World of Coins

Design and designing => Thematic collecting => Topic started by: <k> on August 01, 2010, 11:47:11 PM

Title: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 01, 2010, 11:47:11 PM
Since the 1920s, the use of themes (flora, fauna, ships, architecture, etc.) on coins has increased enormously. However, before the 20th century, when monarchies and empires were the rule, and republics were still few and far between, heraldry, coats of arms and royal emblems were far more likely to be seen on coins than anything else.

It is true that thematic designs were likely enough to appear on tokens from the 1600s onwards, and of course the ancients were also apt to depict animals, etc., but it isn't until we get into the 1800s that such designs start to appear on coins.

The coins of Ceylon are a good example here. The images here depict elephants. Nowadays an elephant would be thought an attractive enough design, but I wonder what the symbolism is here? It is noteworthy that it is an animal and not a native of Ceylon that is being depicted, probably because Europeans tended to look down on their foreign subjects. But why is an elephant in particular being shown? Is it meant to represent the exotic nature of Britain's far-flung empire? Or to appeal to Europeans, who presumably will already have started visiting zoos to inspect these intriguing creatures from overseas?

In any case, can anybody think of any earlier thematic coins than this? By this, I exclude those ancient ones that I have already mentioned.

Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 01, 2010, 11:50:41 PM
Ships were one of the earliest themes to appear. I suppose they are meant to project images of trade, naval power, and the might of the far-flung empires. Here are some early ones from Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Danish West Indies.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 01, 2010, 11:54:20 PM
Now onto birds. The Burmese peacock is an attractive one, but one that I know little about. Can anyone enlighten me?
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 01, 2010, 11:57:45 PM
The beautiful German New Guinea designs of the 1890s are the next ones that spring to mind. Again, it is noticeable that the authorities preferred to depict the local wildlife rather than the natives.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 02, 2010, 01:14:39 AM
(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=6174.0;attach=8049;image)

This peacock on a coin predates your Ceylonese elephant by almost two centuries.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 01:21:40 AM
This peacock on a coin predates your Ceylonese elephant by almost two centuries.

True.  It seems to be intended to be part of a coat of arms, though. I was looking for more realistic depictions - though admittedly the Burmese peacock I showed is rather stylised.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: akona20 on August 02, 2010, 02:26:06 AM
The green peacock is a royal symbol of Burma.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: constanius on August 02, 2010, 03:56:01 AM
It is noteworthy that it is an animal and not a native of Ceylon that is being depicted, probably because Europeans tended to look down on their foreign subjects. But why is an elephant in particular being shown? Is it meant to represent the exotic nature of Britain's far-flung empire? Or to appeal to Europeans, who presumably will already have started visiting zoos to inspect these intriguing creatures from overseas?

The elephant was the the perfect image for the coins of Ceylon.  There was 10s of thousands of them, they were used for logging, fording rivers, as war-machines(think animal tanks before the tank was invented), they carried hunters, royalty, they even scared tigers. they were in fact the "ultimate machine" of the sub-continent, the ultimate in power & usefulness.  Before the introduction  of trains, cars etc there was nothing individually more powerful on land that man could control.
Major Skinner (1815 - 67) Ceylon’s foremost road builder is said to have mentioned how invaluable the tracks of wild elephants were to him to map roads before construction. These tracks were not only well trodden but also showed the easiest access to the crossing sites of rivers and valleys.  
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 02, 2010, 10:56:43 AM
The peacock on the esterlin (schelling) is not a mere shield carrier (they only became fashionable in Victorian times), but an elegant solution to a problem. Trying to win back the rebellious Netherlands and believing that the Dutch aversion was to him personally, Philip II left the area not to his eldest son, but to his son-in-law, Albert of Austria and his daughter Isabella jointly. On the larger coins, there is a double portrait, but the schelling is small and the reducing machine had not been invented yet, so small portraits might have looked awkward. Here, the peacock stands for nobility and beauty. The small arms on the chest are Austria and Burgundy, clarifying that the peacock symbolizes the ruling pair. It is a symbol, but not a heraldic beastie.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 01:50:15 PM
Here, the peacock stands for nobility and beauty. The small arms on the chest are Austria and Burgundy, clarifying that the peacock symbolizes the ruling pair. It is a symbol, but not a heraldic beastie.

