October 2004.

Next club meeting - Monday 1st. November 2004.

The main feature will be a bourse (coin fair). We need as many members as possible to bring along those unwanted items to sell and for others to buy. Tables will be available at no charge. For those with just a few pieces there will be a collective members table.

The second feature is for each member to bring along one or two items that for some reason are considered special (e.g. recent acquisition, a long sought after piece, an unusual find, an oddity etc.). We will then be asking for a brief explanation (either written or verbal) as to why the piece is special to you. Display tables will be available.

Other activities will be guess the number/ weight of coins in a jar and a quiz that can be done individually during the evening.

Meetings are held at the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, commencing at 7.00 p.m.

October meeting

Another good turn out that meant 27 people came to hear Alistair Mackay talk entitled `The Gods (Ancient Deities)'

An Alphabetic selection of Ancient Deities

To begin with the speaker gave some background to the historical development of the Roman gods. Early beliefs were that everything had a soul and the more important ones were manifested in a god. As time went by and Rome grew in military power so the number of gods and deities multiplied and interrelations developed. Some gods were clearly adopted from other parts of the world, hence the similarity those of Greece. Others were purely home grown Roman. In early times the Romans were tolerant of other religious icons & beliefs but with the passage of time and the expansion of the Empire so many problems and conflicts began to surface. The practices of others the developing Romans found hard to take included monism (one God), the Druids (much hated & persecuted), the sacrifice of humans and cannibalism.

In the next part of the talk Alistair some explanations of the emblems on the coins and what they represented, e.g. the crozier and the jug being associated with the high priest, eagles bearing souls to heaven and the pyre producing smoke to the gods.

For the main part of the talk, and with the aid of actual coins, the speaker went through the A-Z of the gods, beginning with Apollo and ending with Vesta. For each he explained what the god represented, how usually depicted and the devices usually associated with each one. For example Apollo, the God of Music usually depicted with a Lyre, Bacus, the god of wine usually shown with cup and vine leaves, Ceres the god of agriculture carrying a corn drum - and so on to Venus the god of love & beauty.

Around 250 AD many Roman gods had been supplanted by Eastern gods, many others had disappeared until the one Christian god eventually replaced all. Our thanks to Alistair for a very informative talk.

40 Anniversary Celebrations

Continuing with things from way back the following article first appeared in the early years of the club.


by K. Howes

(Mr. Howes, of the British Museum, gave a practical demonstration of the art of coin casting to the Club in April 1969. He prepared this article at that time and has recently reviewed it - Editor)

This method has been in existence in the workshop of our Coins and Medals Department for many years now, and despite modern and more recent inventions still proves to be the most satisfactory.

Briefly the method consists of taking an impression in sealing wax and using the wax impression as a mould for making the plastercast.

Two 'beds' of ordinary sealing wax are prepared for each coin (one for the obverse and the other for the reverse) or, a piece of cardboard. The wax should be firmed down with the fingers to make a round patch a little larger than the coin. On the beds is then spread a thin coating of Best Engravers Sealing Wax (supplied by Messrs. G. Waterstons & Sons Ltd., Terston House, 5 Morocco Street, London S.E.1), the coin pressed firmly into this and the surrounding wax smoothed away until it is about level with the upper surface of the coin. The coin should of course be free from dirt and grime; a light dusting of French chalk or dusting powder with a small brush will prevent it sticking to the hot wax.

For heating the wax a small methylated spirit lamp is the most desirable, for a candle gives insufficient heat besides issuing an extremely harmful cloud of carbon particles, while a gas flare is too hot. The coin may be passed over the flame to warm it thoroughly all over before it is pressed into the preparation of wax. Only experience will teach the exact temperature required to make a perfect impression. The wax cools almost immediately, and the coin should drop out easily; if it does not it can be eased out by slight pressure on the back of the cardboard. If the wax was not hot enough when the coin was impressed into it, the impression will be shallow and indistinct; likewise if the wax was too hot the surface will be shiny and the impression weak; but now if the temperature was just right the surface will be dull and the impression perfect and clear-cut. In the case of failure the rounds of wax on the card can be reheated over the flame, fined down to re-make the beds and the process repeated until a good impression is made. In cold weather it is necessary to warm the coin either in the hand or as previously stated over the flame.

The casts are made from plaster of Paris. Now if the casts are to be photographed the plaster is better if it is not dead white, but slightly tinted, as this prevents glare, and therefore a little dark brown and yellow ochre powder paint can be mixed into the dry plaster to give it an off-white tone. It is important that the plaster should be very fine and it is sometimes necessary to sieve it through a wire gauze.

Since plaster of Paris dries out rather quickly, i.e. solidifies, not more than five or six coins (ten to twelve impressions) depending on the size of the coins may be plastered at the same time. To prevent the plaster from sticking to the wax a very little fine oil, e.g. olive-oil, should be applied to the surface of the wax, a fairly stiff brush being suitable for the purpose, and the surplus wiped off with a piece of cotton wool.

For five coins about the size of a shilling a sufficient quantity of plaster would be about eight heaped teaspoons which should be lightly shaken into a cup or shallow bowl of water - this allowed to settle and then the excess water drained off. The mixture should then be stirred gently to eliminate airbubbles; it thickens quickly and when of a creamy consistency is painted in a thin layer onto the surface of the wax, and worked into all the depressions with a small paint brush. This is the trickiest part of the process, for one air-bubble will spoil the look of the cast. By the time a thin coat of plaster has been applied to the last wax, the mixture should become thicker and "mounds" of it can now be dropped onto each wax with a spoon kept ready for the occasion, and left to set for between twenty and thirty minutes.

When the plaster is firm, but not set hard, the casts should drop out when the card is inverted and gently tapped; if they do stick they can be eased out with a fingernail or knife. Should they persistently refuse to move it is apparent that the wax surrounding the impression is overhanging and likewise locking. This difficulty can be overcome by, before putting in the plaster, first trimming the edges with a sharp knife.

Assuming then that the casts have been detached from their impressions they can now, whilst still damp, be trimmed with a sharp knife to the exact shape of the coin, the back being cut down to a flat surface so that the cast is about 3/16 inch thick. The casts are then allowed to harden and dry off taking some twenty-four hours in the process if allowed to do so naturally or a considerably shorter time if artificially dried. All that now remains to be done when the casts are really dry is to just brush them over with French chalk to ensure an even toned surface, this being done incidentally with a soft brush.

It must be mentioned that plasticine can prove a very efficient moulding material if used correctly. (Harbutt's plasticine is the best and the address is: Harbutt's Plasticine Works and Studio, Bathampton, Bath). The art herein lies in getting the plasticine surface just right, i.e. smooth and even. To accomplish this take a piece of the said material, work it in the hands to the shape and size of the coin, gently powder the resulting disc, and then place this between two small sheets of glass adding some manual pressure. The top piece of glass is now moved and the coin impressed in the plasticine as one would into wax, only the oil will not be needed - there should be sufficient in the moulding material itself. The surface of the plasticine can be lightly shellacked when it is thought there might be a tendency to stick. After an application of this nature it would be wise to allow a drying period of some three to four hours before plastering commences.