November 26th. 2020.
Upcoming club meetings:
Monday 7th December – 8pm.
· Subject - This will be another ‘Zoom’ meeting, open to all members. Since its nearly Christmas we will be having one of Gavin’s quizzes in the 40 minutes available as well as bringing members up to date with any developments.
The electronic ‘Zoom’ meeting was attended by thirteen members.
John informed everyone that the new lockdown meant that there have been no changes and that future meetings will be electronic till we get out ‘the other side’. Neil said that he thought Reading Coin Club was doing a good job of carrying on and that we should congratulate ourselves. Graham said that the Oxford Club was also having electronic meetings and that they’d even attracted one person from the University Club. John said that the committee were sending a note to Coin News detailing our efforts to keep the club going, it should be in the January issue.
If you have not joined in our Zoom sessions before, please do have a go. Its not difficult (ask any grandchild to help you) 😊. We believe it is important to keep the members of the club in touch with one another and this is a good way to do it. Meetings are currently limited to 40 minutes and only once a month so they shouldn’t take up too much of anyone’s time.
Having brought everyone up to date, James then gave us his talk ‘The Joys (and Pitfalls) of EBAY’.
James began by outlining the beginnings of EBAY, which was as an auction site where you could buy and sell just about anything (as long as its legal) but also leave feedback for the other party. He showed us a typical page from the EBAY site, listing an item (the 1953 plastic set in this case) with the starting price and photographs, a place to enter your bid and a big blue ‘Submit bid’ button. By clicking the ‘Submit bid’ button, you enter into a legal contract with the seller to buy the item, although there are some getouts, for example if you accidentally put £1099 instead of £10.99! There is also an option to make a ‘Best Offer’, which will be sent to the seller. If they choose to accept that offer, then you will be deemed to have been in a contract from when you clicked the big “Make offer” button.
Other information includes details of the seller, including the very important feedback indicator, together with a count of how many feedback reports have been given. These details cover the last 12 months. More recent has been the introduction of a ‘Buy it now’ option, effectively making it more like a shop purchase and avoiding the need to wait for the auction to finish.
Buyers should beware some of the advertising that sellers put on their offers. Particularly if they include the word ‘Rare’. Examples included a 2018 50p ‘Representation of the People Act’ for £449, a ‘Super Rare’ 2007 ‘Abolition of Slavery’ £2 coin for £25,000, a 2016 ‘Battle of Hastings’ 50p for £5,400 and an Isle of Man 2010 ‘Castle Rushen’ 20p for £120,000. Most outrageous of all, a 2016 ‘Peter Rabbit’ 50p with a ‘Buy it Now’ of £8,800,000! So outrageous are some of these items that there is a strong suspicion that it is being used as a way to launder ‘dirty’ money, though in part it is also driven in part by reports in the Press claiming very high values for supposedly ‘rare’ coins.
However, despite the absurd offers there are offers out there for high grade/high price coins from genuine sellers.
James then warned against the dangers of poor photography, where it is impossible to verify, for sure, just what it is you are buying, with badly lighted and out of focus images. Also he said that some people will use stock photos of a coin, rather than the actual one for sale. Other online sales possibilities, such as Facebook, require a picture of the item, taken on a background that includes today’s date, so that at least the buyer is a bit surer that the seller actually has the item they claim to be selling. James himself profited from a dodgy picture on one occasion where he bought an Edward VII 1903 penny which he thought was the ‘open 3’ type but couldn’t be sure from the picture. Turned out it was!
A very popular area of sales on ebay are errors, though genuine error coins are few and far between. Examples shown by James included an ‘EXTREMELY RARE ERROR COIN 1979 2P NEW PENCE’ which of course is nothing of the sort and clearly intended to fool the person who may have read in the Press about rare and valuable coins with New Pence on them and the often quoted ‘edge inscription upside variety’ of £2 coins when there is no ‘right way up’ to begin with.
