THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PRICED COINS
(See illustration on next page)
The newly discovered $50.00 gold pieces, which were sold for $20,000, are included in the United States series of pattern coins and represent the most interesting pieces in the American series, the denomination being equivalent to five eagles, or the “half union” recommended in 1854 by Secretary of the Treasury Guthrie. They illustrate the single case where United States coins of this value were struck in gold. They never emerged to be the handsomest and most striking coins ever issued in the United States mint.
These two gold pieces have not been seen since the year of their mintage, 1877, and were supposed by all collectors to have been melted up.
They are exactly two inches in diameter and one-eighth of on inch in thickness.
These are the only $50 gold pieces ever issued at the United States mint and are not to be confounded with the 450 pieces minted in California, dated 1851, 1852 and 1855. The latter pieces were of a semi-official character, having been issued by Moffat & Co., a firm of United States assay contracture, and by the private coining firms of Wass, Moffat & Co., and Kellogg & Co.
And Yet the two circular pieces of California and the two care circular United States “quintuple eagles” which have uns***tedlycente to light are closely associated, having all been issued in response to a general demand on the part of the bankers and merchants of San Francisco.
Before the establishment of the United States branch *** San Francisco in 1854 the California pioneers had *** and the gold coins made by private *** for their evaluation mediums. The gold dust *** in value and purchasing power, while the private ***usally all were of a depreciated character ***in value from 8 to 20 per cent discount. To relieve the *** and loss caused by this circulating *** value the Government, in 1850 p***ed for the establishment of an assay office in San Francisco. The office was conducted by Moffat & Co.,
UNITED STATES FIFTY-DOLLAR GOLD PIECES, 1877
Only Two Specimens Known.
Sold at $10,000.00 each. The highest price ever paid for a coin.
and the official who placed the Government stamp upon the Ingots was Augustus Humbert, formerly of New York. Upon the appearance of the United States assay office ingots all the private gold coins were gradually driven out of circulation, many of them being deposited at the assay office and reissued in the shape of the octagonal ingots. The private coins, though of depreciated value, were nevertheless very convenient, as they were of the useful denominations of five, ten and twenty dollars. The regular United States gold coins of small denominations rarely appeared in local trade in California, being reserved for the payment of custom duties.
In a short time the gold coins of the smaller denominations all disappeared and the local currency consisted almost wholly of the huge octagonal fifty-dollar pieces. Change became so scarce that it was necessary to pay 2 or 3 per cent to have one of the “slugs” changed into smaller denominations.
Relief to a certain extent was furnished in 1854, when more United States gold pieces came into circulation and the San Francisco branch mint began operation. Soon the octagonal pieces met the fate of the smaller California coins, being exported or sent to the local mint and re-melted, and it was not long before the business men of California felt the need of a gold piece of large denomination.
As a result the business men of San Francisco early in 1854 sent a petition to the Secretary of the Treasury, requesting him to authorize the striking of the San Francisco mint of a fifty-dollar piece of the same shape and fineness as the regular United States double eagle.
This memorial was forwarded to William M. Gwin, one of California’s Senators, who in turn presented it to James Guthrie, the Secretary of the Treasury. In his reply Mr. Guthrie favored the issue of the gold pieces of large denomination for use in the Pacific States, although he said such pieces were not needed in the East.
In his letter to Senator Gwin, secretary Guthrie said:
“But there are certain peculiarities in the condition of California, which recommend a different scale of coinage for that region. They are: First, the fact stated in the memorial of the prohibition and entire expulsion of paper money; and, second, the high scale of prices prevalent in California for commodities and service. These circumstances will make larger denominations of coin convenient, particularly in counting and passing large sums. To this may be added that time will be saved in coinage, which may be of much consequence to miners, and others, at least until the capacity of the branch mint shall be ascertained to be equal to the gold offered.
“In order to harmonize the proposed large coins with the present recognized coins, I would recommend that the coinage be authorized by pieces of $100, $50, and $25, to be called the ‘Union,’ ‘Half Union,’ and ‘Quarter Union,’ but that the ‘Half Union’ only be struck for the present.”
