accompanying paperwork and information with our military medals to help you gift that special story.

FRIENDS

TOKENS

NORFOLK, NORWICH, SKIDMORE’S GLOBE SERIES, BRONZED AE PENNY
NORFOLK, NORWICH, SKIDMORE’S GLOBE SERIES, BRONZED AE PENNY
LONDON, ST MARTINS LANE, PHILIP RATLEY, AE HALFPENNY, 1795
LONDON, ST MARTINS LANE, PHILIP RATLEY, AE HALFPENNY, 1795

Looking to give your friends a token of your appreciation this Christmas? Why not give them exactly that – a token! Our vast selection comprises tokens of most English counties and some very interesting international tokens. This unofficial currency from 17th, 18th and 19th century boasts a wide variety of designs, so there is something for everyone. Most of them have lovely architectural landmarks from different parts of Britain, heraldry and insignia of businesses of the past. Give your friends a meaningful token of your friendship!

Written by Ema Sikic (ema@baldwin.co.uk) 

For gift advice, write to us: coins@baldwin.co.uk 

Posted on

The Gold Coins of Naples and Sicily

Monument in Palmero, Sicily
The Cathedral of Monreale in Palermo, Sicily. One of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture.

In this blog we will present gold Italian coins from Naples and Sicily from our collection. Starting from the Norman conquests of 10th century and culminating with the Renaissance coinage of Naples, this brief overview takes us through dynastic struggles, political intrigues and never-ending battles for the rule over some of the most beautiful places in Italy.

Norman gold from Sicily

Italy, Normans of Sicily, Ruggero I (1071–1101 AD), gold Tarì.

The Norman conquest of southern Italy lasted from 999 to 1139. Normans first arrived to South Italy as mercenaries in the service of Lombard and Byzantine forces. They saw the conquest opportunities in the Mediterranean and started their conquest with establishment of various fiefdoms. After approximately half a century, the Norman forces united and became one independent state. Unlike the Norman conquest of England (1066) which was sealed by one decisive battle, the Norman conquest of Italy was a slow-burn, gaining momentum over decades and with numerous battles. Much of the territory was conquered independently by overlords and only later unified into a single entity.

This coin dates from the reign of Ruggero I, nicknamed Ruggero The Great, who was a Norman nobleman who became the first Count of Sicily in 1062. He was born in Normandy and came to South Italy in 1057. Ruggero participated in several military expeditions against the Emirate of Sicily and was subsequently invested with a part of the island and the title by his brother Robert Guiscard, the Duke of Apulia. At the time, Sicily was ruled by a Muslim Emir and the population was predominantly Byzantine-Greek. Ruggero undertook many battles from 1061 onwards against Muslim forces, the most notable being Battle of Cerami (1063) and the taking of Palermo in 1072. The conquest was reaching completion when Syracuse surrendered in 1086; in 1091 when Noto yielded, it was complete. In 1091 he conquered Malta as well. The state he created was merged with the Duchy of Apulia (which his brother ruled) in 1127 AD and subsequently became the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130.

The interior of the Cathedral of Monreale in Palermo, Sicily.

The Aragon claim to Sicily

ITALY, SICILY, PIETRO & COSTANZA (1282-5), PIERREALE D’ORO – RARE, SUPERB
ITALY, SICILY, PIETRO & COSTANZA (1282-5), PIERREALE D’ORO – RARE, SUPERB

King Manfred was the last King of Sicily from the Hohenstaufen dynasty, reigning from 1258 until his death. He was the legitimized son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and became regent over the kingdom of Sicily on behalf of his nephew Conradin. As regent, he subdued rebellions in the kingdom and eventually usurped Conradin’s throne. Because of his conflicts with papacy, the pope enlisted Charles of Anjou to assist against Manfred. Manfred was killed at the Battle of Benevento and Charles of Anjou took over the Kingdom of Sicily. However, the Hohenstaufen claim to the throne did not quite end there. In early 1282, a popular rebellion, known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers, broke out in reaction to the Anjou rule. Pietro III, King of Aragon, King of Valencia and Count of Barcelona came to Sicily at the invitation of Sicilian rebels from ranks of nobility who considered Costanza of Sicily their rightful queen. Pietro III was to married Costanza of Sicily, the only daughter of Sicilian King Manfred. This gave Pietro a claim to the Sicilian throne and he launched an invasion. He managed to claim the throne for himself, however he died only three years after. The Kingdom of Sicily thus remained an incessantly-pursued inheritance for the royal house of Aragon for the next five centuries.

This magnificent coin dates from the brief rule of Pietro and Costanza in Sicily. It depicts the symbols of both of their houses – the striped arms of Aragon and the Hohenstaufen eagle. This variety with an uncrowned eagle is believed to have been struck between June 1282 and April 1283, prior to the arrival of Constanza to Sicily to join her husband.

Battles for the throne of Naples

Gold coin of ITALY, NAPLES, FEDERICO III OF ARAGON (1496-1501), GOLD DUCATO – VERY RARE
Italy, Naples, Frederico III of Aragon (1496-1501), gold Ducato

Federico III of Aragon, also known as Federico of Naples, was the last King of Naples from the Neapolitan branch of the House of Trastámara, ruling from 1496 to 1501. Born in Naples to Ferdinand I and his first wife, Isabella of Clermont, he succeeded his childless nephew Ferdinand II after in 1496. However, King Charles VIII of France had claims to the throne as well and Federico was soon forced to defend his position. Charles died in 1498 and his successor Louis XII of France took upon himself to re-conquer the Neapolitan throne. Federico did not have the resources to defend against the French forces, so he called his cousin, Ferdinand II – King of Aragon, to help. Ferdinand, however, signed a secret treaty with the French in which they agreed to divide the Kingdom between themselves. Hence, Federico ended up stripped of his dominions. He died soon after in 1504.

This rare Ducato marks the short-lived reign of Federico of Aragon over Naples, that lasted somewhat less than five years. On its reverse, the coin bears the arms of Naples and Aragon, surmounted by a helmet with a winged dragon crest. A very rare example, especially in such a fine condition.

A photo of the Castel Nuovo Naples Italy
The view of Castel Nuovo in Naples. The castle was first erected in 1279 and it was a royal seat of Kings of Naples, Aragon and Spain until 1815.

Written by Ema Sikic (ema@baldwin.co.uk).