Next James moved on to ‘Fraud, Fakes, Forgeries and Foreigners’. Various frauds occur, such as the seller taking the money but not sending on the item, possibly because they never had it in the first place, or they had already sold it. This is sales fraud, though it is difficult to prove. If the buyer doesn’t pay, then you should not send the item, if they ask you to let them pay later, you should refuse. It sometimes happens (or is claimed to happen) that items are ‘lost in the post’. Remember that if you are the seller and you use Recorded or Special delivery, then you have the contract with Royal Mail, the buyer has no rights in the matter. If you send an item to someone, it is possible for them to dispute it and then send you back a different item to the one you sent, there is no simple way to verify that what you back is the same as you sent. James also advised that if a seller is unwilling to use Recorded or Special delivery, then you should probably avoid them.
Peter had made James aware that is a website for ancients http://augustuscoins.com/ed/fakesellers.html that gives a very long list (hundreds) of the known dodgy sellers on EBAY.
James went on to say that in his experience, if there is a problem with a sale, then ebay will favour the buyer. He pointed out that he had both gained and lost from this arrangement. He had sold a coin which the buyer said never arrived and had the payment taken out of his bank account by EBAY (not the paypal account he had set up for trading) and then found that the buyer had listed the coin for sale, using James’ own photo but got no response from EBAY when he informed them. Earlier this year it seems EBAY and paypal have had a falling out, so EBAY is to set up its own payment system and James was worried about charges that may arise from this new arrangement.
The final point James raised, is to be aware that if the Royal Mail thinks a purchase from overseas might involve paying duty, they will charge you an £8 (minimum) International Handling fee, (Chris pointed out that that doesn’t seem to apply at the moment because of lockdown). Chris also pointed out the pitfalls of using the ‘Global Shipping Program’ which EBAY supplies by default for overseas items, pointing out that you can do it cheaper yourself by recorded delivery.
Will asked if there was a list of reputable buyers, equivalent to the disreputable list above, sadly the answer was no.
Thank you to James for sharing his knowledge with us.
Also in this issue of the newsletter we have another article from our Chairman, Mick.
THE PARLIAMENTERY REFORM BILL 1832
The medallion by Halliday (50 mm dia) shown above is one of many commemorating the reform of Parliament in 1832. What is quite unusual for a commemorative medallion is that the principle points of the reform are written in plain text, rather than the more typical allegorical renditions, as on the reverse.
So what is it all about?
For many centuries the aristocracy and gentry lived a life of total privilege, dominating society in just about every aspect of life. In contrast the life of lower mortals was extremely hard. They were there to serve the whims of their lords and masters and the punishments for any transgressions were often extreme. But, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the migration of the population to the emerging cities, some notable reformers for social justice began to appear. At this time the French people also challenged the social injustices and went on the rampage, culminating in the French Revolution. As a consequence there were fears that the same anarchy might arise in England, but luckily this did not happen. However, the seeds for social reform had been sown and over the next 200 years many social changes occurred, culminating in the democratic society we have today. In this period there were many factors driving change, not only the desires of the reformers but also peoples changing attitudes, especially after the Great War.
Now going back in time, one of the earliest reforms was that of Parliament in 1832. As the whole subject is quite complex and full of detail just a brief overview is given here.
Prior to 1832 Parliament was anything but democratic. The country was divided into a number of boroughs that had hardly changed since the 17th century, with little relation to the changing population densities of the early 19th century. Hence the emerging industrial cities with ever increasing populations were poorly represented, or often not at all. Conversely some more rural boroughs had very few voters, some with less than 10, and yet elected two MP’s. These were known as ‘Rotten Boroughs’ or ‘Pocket Boroughs’ as they were actually controlled by, and in the pocket of, the local Nobility
Another anomaly was the eligibility to vote, the criteria being only men over 21 and owning property over a specified value. These criteria generally restricted eligible voters to those of position and/or wealth and amounted to less than 3% of the population (about 350,000).
