May 29th 2021.
Upcoming club meetings:
Monday 7th June 8pm.
· Subject - This will be another Zoom meeting, open to all members. We will be having a talk from Chris Moore as well as bringing members up to date with any developments.
Annual General Meeting
Please find attached some papers relating to the AGM. These include a statement of accounts. We will audit the accounts in the next year as there are so few entries to consider.
Once again it has come to that time when we need to elect a new committee. The current committee members have been doing the job for far too long and could do with a rest. Added to that Mick is having to leave the committee (see below). There are very few physical committee meetings these days, not due to Covid but because most of the work is done electronically, so the job should not take up too much of anyones time. A committee is vital to the running of the club and there will be no club if there is no committee.
John opened the meeting with thirteen people in attendance. The Roadmap still remains in place at the moment, so there is a possibility of a physical meeting in July Peter is investigating further with the Church. The meeting would be more of a social thing, no talk arranged and possibly with mince pies and biscuits. It might be possible for dealers to come along, it will depend on the discussion with the Church. One dealer has already expressed an interest in attending. It is also quite likely that we would include a very brief Annual General Meeting in July, postponed from June.
We then came to Williams talk, called Connecting Coins.
William has been collecting for over thirty years. Starting in Czechoslovakia when only six years old William determined to collect a full set of the circulating coins for all the countries he visited. Over the years he has visited about seventy-five countries and consequently has built a quite comprehensive collection. Interestingly, many of the coins he has collected were from street vendors at the side of the road leaving him with a wealth of memories, such as an half hour spent chatting in Spanish to a street vendor in Nicaragua, bargaining hard with a Moroccan merchant in Marrakesh for a silver 20 Franc piece or the delight in coming across a coin shop in an obscure South American town. Such interactions are a large part of what makes the hobby interesting. Whilst visiting other countries, William always researches first to see if there are numismatic museums to visit. He finds that collecting coins abroad makes him think about the interconnectivity of the countries involved, their histories and their futures.
William had a small collection of decimal coins when growing up and can just remember the original large 5 and 10p coins in circulation and in lockdown he has focussed on UK pre-decimal coinage. When he started travelling in his late teens he noticed that many of the coins he encountered were of a similar size to the UK pre-decimal coins. He illustrated this point with a set of coins from early 20th C Bolivia and pointed out that from the 16th C various countries issued silver coins of about 38mm and 25gm for the purpose of trading. The UK Crown, the Spanish Peso (pieces of eight) and the Maria Teresa Thaler spring to mind.
Though William does not own a genuine pieces of eight coin he has visited the Potosi mine in Bolivia from which most of the silver for them was extracted. Coins like the crown, peso or British Trade Dollar were fairly interchangeable enabling currency exchange and trade to be easily carried out and this continued in the Far East until the 1930s. It is known that the Spanish Peso or dollar circulated widely in North America before the revolution and after independence the US adopted the name dollar for their currency, with the Peso remaining legal tender until 1857. The name dollar is an Anglicised version of Thaler, the Thaler being from Bohemia as far back as 1518. Before that Wenceslas II had issued Groschen, a similar coin again of good quality silver.
Next William moved on to his time in Australia. He revealed that when the colony of New South Wales was founded in 1788, it too had a lack of coins. The British Government sent £10,000 of Spanish dollars to alleviate the situation. The coins were stamped into the Holey Dollar and the Dump, to ensure they stayed within the colony. This carried on till 1822 when they were replaced with Sterling. They are extremely rare and sought after fetching approximately £125,000! Sadly, William doesnt have one in his collection.
William showed coins from India, Rhodesia, New Zealand and South Africa and there are many others, further emphasising the similarity in size of the coins issued by different countries, a trend that continued even after various of the countries went decimal.
William pointed out that there is no longer any link between the intrinsic value of the coin and its face value. The last vestiges of this link were dropped in 1973, though most countries came off the gold standard in the 1930s. So the question arises, what is the coin worth if it no longer has an intrinsic value? Countries like the US and the UK and most of the Western world rely on the trust of the governing bodies to uphold the value of the coinage but not all countries are so well behaved. William cited Brazil as an example with the Real being replaced in 1942 by the Cruzeiro Antigo, itself being replaced by the Cruzeiro Nueva in 1967, again replaced by the Cruzado in 1986 and again by the Cruzado Novo in 1989, the Cruzeiro till 1993 and the Cruzeiro Real till 1994 and finally a relatively stable Return to the Real in 1994. Commentators at the time mad the quip that Brazil should have just kept it Real.
