June 22nd. 2020.
Upcoming club meetings:
Monday 6th July – 8pm.
· Subject - This will be another ‘Zoom’ meeting, open to all members. We hope to include at least one short talk courtesy of Michael in the 40 minutes available as well as bringing members up to date with any developments.
Messages from the Internet
I have received the following messages from the internet. If anyone is interested, please e-mail the posters directly. I believe both are genuine but I have no way of knowing for sure.
“You do not know me but just a short note to ask if any of you people may like to swap British coins for New Zealand I am not a dealer and I was born in the U.K. 50 PLUS YEARS AGO. hope to hear from you or a friend,
Max McFarland emali email@example.com”
“Please forgive this email, but we thought that you and your Society members might like to be aware the new Edition II of Gunmoney: The Emergency coinage of 1689-91 for the Irish Campaign of James II Edition II by Philip Timmins is now available to buy.
£40 from bandgcoins.co.uk/”
Annual General Meeting 2020
1 Apologies for absence – This was deemed redundant in the current crisis
2 2019 AGM minutes - Approved proposed- Graham, seconded- James
3 Discussion points raised by members - Interest was expressed in any possible resolution of the Parking problem and the general feeling that everyone is looking forward to the next full meeting.
4 Points raised by the Committee – None
5 As previously mentioned, the current committee is standing on, pending a vote at the next full meeting.
6 Finance – Peter revealed that as shown in the accounts presented with the May newsletter the club remains in good shape financially. In the current year we will take a knock due to the loss of subscriptions but this is slightly offset by not having to pay speakers expenses or the costs of hiring the Church facilities. The income from the auction was down but this is believed to be a side effect of both the pandemic and the parking problem leading to fewer members attending the meeting. A vote of thanks was given to Neil for auditing the accounts.
6 AOB – Appreciation was expressed for the idea of using club funds to provide a subscription ‘furlough’. Over the years there have been many discussions about the uses to which the clubs funds could be put and it was thought that the current situation shows how important it is to have a bank of savings to be able to turn to.
7 With no further points this concludes the formal business of the AGM
There then followed two short displays.
Lock-In Medal Graham
We might feel that we currently deserve a medal for being “locked-in” for several weeks. It is unlikely one will ever arrive.
Neither did one arrive for those incarcerated for much longer periods in prisoner of war camps during the Second World War.
For my late father, Cyril Kirby, the position was rectified some forty years after the war had ended when an ‘unofficial, retrospective’ medal arrived in the post. It was a gift from his friend Albert Tyler, with whom Cyril had shared Red Cross parcels for two and a half years in the Sulmona P.O.W. camp, in Italy.
Details of the Medal, proposed by The National Ex-Prisoners of War Association in the UK, and available to be purchased by allied ex P.O.W.’s:
Designer: Ian H Stewart CM Retailer: Award Productions Ltd.
Metal: Bright cupro-nickel Size: 36mm
Boxed with ribbon and “ready to wear”
The accompanying leaflet states, ‘it indicates the veteran was deprived of freedom and if worn in conjunction with service medals should give the observer an indication of the particular hardship endured by the wearer.’
Obverse: A strand of barbed wire which has entrapped a young bird, symbolic of freedom itself. These elements surmount a globe of the world indicative of the international parameters of the medal. The wording “INTERNATIONAL PRISONERS OF WAR” encircles the main design.
Reverse: The haunting and vicious barb of the ever-present wire is used symbolically to divide the reverse into four elements, each bearing one of the words in the phrase “INTREPID AGAINST ALL ADVERSITY”
Ribbon: 32mm wide and having a symbolised strand of white barbed wire 2mm wide placed centrally. This bounded either side by 4mm black bands representing the despair of the compound. These in turn are edged by two further white 2mm bands representative of the third and fourth fences of the compound, outside of these are 7mm bands of green, reminiscent of the fields of home. Finally, both edges are comprised 2mm red bands symbolic of the burning faith of those interned.
This story of Cyril’s began as he was driving an army truck towards a crossroads where a “red cap” military policemen (actually a German fifth columnist) was directing traffic onto the road to Tobruk and into a trap. The convoy had been targeted as Rommel’s army needed transport and petrol.