The full text of the bull presented to Congress by Senator Gwin providing for that issue of the large gold pieces, reads as follows:
“That there shall be coined and issued by the United States, or by such of the branch mints as the Secretary of the Treasury shall direct, a gold coin of the weight of 2580 grains, of the value of one hundred dollars, and another of the weight of 1290 grains, of the value of fifty dollars; each of which coins shall be of the standard fineness, now prescribed by law, for the gold coins of the United States.
“That the Secretary of the Treasury cause the necessary dies, and other apparatus, to be prepared by proper and skillful artists, under the superintendence of the Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, for coining the above coins with such devices, mottoes, and figures as may be approved by the President of the United States: the expenses of which shall be defrayed from the ordinary appropriation for the expense of the mint and branch mints of the United States.”
Badly needed as were the gold coins provided by the bill, the bill never became a law. On May 2, 1854, Senator Gwin again brought the matter of the issue of the five and ten-eagle pieces to the attention of the Senate, but discussion was postponed. On June 16th the bill passed the Senate by a large majority, although it failed to meet the approval of the House.
Early in 1855, as the Government showed no signs of responding favorably to the appeals of the Californians for a $50 piece, two of the principal private coining firms of San Francisco, Wass, Moliter& Co., and Kellogg & co., began the issue of circular &50 gold coins. Both issues were worth fully their face value, although the gold was of a lower fineness in the Kellogg piece than contained by the regular United Stated coins, Making necessary an increased weight for the Kellogg coin of 1309 grains, which is stamped on the ribbon carried in the beak of the eagle on the reverse.
It is customary at the mint to provide samples of a proposed coinage as soon as the bill authorizing such an issue is presented. From such dies sample pieces in base metal are usually made, which in former years were given to the member presenting the bill, to be used as a material illustration. In only rare instances, however, are such pieces struck in gold, and the consequence is that the United States pattern coins in gold are highly esteemed by collectors.
It is not known why the work of executing the dies of the United States $50 pieces was delayed until 1877 when the reason for their creation occurred in 1854. While only these two pieces were struct in gold, still a number of specimens were made in copper from each of the two sets of dies.
The coins were designed by William Barber, formerly chief engraver of the mint and father of the present chief engraver, Charles E. Barber, Mr. Barber’s initial “B,” appears on the coins under the bust of Liberty.
Encased Postage Stamps
One of the Most Interesting Series of “Necessity Money” Ever Issued.
New York City was the birthplace of this peculiar sort of money, which was formed by placing the regular United States postage stamps in flat, circular brass cases, with the faces protected by a thin sheet of mica. The encased stamps consist of the denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 12, 24, 30 and 90 cents, and this method of protecting the stamps so that they could withstand the wear of circulation was the invention of John Gault, who did business at Park Place, in New York City. He manufactured many varieties to be used by business houses in lieu of small change, and the badly mutilated and worn postage stamps that answered the purpose of practical money for a while at the beginning of the war. Many of the encased stamps bore the name of the issuing firm on the back, and not only served the purpose of a fractional currency, but advertised the firm of issue in a thorough and yet inexpensive fashion.
The patent dated from July and August, 1862, and the stamps used in the metallic cases were the regular postage stamps of the period—the one-cent blue, and the three-cent orange, showing the portrait of Franklin; the five-cent brown bearing Jefferson’s portrait; and the ten-cent green, twelve-cent black, twenty-four-cent violet, and ninety-cent blue, all with the portrait of Washington.
Collectors of both stamps and coins regard this series of necessity currency as being one of the most interesting of the numerous issues of United States, which has been especially conspicuous for its various freakish circulating mediums, and some of the premiums now paid for these homely substitutes for real money actually exceed those commanded by any of the far more pretentious and handsome coins struck at the United States mints during and since the war.
Some firms issued the encased stamp pieces of nearly every one of the denominations mentioned above, while others are credited with but a single one. Often the latter specimens are the rarest and command the highest premiums as not infrequently they were but little more than samples and were issued in quite limited number. In nearly every instance it is found that the denominations of twelve, twenty-four, thirty and ninety cents are the rarest, and in the case of the highest denominations it is thought their rarity is due to the fact that some of the firms ordered but a single specimen each of the denominations above ten cents, and before deciding upon their issue the law was passed forbidding the use of anything of the semblance of money by private persons.