Peter

An intriguing story, succinctly explained, Peter. Ideally in this topic I am looking for relatively realistic depictions, rather than symbolic or heraldic beasts. The latter are a whole story in themselves, and would probably warrant a topic to themselves, but inevitably it would be a huge one, and much bigger than the scope of my topic here.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 01:52:09 PM
The elephant was the the perfect image for the coins of Ceylon.  There was 10s of thousands of them, they were used for logging, fording rivers, as war-machines(think animal tanks before the tank was invented), they carried hunters, royalty, they even scared tigers. they were in fact the "ultimate machine" of the sub-continent, the ultimate in power & usefulness. 

Thanks for your explanation, Constanius. So there is a fair amount bound up in these portraits of the elephant.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 02, 2010, 02:28:25 PM
Every coin you show in this thread has symbols. The elephant is a symbol for the country, the ships symbolize trade or military success, the peacocks beauty and grace. The peacock on the Southern Netherlands coin is in no way different from the peacock on the Burmese coin. Both are symbols. As for heraldry: heraldic peacocks do not exist.

On a different tack, the distinction between heraldic and what you call "natural" animals is vague. Things are clear as far as griffons and unicorns are concerned, but how about eagles? There are US coin with pretty natural eagles. The bald eagle (btw, never saw a hairy eagle) is both a symbol of the country and, as a heraldic eagle, the central device on the US CoA (as well as the logo of many government services.) Same thing for the naturally engraved lion on the shillings of British East Africa. It is both a symbol for Africa and, as a heraldic lion, the central device for the CoA of Scotland and England.

Even the animals on the first coins of independent Ireland are symbols. They represent the country as it was at the time they were designed. You may find that part of the "pretty pictures" on pseudo coins can also be explained as symbols, representing indigenous plants, animals and agricultural products.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 07:20:43 PM
Every coin you show in this thread has symbols. The elephant is a symbol for the country, the ships symbolize trade or military success, the peacocks beauty and grace. The peacock on the Southern Netherlands coin is in no way different from the peacock on the Burmese coin. Both are symbols.

On a different tack, the distinction between heraldic and what you call "natural" animals is vague. Things are clear as far as griffons and unicorns are concerned, but how about eagles? There are US coin with pretty natural eagles. The bald eagle (btw, never saw a hairy eagle) is both a symbol of the country and, as a heraldic eagle, the central device on the US CoA (as well as the logo of many government services.)

I will make some admittedly rather subjective distinctions here. I would distinguish between symbols and official symbols: the bald eagle is an official symbol of the USA; I could say that, for me, the European badger is a symbol of England, even though it is not an official one, and probably a few million Englishmen and women would agree with me. So let me say that the bald eagle is symbolic of the USA, whilst the badger is merely emblematic of England. As I said, a subjective distinction, but one that I think is easy to understand.

When an animal is a symbol of a country, its treatment on a coin will generally not be entirely naturalistic. You can see this on the US coin of which you provided an image: the eagle is in itself portrayed realistically enough - but look at those ethereal rays in the background, hinting that the eagle is somehow transcending its earthly nature and symbolising the USA itself.

The degree to which we perceive an animal as being portrayed realistically is again subjective. If an animal, which is the national symbol of that country, is portrayed on a country's coins, then we will tend to regard its depiction as more symbolic than realistic - whatever the artist's intent. So you are right - that adds a vagueness to my definitions: for you, that US eagle is fairly realistic; but for me, if I am collecting only "realistically portrayed" animals on coins, then that US coin will not end up in my collection. That is, however, an entirely subjective decision on my part.