Extracts from Cyril’s memoirs record: ‘Sulmona was a big camp of concrete huts in several large compounds with a separate block for the guards. In due course the Red Cross food parcels began to arrive and these made all the difference to our lives. If the supply was good, it was one each, otherwise one between two. The British parcels were in not very stiff cardboard well tied up with string. The boxes provided fuel for cooking and the string for many purposes, including a clothesline over our beds. The average parcel contained a tin of condensed milk, a tin of meat and veg or similar, sugar, tea or coffee, a small tin of cream cheese or a round packet of ditto, margarine, jam, another tin of meat or fish, chocolate and variations of the above. A tin of fifty cigarettes (Woodbines or Gold Flake etc.) came separately.
The library was built up within the room by pooling any books we brought with us together with those received via the Red Cross. They were all eagerly read. I have a list of two hundred and two books read over my time in captivity. I had also brought some hairdressing gear so I could get my own hair cut and that resulted in me becoming the unofficial barber.
We heard that Italy had capitulated and that night a hole was cut in the wire fence at the rear of the camp and Albert and I and a number of others left the camp for good and so nearly two and a half years behind the wire ended in the dark of early evening.’
Seven weeks of freedom in the hills ended in capture and transfer to German Camps until being handed over to the Americans at the end of the war. Upon arriving home, the hit tune being played was, “Don’t fence me in.”
The Coinless Society?
One of the side effects of the Covid-19 epidemic will almost certainly be to bring closer a time when coins and perhaps even cash will no longer be involved in financial transactions. People have been switching to contactless payment for some years now and the advent of Covid-19 will accelerate the move.
Mr. Google tells me that about 100 years ago, £1 would be the equivalent of £100 nowadays, meaning that a present day penny is worth very little, so the need for these coins has decreased.
My local Tesco also tells me that their automatic check outs do not use a full range of available coins for change, e.g. no 10ps are used.
As a coin collector I shall miss the excitement of hunting through my change looking for anything out of the ordinary, it’s a thing I've been doing for about 50 years. Each year I look out for the new arrivals, normally shiny pennies and tuppences first, followed by the 20ps and 50ps, then 10ps, £1 and £2. Indeed up until 2016 (see below) I had always been able to find all of the year's coins from change, before the year ended, even if it meant asking the people on the tills at the Supermarkets for a bit of help!
This is now a thing of the past, the coins above probably represent the last time it was possible to collect a full set of year coins from change. Indeed, the Royal Mint records that in 2018 apart from commemoratives (think Beatrix Potter) and a comparatively small number (130,000,000) of £1 coins, no other coins were issued for general circulation, so none for me to collect - and even the people on the Supermarket tills are disappearing at an alarming rate! Oh well, maybe I can take up train spotting?
(James pointed out that one reason for automatic tills not using all the available denominations is that Euro currencies have less types than the UK. Harry also showed us a Brexit 50p he had in change earlier in the year, so maybe I’ll keep looking a bit longer).
The first of three articles about Bank of England Tokens by Mick
Parts 2 & 3 will follow in the July and August newsletters.
Georgian Bank of England Tokens
Part 1 - 1797 and the Coinage crisis
The story begins with a question. Why was there a need for Bank tokens? The answer is because there was very little silver coinage to be had. A cursory look at any coin book shows that very little silver was struck between 1760 and 1816, since the price of silver as a commodity was more than the coining rate. The official sterling silver coining rate (set in Elizabethan times) was 62 shillings per troy pound, whereas in the latter half of the 18th century the average price of sterling silver was 64.75 shillings per pound. Thus much silver coinage was either being exported or melted. The reaction to this was that the simple minded Treasury stopped authorising the minting of silver coin, irrespective of the countries needs.
To go into the detailed history of the coinage crisis would take too long, but here is a brief overview of the important factors. Prior to the 18th Century the price of silver was relatively stable. But with the coming of the Industrial Revolution there was a significant increase in commerce and trade. With many more rich people eager to preserve their wealth, commodity speculation increased, driven by demand, confidence and greed. But just like today, global worries and economic uncertainties caused market panics and volatile prices. In such times people resorted to ‘safe bets’ and so the price of bullion rose. Add to this mix the increasing demands for specie from both Government and Adventurers to finance wars and overseas interests; it is easy to see why the price of silver went on a roller coaster trend, mostly upwards
The solution to the silver coinage problem was obvious. The Treasury could either authorise an increase in the coinage rate or reduce the fineness. However, the advisors to the Treasury on coinage matters were the Privy Council and the Committee on Coin set up in1787 to resolve the diabolical state of regal silver coinage. But the Committee members were mostly from the gentry who had little understanding of coinage, commerce and the bullion market since much of the ruling class lived on credit. In fact many committee members did even not attend the meetings, where often only the Chairman was present to conduct business. Consequently the inept Treasury failed to grasp the obvious solutions choosing instead to follow the political route and do nothing. Little wonder then that there was a crisis.