An interesting specimen of the encased stamp money is one of the old denomination of nine cents. There being no postage stamp of this value the denomination was produced by placing three three-cent stamps in an oblong copper case, with the usual covering mica. The back bore no name, but the piece evidently was intended for circulation in New York City, for the reverse bore an embossed representation of an eagle and snake, the same as that shown by the New York cents struck in German silver by Dr. Lewis Feuchtwanger of New York City, which were issued in 1837. Around the central device was scroll work. Nothing is known of the piece’s history but it is thought to have been a product of Gault, on account of the New York device.
Another equally interesting piece associated with the encased postage stamp money is an essay for a five-cent piece. In a frame of silver had been placed a stamp cut from a five-cent note of the first issue of the postage currency. This was protected by mica both back and front.
The Petition Crown of Thomas Simon
The sale at auction for £55 (about $775) of a specimen of the rare coin known as the Petition Crown of Thomas Simon affords an opportunity of giving a brief history of this famous piece, and doing so it will not be out of place to review the state of the English coinage immediately prior to its issue.
The reign of “Good Queen Bess” was distinguished by the introduction of the new mechanism for the minting of money. Instead of the old hammer and punch method of minting, the mill and screw was introduced, by which process coins of a superior workmanship, and more regular appearance, were produced.
Folks say that the inventor of the “mill and screw” is supposed to have been a Frenchman named Philip Mastrelle , who eventually fell into the practice of coining counterfeit money, and was convicted and executed at Tyburn on the 27th day of January, 1562.
Mr. Hawkins, however, does not agree with this statement, and asserts that the name of the introducer of this process of coining is unknown, and the whole history of its employment involved in obscurity.
Most of the milled money (but chiefly the shilling and sixpence) of Queen Elizabeth’s reign may be known by a five-pointed star at the end of the legend. The larger coins (crowns and half-crowns) were struck on the old hammer principle, which was continued by her successors. James I, and Charles I. But the bulk of the money issued by Queen Elizabeth, from the crown to the penny, was hammered money
In about 1650 Cromwell availed himself of the more recent improvements of coining already adopted by some of the continental nations. A celebrated French artist, Pierre Blondeau, who had perfected the mode of minting by the mill and screw, was invited to England. On his arrival he produced patterns of the half-crown, shilling and sixpence coined by the mill and screw, by which means a legend was impressed for the first time on the edge of a piece. But no issue was ever made of these coins, and the specimens of them are very rare.
During the latter part of his protectorate Cromwell caused coins to be executed by the new process bearing his own bust; but it is supposed that few were issued, as the coins of the old hammered type are much more numerous. They are considered by some authorities to have been patterns. The bust of Cromwell on the obverse is most beautifully executed by Simon, and in a mannar superior in point of art to anything that had been seen upon an English coin before.
Charles II, on his ascension to the throne in 1660, with a view, it may be, of returning to the extreme orthodoxy of his father’s reign, discarded the mill and screw, and his early coins were produced by the old process; but in 1662 Pierre Blondeau was re-engaged to direct the mint upon the mill and screw principle, and a competition for engraving dies was entered into between the celebrated Simon and John Rotier, of Antwerp, which it is said, was unfairly decided in favor of Rotier.
Dissatified with the judgement of Blondeau, and confident of his skill as a die-sinker, Simon appealed to the king, and his petition took the unique, though appropriate form of a pattern of the value of a crown. Hence it is that England can justly boast of a most exquisitely engraved coin, which is considered a model of art, and superior to any coin of that or any other period. It will be seen from the illustration of the piece here given, that the king’s bust is draped and laureate, with flowing hair and love lock over the right shoulder. The inscription on the observe reads CARLOS II, DEL GRA. On the reverse are crowned shields of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, arranged in the form of a cross, with garter and St. George in center. There are two C’s interlinked in each angle. Inscription MAG, BRI, FR. ET, HIB, REX, 1663.
On the edge of this famous coin is inscribed Simon’s petition to the king against the alleged unjust decision. The petition runs thus: “Thomas Simon most humbly prays your Majesty to compare this, his tryal piece, with the Dutch, and if more truly drawn andembossed, more gracefully ordered, and more accurately engraven, to relieve him.” Notwithstanding the undoubted superiority of the piece, Simon’s petition was unheeded.