Moving next to Argentina, William reported how he was acquainted with the history of the country via its coinage at the Argentine Numismatic Museum. Argentina issued two Las Malvinas coins, purely for political reasons.
Similar to Brazil, we had the story of Uruguay. The Peso was replaced by the Nuevo Peso in 1975 and replaced again by the Peso Uruguayo in 1993. As William pointed out you could follow the politics of the country from the changes in the coinage, once the intrinsic value link had been lost and inflation set in. And talking of inflation brought us to Zimbabwe. The first Zimbabwean Dollar was issued in 1980 at near parity with the US dollar and the country was regarded as stable and prosperous. However things soon changed, inflation began to rise with $2 coins in 1997, $5 coins in 2001 and both $10 and $25 dollar coins in 2003. When eventually hyperinflation hit, the effort to keep up with coins was too great and only paper money was issued with the One Hundred Trillion dollar note issued in 2009. The old notes are now sold as souvenirs as they no longer have any value.
Following the stories of immense instability, William now asked How do you find stability?. Some countries, like Switzerland are so stable they have very low inflation and the coinage reflects this, with some still circulating from the 19th Century. One way is to peg your economy to a stronger one. For example, Panama is pegged to the US dollar and even the coins are similar sizes to the US ones. Ecuador used silver coins till the 1930s but after large bouts of inflation they adopted the US dollar as their official currency and only used US paper money. This led to a fairly stable currency a fact noted by Zimbabwe, who also tried this method but ran out of US greenbacks, so issued their own notes and the system fell apart.
Next William asked Whats it worth?, just what sort of values do you need to circulate to support trade? He had come across the way that travellers are often charged inflated prices compared with locals. This can make it difficult to acquire a complete set of coins as prices are always rounded up. As to the value of circulating coins, in Honduras there was a set of coins called Lempira, each worth about 3p sterling but divided into 100 centavos, and the 1 centavo coin still circulated in markets and such like. Compared with a coin like the stable Swiss 5 Francs, you would need about 13,000 centavos to get the same value. It is surprising that quite such a disparity in the value of circulating coins exists. In the 19th Century, Brazil had gold coins that would circulate but at todays prices would be about £650.
After this William asked Whats it for?, why does he collect coins? Its not just about the history, he also appreciates the designs that reflect the nature of the countries visited, for example the animal designs on the Botswana coinage or the Religion and culture reflected in the design of Moroccan coins. Nepal has a date system 58 years and 8 months ahead of our dates, so its tricky checking when the coin in your hand was actually issued and there is no system for value corresponding to size or metal type.
In Australia, William visited the principality of Hutt River, set up in 1970 with an area of 75 square kilometres. In an historic quirk the Free Settlement of Swan River was never declared a UK territory and Prince Leonard the land owner set it up as a principality to avoid paying Australian taxes. It later became a tourist site but was dissolved in 2020. William met Leonard and his wife and collected a set of the coins issued for the principality. To bring his talk to a conclusion, William reported that several people have advised him to specialise, though it seems doubtful he ever will. As to the value of such a collection, he has no idea, most likely very little but it has been fun making the collection.
Michael reported that because of its stability you can still find Swiss coins going back to 1850 (the design is essentially unchanged) and that the Royal Mint has now made a 16oz gold coin for circulation, nominal value £10,000 though only one has been produced and already sold for a sum in six figures. William then reported that the Perth mint has a gold coin on show with a face value of one million Australian dollars.
Our thanks go to William for a very interesting and well illustrated talk.
Our current Chairman Mick is moving out of the area though he hopes to pop back from time to time. Mick will be greatly missed, not only by the committee which he has kept in order for more years than hed care to mention but also by all the other members of the club who have benefitted from the many talks and displays (5 full lectures, 8 short talks and 11 short papers) hes given since 1999. Added to which his generous sharing of his vast numismatic knowledge and his engagement in the social activities of the club have made him one of our most popular members. We wish Mick and Gita all the best for the future and hope its not too long before we can invite him back as a guest speaker.
It is our intention to once again not charge subs for existing members in the coming year. This measure is to encourage our existing members to return to the club when we reopen.
· 10 years ago Derek Aldred spoke about the Beachy Head Hoards of 3rd Century Roman Coins
· 20 years ago English Banknotes John Keyworth
· 50 years ago Roman Coins and their Relation to History Mr B.H. Grove