But the real injustice was that many boroughs were actually controlled by either the local Nobility or landed gentry. These patrons selected the Parliamentary candidates for the Commons, usually 2 per borough, and when elected these Members were expected to follow their patrons directions. The patrons also had a huge influence over voters living and working in their area’s, making it clear how voters should vote, either by threat or bribery. Going against the local dignitary could mean a life changing experience into poverty. Thus, in summary, the Commons was effectively controlled by their Lordships, and ensured the sustained dominance of the Nobility in both houses of the Parliament
However, from the early 1800’s the desire for change gathered pace. Workers in the populous cities began to openly demonstrate, a situation that their lordships would not tolerate. Over time the demonstrations became more unruly, and the authorities response more violent. One terrible example is the famous Peterloo massacre of 1820 where the cavalry charged at a very large crowd, either killing or injuring hundreds. Many more received harsh punishments from their employers and institutions for attending the reformist’s meeting. Thereafter the authorities introduced punitive control measures to stamp out reformist ideas. But the concept of reform did not die and with the death of GeorgeIV the political scene was less stable. Hence despite much opposition a reform bill was introduced in in1830. As to be expected it was voted down by their Lordships who were determined to preserve their privilege lifestyle, propped up by the working population. The second Reform Bill of 1831suffered the same fate. Then with a change of Government and much political manoeuvring, including pressure on the King, introduction of the third Reform bill of 1832 actually succeeded, despite considerable opposition.
So returning to the medallion, the principle changes are explained in the three segments surrounding an image of Prime Minister Earl Grey.
The upper segment gives details of the bills passage, namely: THE REFORM BILL PASSED THE COMMONS MARCH 23. THE LORDS JUNE 4. RECd THE ROYAL ASSENT JUNE 7 2nd WILLIAM IV 1832. This final line refers to the index number of the bill
The left segment states the new criteria to be a voter, namely: THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE VESTED IN FREEHOLDERS COPYHOLDERS OF £10 P.AN. (per annum) LEASEHOLDERS £50 P.AN. HOUSEHOLDERS £10 P.AN.
The right segment summarises the changes to the boroughs and the number of MP’s to be elected from each, namely: 56 BOR.(oughs) DISENFRANCHISED 50 OLD BOR. TO RETURN 1 MEMBER EA(ch).22 NEW BOR.TO RETURN 2 MEMBERS EA.21 NEW BOR.TO RETURN 1 MEMBER EA.
How these changes impacted each borough is too detailed to be covered here but in broad terms 33 cities and towns were allocated one or two Members according to size, most of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ (ie those with very few voters) were eliminated and other boroughs were reduced to one member. The Bill also included two other key points worth mentioning. Firstly the Bill defined a voter as a ‘male person’, thus specifically excluding women as voters. Secondly the boundaries of many old boroughs were changed or amalgamated when the boundaries of the new boroughs were being defined. These changes were legislated in The Parliamentary Boundaries Act of 1832.
The reverse of the medallion is a more conventional allegorical depiction. It shows Britannia driving out corruption from the constitution, supported by Justice. Both are observed by Mercury, the messenger of the gods identified by a caduceus in the left hand.
While this bill was a landmark beginning to reform it was still a long way off what we have today. The revised criteria to be a voter only doubled the electorate to about 650,000, equal to a mere 6% of the population. The Chartist reformers were the most dissatisfied as the criteria to be a voter excluded just about all the working class. It is with this in mind that perhaps there is a relevant message of the medallion illustrated below.
Bishopsgate’s Celebration Medallion 45mm Dia
The reverse states exactly what it is – a piece celebrating the passage of the Reform Bill. It reads: BISHOPGATE.WARD.REFORM.DINNER.CELBRATED. 27 SEPT 1832. Above the laurel wreath the bishop’s gate is depicted but more relevant are the words within the wreath referring to the reform of the people’s representation in Parliament.
However, it is the obverse that is most interesting, for the inscription reinforces the message. It reads: IN.THE.CHOICE.OF.REPRESENTATIVES.ENLAND.EXPECTS.EVERY.ELECTOR.WILL.DO.HIS.DUTY. a clear take off from Nelson’s supposed patriotic words. In a typical display of British supremacy a prominent Britannia and the British lion are depicted either side of a scroll with more moralising words that read: THE FOUNDATION IS LAID BY JUSTICE.LET THE SUPERSTRUCTURE BE LAID BY WISDOM AND HAPPINES MUST BE THE RESULT.
One would like to think that the message of the Medallion is one of hope that the elected MP would represent one and all in Bishopsgate and not just the wealthy & elite – a wish possibly too far in the time of William IV.