It is said that only twenty copies were struck with the petition on the edge. and a few others with a different edge. In 1755 a specimen of this rare and beautiful crown piece sold for £12. In 1802 a specimen changed hands for £105, and in 1824 the same piece brought £210. At Trattle’ssale in 1832, a fine specimen realized £225 (about $1,125.00). In December, 1921, B. Max Mehl, owner of the Numismatic Company of Texas, sold a good specimen for $900.00.
History of the United States Trade Dollar
A trade dollar is slightly larger than a standard dollar. but it is not current coin, and its metal value is only about 80 cents.
So many of these mongrel dollars were in circulation twenty years and more that most persons were watchful to avoid getting one, but in recent years they have been so rare that many persons have never seen one.
Trade dollars were authorized by Congress in 1873 for the purpose of stimulating commerce with the Orient. For many years the Mexican silver dollar had been a highly valued coin in nearly all far Eastern countries. Hundreds of millions of them were shipped to China. Japan, the Philippines and other countries in that part of the world to pay for the products exported from them to Europe and the United States.
American lawmakers thought that a coin of practically the same weight and size as the Mexican dollar, bearing the imprint of the United States, could be used advantageously as a substitute for the Mexican Dollar.
In the five years beginning with 1873 the United States mint produced nearly 36,000,000 of these dollars. Most of them were exported, but enough of them remained in this country to be embarrassing because of their similarity to the standard silver dollar, and in 1887 Congress provided that for six months thereafter all trade dollars presented to the Treasury should be exchanged for standard dollars and after that time the trade dollars were left to shift for themselves, being worth only their metal value plus whatever premium coin collectors might be willing to pay for them. Nearly 8,000,000 of them were redeemed, and when the period for redemption ended only 284,587 of them remained in this country, less than 1 percent of the number that had been coined.
The trade dollar has on one side a sitting figure of the Goddess of Liberty, and on the other an eagle of a different design from that on the standard dollar. The inscription is: “United States of America, Trade Dollar, 420 grains, 900 fine”.
The standard silver dollar weighs 412½ grains. The weight of the Mexican dollar is 417.79 grains, but 97.27 per cent of it is pure silver, so that, thought it weighs less its metal value is about 7 per cent more than that of the old trade dollar. Probably this is the reason the trade dollar never made a hit with the people of the Far East. There is ground for suspicion that the originators of the dollar thought the Orientals might be duped into taking it in preference to the Mexican dollar, because of its slightly greater weight, notwithstanding the fact that its silver value was about 7 per cent less. But the Oriental money changers quickly learned this difference in value.
The trade dollar was authorized by the coinage act of 38 years ago, which became famous under the designation of “the crime of ‘73” in the free silver agitation which began a few years later and continued with more or less virulence for more than 20 years.
In the famous coinage act of 1873 the trade dollar was substituted for the standard dollar and all silver coins were made legal tender for an amount not exceeding $5. That had been the limit of the legal tender quality of all fractional silver coins since 1853. The standard silver dollar had been an unlimited legal tender, but it was partially out of use. In all the 80 years prior to 1873 only 8,031,238 of them had been coined, and during nearly all of that time they were worth more to ship to the Orient than to use at home; in other works, they were worth a premium over old coins.
In the five years following 1873 the coinage of trade dollars amounted to more than four times the coinage of standard silver dollars, during the entire 80 years preceding. Evidently, therefore the “crime of ‘73” did not cause diminution in the demand for silver
The price of silver began to fall in 1872 and its continued decline in the succeeding years started an agitation for the restoration of its use as a standard money. The persistent demand for the “rehabilitation of silver” resulted in the passage of a law by Congress over the President’s veto, in 1878, for the coinage of not less than 2,000,000 or more than 4,000,000 silver dollars monthly, the metal to be purchased by the Government in the open market.
Under this law 378,000,000 silver dollars were coined, but the decline in the price of silver was checked only temporarily and in 1890 Congress authorized the purchase of 4,500,000 ounces monthly, and the issue of demand treasury notes in payment for it. The purchase continued until 1893, when President Cleveland forced and unwilling Congress to repeal the law, Coinage of dollars out of the silver purchased under this law continued until 1904.