To continue my definition, if a national symbol of a country is depicted against a natural background, such as the kiwi on this New Zealand 1933 florin, then the design is for me as much realistic as it is symbolic; in this case I regard the kiwi as more realistic than symbolic, so it goes into my collection.

Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 07:34:57 PM
Advancing into the 1910s now, here we see a Greek 10 lepta coin from 1912, depicting a little owl. If you've ever seen a little owl, you'll know that the owl in itself is very realistically depicted; however, the other elements in the design suggest that the owl is being used symbolically. But for me, the owl is realistic enough for me to have included it in my collection.

Also depicted here is a so-called buffalo nickel from 1913. In fact, the animal depicted is actually a bison. The portrait was reportedly modelled on a bison named Black Diamond, who lived at The New York Zoological Park Bronx Zoo. Despite this, the portrayal does not strike me as naturalistic; the animal is too obviously posed, and the artistic treatment is too stylised for my taste.

If you think I have missed any outstanding thematic designs from this period, please post them up.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 07:44:14 PM
This 15 rupee coin of German East Africa was first issued in 1915, but the image shows a 1916 version. The elephant is depicted in natural surroundings, and the apparent aim is to depict the animal realistically too; however, the artist was not quite skilful enough to achieve this. An arresting image, nevertheless.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 08:01:09 PM
In 1923 South Africa released a new set of circulation designs, of which two are classic thematic designs: the ¼d depicting sparrows; and the ½d and 1d, both of which carry the same ship design.

Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 02, 2010, 08:07:38 PM
That last coin is an excellent illustration of your problem. The elephant here is entirely symbolic.

During the first world war, Great Britain went colony snatching again. One of its targets was German East Africa. The defenders knew they couldn't stop the invaders, but they had the loyalty of the local population, so they went into the hinterland, well armed and supplied and with the national gold reserve. They held out until the end of 1917, despite being short of everything. As usual, the real losers turned out to be the locals.

The coin you show was not designed and produced by professionals. It is a latter-day camp coin. It shows an angry elefant, symbol of the colony. Its message is: even if you have a gun, an angry elefant is to be reckoned with.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 08:11:00 PM
That last coin is an excellent illustration of your problem. The elephant here is entirely symbolic.

Nice potted history, Peter - I have learnt something. The problem is more for you than for me, though, as I've admitted that my categories are largely subjective, but I have given some indications as to how I make my choices.  ;)

Here's a nice elephant design from Thailand: ½ baht, 1929.

(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=3877.0;attach=28629;image)
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 08:12:35 PM
Next comes the Free City of Danzig, and those highly stylised but very charming fish designs from 1932. Who could resist including them in their collection?



(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=4024.0;attach=60209;image)(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=4024.0;attach=60210;image)

Danzig, 5 Pfennig, 1932.  Turbot.


(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=4024.0;attach=59914;image)(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=4024.0;attach=59915;image)

Danzig, 10 Pfennig, 1932.  Cod.

 
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 09:33:43 PM
But I am running ahead of myself. This 5 piastres design from Lebanon was first released in 1925 and depicts an ancient ship.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 09:39:29 PM
(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=26199.0;attach=73002;image)

And in 1928, the daddy of all modern thematic sets was released by the Irish Free State: the Barnyard Set. Though it was denounced as paganistic by Irish priests, the population took it to its heart. Nevertheless, it is hardly perfect in design terms. The animals depicted vary in their treatment: some look more or less realistic; the hen and chicks design, found on the penny, always looks to me as if it has been based on a child's tin toys.

 
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 09:58:08 PM
Backtracking slightly, because I appear to have ignored the Latin countries, Italy issued a fine design of a bee on a flower on the 10 centesimi coin dated 1919.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 10:24:30 PM
In the 1930s, the thematic floodgates opened in the British Empire. Thematic or semi-thematic sets were begun in Southern Rhodesia in 1932; 1933 in New Zealand; 1937 in Canada; and 1938 in Australia. Most of these designs were created by George Kruger-Gray (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,8847.0.html).

Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 10:28:24 PM
Starting in 1939, the Nazi satellite state of Slovakia began issuing a circulation set that includes two fine thematic designs depicting national landmarks.

These themes are echoed somewhat in the circulation set issued by Slovakia in the 1990s.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 10:33:52 PM
If I have missed out any particularly fine examples of thematic coins from the French or Latin American spheres, please feel free to post them up.

After the war, and into the 1950s, and most especially the 1960s, thematic designs were even more in evidence.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 10:37:24 PM
I shall now backtrack slightly and include one of the Greenland polar bear designs of the 1920s, also to be found in my collection. Otherwise you might have wondered why I left it out.

And while I'm at it, one of the well known Belgian Congo elephant designs from the 1940s too.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 02, 2010, 10:45:21 PM
For anyone interested in thematics, I would suggest two topics in particular on this forum:

East Asian architecture on coins (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,2268.0.html)

and My Favourite Mexican Circulation Coin Design (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,2186.0.html)
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: chrisild on August 04, 2010, 08:59:18 AM
The elephant is depicted in natural surroundings, and the apparent aim is to depict the animal realistically too; however, the artist was not quite skilful enough to achieve this.

Keep in mind that these coins, even though they are gold pieces, were basically notgeld, designed during a war and produced in an "emergency" mint which lasted less than a year. The 15 rupee gold coins were designed by somebody named Vogt, apparently a cashier who worked there. The dies were made by a Singhalese goldsmith who, according to a report that the director of the "mint" wrote after he got back to Germany, worked best when he was under the influence of alcohol. Could be true, could be the arrogance of a colonial officer, dunno.

As for why Bald Eagles are not actually bald, have a look here. 8)
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bald

Christian
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 04, 2010, 09:38:24 AM
Wholeheartedly agreed. The design of real coins is a function of taste in a framework of time, place, culture, and above all circumstances. I marvel at two-dimensional heads, silhouetted with a single line on early medieval coin and find a detailed copy of a painted portrait of Henry VIII on a modern coin exceptionally boring. I think the peacock on the Flemish coin I showed is creative and elegant, but the Franklin Mint zoo on coins will not get a second look from me. OK, quite personal, your mileage will vary etc., but I think interesting coins have a message and a background: a story to tell that doesn't end with the coin itself and may involve a drunk Singhalese, an ancient pyramid in a forlorn landscape (once I'd climbed the pyramid, the coin took on another dimension) or a prize buffalo in a zoo.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 04, 2010, 01:56:33 PM
If I applied that criteria to my collection very stricty, then my coin collection would be....well, it mostly wouldn't be.
While I do find coins with a story to tell the most facinating, I also appreciate a pretty design.  I can also admire a complete date run of mundane coins simply for its completeness.  The longer I collect, the more I am attracted to what I would call the unusual coins (either design, shape, size or subject matter)....of course, unusual is defined by my own personal viewpoint.

Dale

OK, quite personal, your mileage will vary etc., but I think interesting coins have a message and a background: a story to tell that doesn't end with the coin itself and may involve a drunk Singhalese, an ancient pyramid in a forlorn landscape (once I'd climbed the pyramid, the coin took on another dimension) or a prize buffalo in a zoo.
Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 04, 2010, 03:11:41 PM
There are very many coins in this thread that I consider outstanding and maybe some a bit unusual.  However that three legged bison is a coin that will not make it into my collection, unfortunately  ;)
Dale
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 04, 2010, 03:22:53 PM
How about the four-legged one?
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 04, 2010, 03:26:40 PM
I have a few with 4 legs and assorted dates around here somewhere....not nearly as well preserved though.  Don't have the early type.
Dale

How about the four-legged one?
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 04, 2010, 05:19:31 PM
Here's another early one for you: the earliest coins (1616-1624) of Bermuda. They show pork (politicians had already been invented) and a ship. Here's the story: The British called Bermuda Somers Island, after George Somers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Somers) who was shipwrecked there in 1612 on his way to Jamestown. They found a whole colony of wild pigs on the island, apparently left there by Juan Bermudez and his party, who had paid a visit 100 years earlier. The pigs saved the crew of the ship. The crew managed to build a new ship with what remained of their vessel and stuff found on the island. This explains the wild boar and the ship.