With virtually no silver coinage available Bills of Exchange issued by local banks were widely used as the medium of currency. However, because of the impending conflicts with France and the rising costs of living, there was a loss of faith in these bills. So the wise exchanged such bills for ‘Notes of the Bank of England’ which were backed by gold. Then in 1797 a series of military disasters and the looming threat of invasion caused much apprehension amongst the public. The news of the mini French invasion at Fishguard turned apprehension into panic. People demanded gold for their Bank notes. But the Government wanted the gold for war payments & ordered the Bank to circulate an order forbidding ‘Cash in Payment’ while Parliament sought a solution. To appease the public the Bank began issuing low value notes, but with many unfamiliar with paper there was much forgery. By now people had had enough and there were now demands for the Government to act and provide silver coins
The real irony in the saga was that there was no lack of silver in London, for London was a primary centre for trading bullion (be it bar, ingot or foreign coin). In fact the Bank had large quantities of 8 Reales and wanted to convert them into circulating currency, but coining at the coinage rate of 62/- would mean a loss. However, the advisors and Treasury would not sanction a higher coining rate and were vehemently opposed to simply sanctioning the issue of 8 Reales because it was a non sterling foreign coin by heck. Bereft of ideas the Government eventually agreed to a compromise, namely to apply a countermark using the stamp of the ‘Goldsmiths Hall’ with the head of George III and permit the Bank to issue them as tokens.
Unbelievably the announcement on the 6th March 1797 set the value at 4/6d in line with the standard coining rate of 62/-. By the afternoon the Bank Court realised their mistake as 8 Reales were trading at 4/8d. So 3 days later the Privy Council agreed to a new value of 4/9d in order to avoid the melting pot. Eventually some 2.3 million coins were countermarked.
So now there were silver coins in circulation that had a value above the melt everything was hunky dory. Well not quite, because with the public being unfamiliar with the 8 Reales ‘Mr Forger’ got to work, exasperated by the fact that the Goldsmiths stamps were not just confined to the Mint, they were also in goldsmiths workshops. This led to the following forgeries:
· False coins with false countermarks
· False coins with genuine countermarks
· Genuine coins with false marks
Initially the Bank believed the proportion of forgeries was relatively small, hence they were not overly concerned. Then in July the price of silver dropped and Mr Forger really got to work. He could buy genuine coins below 4/9d, add a mark (false or real) & make a profit. Many fakes were very good and hard to detect, but again the Bank was not troubled being confident they could detect most fakes. I disagree, having struggled at times to validate some specimens– just look at these two much enlarged marks and see how similar they are.
Good fake Genuine Mark Fake Mark
To make matters worse the Bank Governors were advised that some of their own issues were on fake coins. Clearly the Bank could not tell the public for fear of panic - but the Bank Governors were cunning. They informed the Government that they wanted to withdraw their tokens and re-coin them at a new rate of 66/- to prevent melting, knowing full well the inept Committee on Coin were unlikely to agree. And sure enough Committee did nothing, thereby enabling the Bank to announce the withdrawal of their tokens. In making the withdrawal announcement they informed the public to be wary of accepting tokens with fake marks and by this clever piece of politicking the Bank got itself out of a potentially damaging situation, namely their issue of fake dollars
On the 2nd October 1997, barely 6 months since the issue began, the Bank called in the tokens, announcing they would not be accepted at the Bank after 31st October. The Bank would only redeem their tokens in quantities of 20. This caused much distress amongst the public with less than 20 tokens, thereby being forced to use unscrupulous profiteering dealers. Ironically the Bank did have trouble detecting good fakes and agreed to redeem them at the going rate.
Despite concerns over mounting losses according to their creative accounting the Bank did not suffer any loss from the issue of countermarked dollars, since the losses were covered by the 131,000 unredeemed pieces.
Did the Bank and authorities learn from their mistakes? Well no, as will be explained in part 2.
And Last but not least…
A numismatic quiz from Michael
1 4 S = 1 D……………..
2 2 R = 1 S……………
3 96 HF = 1S…………..
4 1 G = 21 S……………
5 40 S = 1 P……………
6 240 HP = 10 S……….
7 120 G = 2 P………….
8 3 A = 1 S………………
9 25 D = 1 A……………
10 16 QF = 1 P…………
16 Half a bar……………………….
17 Lady Godiva……………………..
18 Mother Hen………………………
21 Bag of sand………………………
23 Bobby Moore…………………….
In previous years, June has been the date for the AGM.