In all over $150,000,000 of Treasury notes were issued for the purchase of silver. The Government has been retiring these notes since 1893, substituting silver dollars for them. On March 11, 1911, only $3,388,000 of them remained in circulation. Whenever one gets into the United States Treasury it is destroyed. It is a vanishing form of American currency.
The present supply of standard silver dollars in the United States is nearly 565,000,000. About 74,000,000 are in circulation and in the banks. The Treasury vaults hold 490,000,000 of them—133,000 tons—which are represented by silver certificates in circulation.
The trade dollar is an important link between the two periods of this country’s experience with silver—the first from the foundation of the mints up to 1873, during which 8,000,000 of “free coinage” dollars were put out; the second from 1873 to 1893, when, in an effort to restore silver to use of a standard money metal, enough silver was purchased by the Government to coin 565,000,000 dollars in existence at the present time.
The Glass Coins of China
While the Siamese Porcelain Tokens, among which a few colored glass varieties exist, are known to most Numismatists, and even the Arabian glass weights may have been investigated by a few collectors, the Glass Coins on China and neighboring countries, on the other hand, may be new to many of our readers.
It is not necessary in order to learn these curious coins, to wade through the numerous native treatises on Far Eastern Numismatics, since no mention whatever is made in them to any porcelain or glass coins. As these coins do not come within the scope of “Articles of Metal,” among which ordinary coins are included, so dearly loved by Chinese and Japanese connoisseurs, they do not find a place in the books on the subject.
From Professor F. Hirth’s monograph on “China and the Roman Orient,” we gather that, although the Chinese became well acquainted with glass about the time of the Christian era, there is no doubt that it was not until the fifth century after Christ that they learned how to make it (brought by the sea route from the Roman Empire) and consequently no glass coins bearing Chinese inscriptions can have been made in China prior to this period.
The little that has so far been published about porcelain and glass coins of the Far East is due entirely to the pens of Europeans. The first mention of coins of materials other than the well known metals, is probably that recorded in Vol. VIII of the “Chinese Review,” where an article signed “B. G.” describes two specimens of earthenware coins, procured at Canton with inscriptions in Chinese Seal characters, both incused and in relief, with the value of the hale tael, an limitation of that well-known Pang Liang series of Chinese ancient round copper coins.
The late Stephen W. Bushnell, in Vol. II of “Chinese Are,” illustrates and described three glass medallions in colored glass with truly felicitous inscriptions which he translates as follows:
(a) “A succession of first places at three examinations.”
(b) “May the Celestial Mandarins be propitious to man.”
(c) May the Celestial Divinities send sons.”
These charms are similar in every respect to those treated in this article.
All the glass specimens illustrated and described herein form part of my collection and were picked up personally by me in Korea or have been directly traced to the Hermit Kingdom, which inclines me to deduce that this country is the principal source of production of these talismans, and although Bushnell states that the Chinese wear them strung on their girdles, I have never, while in the Middle Kingdom, been able to come across any destined for that purpose.
Just as the glass objects made by the Chinese are generally of small dimensions not larger than the jadeite or agate carvings which are posed as models, so I venture to suggest that these porcelain and glass charms are in imitation of those originally made of jade, ranked by the Chinese as the most precious of precious stones. The fact that I have come across and been able to pick up while in China several of these charms made in jade, strengthens my supposition. The illustrations numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 refer to glass medallions, the grounds, either translucent or opalescent, giving and illusory resemblance to the models of which they are properly counterfeit presentments.
The predominant color is of milky white, with the exception of No.2, of a Nile green shade, similar in all respects to the color most prized in jade ornaments.
The inscriptions, identical with those found on copper and brass charms, and amulets, are usually in relief when referring to glass coins, and those illustrated read:
1. “Long Life, Riches and Honor,”a very common inscription on Chinese charms and amulets.
2. “One Family in the Entire World,” a somewhat ambiguous inscription, seen for the first time as talisman.
3. “Successively obtaining the first place at the examinations for the second and third degree and at the Palace examination.” Meaningless, perhaps, to foreigners, but full of import and good wishes to the aspiring Chinese “literati.”This inscription in not uncommon on charms.
4. Two Manchu characters, signifying “Board of Works Mint.” This is evidently from the reverse of the coins of the present dynasty which in Manchu.