Side thought: the part of the crew that sailed to Jamestown in the self-made ship found that there was a famine going on. Those who had been left behind on Bermuda fared quite a bit better.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 04, 2010, 06:07:47 PM
By far not as early, but interesting.

For a long time, Australia was considered worthless. Its only use was as a penal colony. All this changed when coal was found at Newcastle. An economy started to develop and there were not enough coins for the colonists. The result was a series of copper tokens. It is clear from the series that a coat of arms would have been welcome, but Australia had no coat of arms either. A number of tokens have self-designed arms. This one (sorry for the b/w pic, my scanner will apparently only work with the broken computer) shows an emu and a kangaroo. What are they? Surely, the intention was to draw them naturally. They are also symbols of Australia and if the colonists had had their way, they would have figured on the Australian CoA...

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 04, 2010, 06:29:26 PM
Yet another one, thinking of building and architecture now. This is a medieval (1235-1280) denarius struck by the city of Brussels. The side on the right shows a bridge.

The origin of the city was a shallow place in the river. Cattle could cross here, so it attracted settlers and eventually a bridge over the river Zenne was built and the place was called bridge across the Zenne: Bruoc-Sele. There is no intention to draw a bridge naturally here, not the least because the technology to do so did not yet exist. The bridge is a symbol for the city, a pun on its name.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 04, 2010, 09:14:30 PM
...This explains the wild boar and the ship...

It also explains the boar on Bermuda's modern one cent coin. Whether that coin still circulates, I don't know.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 04, 2010, 09:19:13 PM
This one shows an emu and a kangaroo. What are they? Surely, the intention was to draw them naturally. They are also symbols of Australia and if the colonists had had their way, they would have figured on the Australian CoA...

Peter

Whatever gave you that idea? Incidentally, coins bearing coats of arms with animal supporters is another of one my collection themes. I may produce a topic on that one day.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 04, 2010, 11:57:02 PM
Here's more food for thought. A medieval coin with a castle from Brussels, now (1312-1355) capital of the duchy of Brabant. You would be forgiven to think that the castle is there as a symbol of feudal power (it's got nothing to do with the Brussels or Brabant CoA), but the truth is that duke John III (the legend on the coin is Iohannvs DVX Dei Gratia BRABANTIAe - John duke by the grace of god of Brabant) had a French royal coin in mind: the denarius of Tours. However, the castle on these coins is highly stylized and the coin improves on the original by adding detail and making the picture as lifelike as could be done at the time.

To recapitulate, not a heraldic element, not a symbol, as lifelike as possible. What is it?

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 05, 2010, 12:02:04 AM
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say. But the most realistic depictions on coins don't really appear until after the invention of the camera.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 05, 2010, 12:39:05 AM
Here's one that is sure to amuse you a double duit 1679 for Surinam, the erstwhile British colony of Surreyham. They were privately produced by governor Heinsius and declared valid by governor Van Aerssen by decree of 6th April 1688, after they'd been forbidden by the Estates General (federal government) of the Republic. The parrot is not a heraldic element or a symbol. There's no obvious reason for putting a parrot on the coin. So why is it there?

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 05, 2010, 04:24:40 AM
Maybe it was the Governor's pet.

Dale
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 05, 2010, 09:40:15 AM
Here's one that is sure to amuse you a double duit 1679 for Surinam.

Peter

I don't find it amusing. Attractive, yes. Interesting that there was controversy as to whether it was a coin or a token. I have restricted myself to coins in this topic; thematic designs on tokens were much more common, and much earlier, so I couldn't really attempt an overview of that subject in a single topic.

Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 05, 2010, 10:30:12 AM
Misunderstanding. There's no doubt that it is a coin, since the document that declare it valid has been preserved and since they are usually found circulated. This is an exceptionally nice copy. The puzzling part is "why a parrot?" Dale's answer is as good as any. So here's a coin that has much in common with a modern pseudo coin (privately minted and issued, irrelevant design, the powers that be disavow it when push comes to shove) except for one important detail: it circulated.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 05, 2010, 02:07:26 PM
Makes sense to me.  If you are the Governor and put your portrait or family on it; you could be mistaken as having kingly ambitions.  So put a beloved pet on it.   Not all that likely to actually be true but a little research might turn up the truth fairly easily.
Dale



The puzzling part is "why a parrot?" Dale's answer is as good as any.
Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: andyg on August 08, 2010, 12:23:36 AM
Here's some early pictorial designs from Nurnburg,

We have a city view (1773), some personification with an olive branch (1797) and old father time (1799)
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 08, 2010, 12:28:56 AM
That panoramic city view does look rather ahead of its time.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: andyg on August 08, 2010, 12:48:36 AM
There are lots of spectacular city view thalers out there of a similar age, but I have so many things to spend my meagre amount of money on :'(
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2010, 01:05:16 AM
Those Schauthalers may be spectacular, but, as the name says, they are for looking at, not for paying with. Doesn't make them any uglier, but it's a good excuse not to collect them. That "father time" design is pretty suitable for one of Dale's new year tokens. A real discovery for me. :)

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: andyg on August 08, 2010, 01:16:01 AM
I've never found out who the female Britannia lookalike is supposed to be, Krause just says 'A woman holding an olive branch'
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2010, 02:44:44 AM
In Roman times, women with olive branches were the personification of peace...

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: chrisild on August 08, 2010, 11:34:17 AM
Minerva (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia), it seems. :) "Britannia was soon personified as a goddess, looking fairly similar to the goddess Minerva. Early portraits of the goddess depict Britannia as a beautiful young woman, wearing the helmet of a centurion, and wrapped in a white garment with her right breast exposed. She is usually shown seated on a rock, holding a spear, and with a spiked shield propped beside her." That refers to ancient Roman depictions of Britannia though, not to the "modern" one which is a little different.

By the way, the name of that place is Northern Bavaria is spelled Nürnberg in German. The "-berg" means mountain (well, a site that is significantly higher than the surrounding area) while "-burg" is a fortified castle. Ironically one of Nürnberg's landmarks is the Burg ...

Christian
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2010, 01:18:53 PM
Problem being that while Minerva is armed and helmeted, the woman on this coin is crowned and extending a branch. Early Britannias were unarmed, bare-headed and in the possession of a branch (presumably of olive). The Minervan attributes were added later.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2010, 03:41:47 PM
Would it help if I'd try to sum up the "origins of thematics" discussion? Let's find out. Please add/expand where you wish.

Ever since Pisanello (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisanello) formulated rules for medal-making, most coins had a portrait on one side (or a fancy denomination) and heraldics on the other. However, in the course of time, special occasions arose in which a de facto ruler didn't want too much prominence on coins, in order not to incur the wrath of the de jure ruler. In other cases, starting in the middle ages, areas of issue were represented by some sort of national symbol that was not a ruler's head. In at least two cases, symbols were used to avoid making a double portrait on a small coin.

In each of these cases, animals, plants, ships and architecture appeared on coins. As medallic art progressed, more complicated subjects, like a whole city skyline appeared, also on circulating coins. This movement grew out in our own times to a veritable bestiary, plant catalogue and an overview of the history of architecture and shipbuilding.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 08, 2010, 03:47:06 PM
In at least two cases, symbols were used to avoid making a double portrait on a small coin.

