Monday, May 24, 2010

The 49ers and their Legacy

In 1848, Alta California, the new territory acquired from the Mexican-American War, was very sparsely populated – only about 15,000 people lived there. After thousands of 49ers flocked west, just two years later, California became the 31st state. The huge amounts of money being found required new financial institutions, and President Fillmore signed for a new mint. The Legislature decided in April of 1852 that San Francisco would be the place for the new mint.

The government built a small, inadequate mint. When silver was struck in the mountains of Nevada, it was evident that a new mint was necessary for all coin supplies. Alfred Mullett designed numerous American governmental buildings, and planned the mint in the Greek Revival style. The basement’s outer walls were built with granite for coin storage to keep tunnel digging thieves out and to prevent against earthquakes and natural disasters. Granite was also used in the entrance stairs of the mint, and she was soon dubbed “The Granite Lady.”

In 1873, there was only one mint, in Philadelphia. The others around the country were branch mints. A new law effectively made all of the other mints, in New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco, their own mints, as well as abolished the silver dollar in favor of the paper dollar. Later the silver dollar retained a smaller circulation thanks to the silver output in the West and the S.F. mint as the center of silver coin supplies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Emperor Leopold I and Holy Roman Coinage

At HR Rauch’s auction of ancient coins, a 10 Dukaten coin featuring Emperor Leopold I is expected to sell for at least €50,000 Euro. The coin, from 1675, features one of the most distinctive portraits of the king, which caricatures his Hapsburg jaw, a classic feature of the Holy Roman Emperors.

The “Hapsburg Lip” as it is sometimes called, was a deformation that was thought to have been caused by successive inbreeding. Charles II was the last Hapsburg king of Spain, and his mother was the niece of his father. Charles couldn’t chew his food, was retarded, and impotent. Consequently, the Hapsburg line ended in Spain. Leopold I, however, was more prolific, and was overshadowed in his time only by the Sun King Louis XIV of France, with whom he waged war almost until his death in 1705. When Charles II’s death led to the War of the Spanish Succession, in an attempt to keep separate Spain and France, Leopold I, along with the other European powers, fought to claim the Spanish Inheritance, due to his Hapsburg relations. The war outlasted Leopold, and eventually the Spanish empire fell.

Part of having a coin collection is learning about the empire under which the coin was produced. Coin collecting is a great way to learn about history. Needless to say, this 10 Dukaten of Leopold I would make a great addition to any coin collection.

Monday, May 10, 2010

1901-S Barber Sells Big!

The most talked about coin in 2010 is a 1901-S Barber quarter that was originally graded MS-68, and then regraded a MS-68+. Bids for it have reached and exceeded $300,000. Let’s just say that it’s not the kind of coin you keep in coin folders. This bad boy would be the centerpiece of my coin collection, and I would research specialized coin holders to showcase it for all of my friends to see.

There has been contention as to whether this coin was dipped. Dipping, or natural toning, is regarded differently according to different collectors. Some collectors value the “original skin” of a coin, but others don’t mind if it looks a little nicer. But because all older coins develop certain flaws,it is practically impossible for an antique coin to be graded a 70.

The Barber coins are named after Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the U.S. Mint from 1880 to 1917. His Liberty Head design was very popular and appears on the nickel, dime, quarter and half. This quarter, the rarest of all Barber coins, is impressively graded, a true rarity, since all of the Barbers were in circulation for such a long time. The collector who bought it has surely made a good investment, and a great addition to his coin collection.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A New Addition to the Egyptian Coin Collection

About 75 miles from Cairo last week there were 383 coins found dating back to the third century B.C. During that time King Ptolemy III, a relative of Cleopatra, was ruling Egypt. Ptolemy I was one of Alexander the Great’s bodyguards, and was appointed king after his death. As a result, Hellenistic culture was fused with Egyptian culture for almost three centuries, until Rome’s conquest of the region in 30 A.D. Cleopatra was the last Ptolemaic ruler.

These coins have the Greek-Egyptian god Amun-Zeus on one side, and an eagle with the words Ptolemy and King on the other. They would be a pretty nice addition to any coin collection, but they probably wouldn’t fit in your penny coin folders or nickel coin holders. They have a diameter of about two centimeters, are made of bronze, and are in excellent condition.

Also found were pieces of a whale skeleton, more than 40 million years old, and necklaces made from an ostrich shell. They will likely be put on display at the new Egyptian museum near the Pyramids at Giza. I wonder how they get their coin holders. Anyway, it’s a great addition to the Egyptian coin collection!
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