The remaining two illustrations represent charms made of jade, of doubtful doubtful quality, with incused characters, interpreted accordingly.
5. “Life as long as the Pine and Oak,” and
6. “May gold and precious stones fill my balls,” in seal characters a wish which might be also shared by all Occidentals.
The Confederate Half-Dollar
The Only Numismatic Record of a Nation of Nine Million of People Who Maintained a Precarious Existence in the Face of Overwhelming Odds for the Space of Nearly Four Years and a Half.
The beginning of the year 1010 was signalized in a numismatic way by the offering for sale of the only known specimen of the official metallic coinage of the Confederate States of America.
Coming from its resting place in a safe deposit vault where it had lain for 28 years, this unique half dollar created quite a sensation in the numismatic world, and. on account of its unusual historical significance, caused much interest among the lay world, which is always intensely alive to any souvenir or relic that is so closely associated with the Lost Cause.
There are very few American coins today that can be said to rank in interest with this half dollar, with its authoritative U. S. obverse and distinctive Confederate States reverse design. Such a unique combination of the official devices of two great opposing powers probably has not another parallel in history.
The story of the finding of the Confederate half dollar is as follows: E. Mason, Jr., a Philadelphia numismatist, prepared an article on rare coins for a New York newspaper, which appeared on January 2, 1870. A few days later he received a communication from B. F. Taylor, M. D., then the secretary and treasurer of the Louisiana State Board of Health, stating that he had a Confederate coin in his possession and a few months later sent to Mr. Mason the original coin and die.
Mr. Taylor had been chief coiner of the Confederate mint, and said the United States mint had been turned over to the Confederate States of America by the State of Louisiana the last of February, 1861. The old officers were retained by the Confederate government viz:Wm. A. Elmore, Superintendent; A. J. Guirot, Treasure; M. F. Bonzano, Melter and Refiner, and Howard Hilspaugh, Assayer.
In April, Secretary Momminger of the Confederate Treasury, ordered that designs for half dollar pieces be submitted him for approval. The design selected was the one now familiar, and the dies were engraved by A. H. M. Peterson, engraver and die sinker, and were prepared for the coining press by Conrad Schmidt, foreman of the coining room.
It was found for some reason the dies could not be fitted to the regular routing press, so it was necessary to use the old hand screw press, upon which four coins were struck.
One of these coins was given to the Confederate government, probably is the one which Jefferson Davis is said to have owned. The second coin was presented to Prof, Riddle of the University of Louisiana; the third to Dr. K. Amen of New Orleans, and the fourth was kept by Chief Coiner Taylor.
About thin time an order came from the secretary suspending operations on account of the difficulty of obtaining bunion, and the mint wits closed on April 30, 1861.
Mr. Mason disposed of the coin and Confederate reverse die to a New York dewier in 1879. who wrote a letter to Jefferson Mavis in reference to the coin, and received the following reply:
Beauvoir, P. O.
Harrison Co., Miss.
May 10th, 1867.
1 had a Confederate coin. It was in my wife’s trunk when it was rifled by the Federal officers on board the prison ship on which she was detained at Hampton Roads before and after my confinement in Fortress Monroe. The coin, some medals and other valuables were stolen at that time. Whether the coin be the same which has been offered to you as a duplicate, I cannot say. It is, however not true, as published, that it is now in my possession.
Regretting that I cannot give you more exact information on the particular subject of your inquiry, I remain,
The dealer obtained 500 1861 half dollars bearing the New Orleans mint letter, and had the reverse design removed from each. Then the coins were restamped with the reverse die of the Confederate half dollar. The die broke on the first trial, then had to be set in a heavy steel band to prevent further damage.
The 500 half dollars of the N. O Mint were obtained only after much difficulty. After the restrike had been made the die was defaced by filing a deep groove across the face and a brass piece was struck from the defaced die to show what had been done.
What became of the other three coins seems destined to remain a mystery. Judging by the letter of Jefferson Davis, it would seem that the Confederate President at one time owned a specimen, which may have been the one said to have been given to the confederate government at the time the pieces were coined.
The two other specimens, one of which is said to have been given to Prof. Biddle of the Louisiana University, and other to a Dr. Ames of New Orleans, have never been heard of from that day to this, so far as known, and probably now are no longer in existence.