Excellent summary, Figleaf, but you might want to allude to the cases you had in mind.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on August 08, 2010, 03:57:05 PM
Here is a list of the themes I have created for myself in my Access coin database. Some of them overlap, and in fact some designs can be assigned to more than one theme.

The only theme name I'm dissatisfied with is Primitive (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,4018.0.html).

Can anybody suggest a better description? Perhaps it is just a subset of Native Culture.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Prosit on August 08, 2010, 04:01:28 PM
I have three themes not on that list that I collect.
Good Luck
Happy New Year
B.U.E.K.

Of course not going to find those on coins but there are a lot of them on tokens/medals

My favorite from your list would be mythology.

Dale
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on August 08, 2010, 04:43:19 PM
Excellent summary, Figleaf, but you might want to allude to the cases you had in mind.

The first case is the peacock mentioned here (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,7097.msg46478.html#msg46478). The second case I can think of is pictured below.

The unification of Spain is a complicated history starting on 19th October 1496 with the marriage of Ferdinand V of Aragon to Isabella, queen of Castilia and Léon. They brought the unification project forward with the conquest of Navarra, but couldn't finish it. Their son in law, Philip of Austria lost, rather than gained ground during his very short rule, o which no coins are known. He left a son behind and a wife, who acted strangely at times. For a number of years, Charles V of Spain reigned together with his mother, Juana la loca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_of_Castile). Charles was trying to forge Spain into one country, while his mother was plotting against him. However, Charles needed her for the legitimacy of his reign over Castilia.

Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as Charles and Johanna issued small silver reales using a remarkable symbol: a yoke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoke) for two oxen. Two strong creatures pulling a heavy load. Gottit? The bundle of arrows is of course a symbol for co-operation between the feudal Spanish entities under one king.

The coin was found in the Netherlands by our metal detectorist member Bubba. It is an exceptional quality real 1497-1516 Toledo for Ferdinand and Isabella.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: Figleaf on March 29, 2011, 04:24:52 PM
Here is yet another early coin with an animal, a gold aureus from Augustus 27-15 BC from the collection of the Geldmuseum. If I remember correctly, the statue of the bull was a war trophy.

Peter
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: <k> on March 29, 2011, 04:55:43 PM
A beautiful image, that looks surprisingly modern. Animals were commonly portrayed on the coins of the ancients, but over the centuries they gradually seemed to drop out, to be replaced by heraldry and state symbols. The collapse of the European empires as a result of the First World War gave a boost to modernity, and heraldry was more and more replaced by modern thematic designs.
Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: constanius on March 29, 2011, 07:04:58 PM
Here is yet another early coin with an animal, a gold aureus from Augustus 27-15 BC from the collection of the Geldmuseum. If I remember correctly, the statue of the bull was a war trophy.
(http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=7097.0;attach=12684;image)
Peter

Augustus 27BC-14AD

That "bull" is in fact a heifer, it is generally believed to represent a group of bronze statues cast in the fifth century B.C. After his victory at Actium, Augustus requisitioned from Athens four massive statues of cattle that had been created by the sculptor Myron. They were monumental prizes of great antiquity and Augustus used them to adorn an altar in his Temple of Apollo on the Palatine.
(http://www.timetrips.co.uk/rom-coin-augustus-bull-aure.jpg)
Here is a bull for comparision.
Ancient anecdote:  "In vain, bull, thou rushest up to this heifer, for it is lifeless.  The sculptor of cows, Myron, deceived thee"


Title: Re: The Origins of Thematics
Post by: davidrj on March 21, 2014, 11:38:27 PM
barbados 1788 Pineapple

(http://i593.photobucket.com/albums/tt14/microtome/1788.jpg) (http://s593.photobucket.com/user/microtome/media/1788.jpg.html)

Sierra Leone 1791 - lion (sadly marred by a solder splash)

(http://i593.photobucket.com/albums/tt14/microtome/Km211Penny1791.jpg) (http://s593.photobucket.com/user/microtome/media/Km211Penny1791.jpg.html)

David