The Coinage of Rome
FIRST AE. OR LARGEST BRONZE COIN OF VESPASIAN,
69-79 A. D.
Issued to commemorate the conquering of Judaea.
Weeping Judaea under palm tree.
The Roman Imperial coins in addition to their individual character and interest, possess a general historical interest, in consequence of being for the most part struck to commemorate remarkable events. The difficulties of history are consequently cleared up by these contemporary records which are so complete until the time of Constantine, that histories may be compiled from them.
They form the most authentic data in the Roman annals, the years of the consular and tribunitian officers held by the emperors, appearing in the obverse; and on the reverse, representations of the events whose dates are expressed on the other side.
The coin of Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonics, are remarkable for this, and for the accurate date which are thereby supplied to history, by which the mistakes of chronieles are often corrected.
Among the description of events commemorated are the departure of emperors on expeditions; their successes and their returns their munificence to provinces wasted by famine, visits to the provinces, and benefits conferred during such visits, etc., as in the case of Hadrian’s visit to Britain, A, D, 121.
Conquered provines are represented in a pleasing and often poetieal manner as in theweeping “Judaea Capta” of the coins of Vespasian und Titus; and universal peace is symbolized by the closed temple of Janus on the coins of Nero.
The deaths and consecrations of emperors and empresses are depicted, and their virtues and other attributes beautifully personified. Happiness, hope, abundance, security, modesty, are poetically represented together with tile different countries of the world, and the provinces of the Empire.
Even naturalists may derive advantage from the study of these coins—those struck on the occasion of the secular games, as the coins of Philip representing various animals some of which appear to be now unknown. Accurate portraits of persons of historical eminence are represented, so that busts may be referred to their owners by the agency of the coins, together with representations of buildings now in ruins, at they originally stood—as triumphal arches, temples, etc,, so that the poet, the painter, the sculptor, and the architect derive no less advantage from the study titan the historian.
The Roman coinage appears to have originated in the Aes, a copper piece weighing twelve ounces. The pieces of the most common occurrence have on their obverse the double head of Janus, and on the reverse the prow of a ship. Others have on them the head of Roma, and on the reverie a Hull, with the word, Roma. The divisions of an Aes were the semis, or half of six ounces, marked S; the triens of four; the quadrans of three; the sextans of two, and the unica of one ounce. They have on them dots or pellets expressing the number of ounces contained in them individually. There were also multiples of the Aes, as high as the decussis, or piece of ten asses, this always with the same head and the six X (ten asses).
The Aes and it s parts originally weighed as much as was expressed upon them; but they gradually decreased in weight until, at the time of the second Punic war the Aes was reduced to only half an ounce. As these heavy pieces must have been very inconvenient in their use before their reduction in weight, silver appears to have been soon substituted for them, and the denarius or silver piece originally of the value of ten asses, and afterwards of sixteen, become the most common representative of value: this niece is frequently marked X. The quinarius, which was half the value of the denarius, and marked V, to show it was of the value of five asses, also occurs. The silver sextertius, or fourth of a denarius which disappeared at the close of the Republic, nevertheless always remained as the unit of account, its place being taken by the bronze sextertius. Thus a person was said to have died worth so many sesterces, while it is true that coins of Ancient Rome are among the most interesting and the most valuable of historical records, it is a matter of regret that metallic and enduring memorials are now confined to medals struck to commemorate some particular event, whose number is limited and which obtain little circulation among the multitude.
Why should we not preserve, as of old, specimens of beautiful architecture, the originals of which time may not spare? Why not exhibit the progress of scientific discovery—the march of geographical knowledge—the conquests of commerce and civilization? The mint of the Augustan Age has been well called the seat of Roman genius; why should not the mints of our country be employed and the genius of our republic be installed where its works would assuredly be imperishable?
OLD STAMPS WANTED
We will pay cash for old postage stamps on original envelopes or off, especially those of the years of 1840 to about I860. Look in old attics, old trunks, files in old business houses and banks. Leave stamps on whole envelopes. Do not tear them off. They are worth more on whole envelopes. We also buy letters and documents written by prominent people. Send us what you find or have by registered or insured mail.
NUMISMATIC COMPANY OF TEXAS
Fort Worth, Texas
Established Thirty Years