Author Topic: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?  (Read 3512 times)

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Offline <k>

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Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« on: December 01, 2011, 11:55:02 AM »
In the UK, circulating commemoratives have become very common since the late 1990s, but they were something that didn't exist when I was a child, using the pre-decimal system. Of course, commemorative crowns in the UK have a long enough history, but they were not meant for circulation and very rarely seen.

Looking at villa66's recent post of his US commemorative coin of 1892, I wonder how far back commemorative coins go, both circulating and NCLT? I ask this as an open question, because my own numismatic knowledge does not go back far enough.

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akona20

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 12:21:59 PM »
City Commemoratives from the Roman empire celebrating the move of the capital from Rome to Constantinople 330-341.

Online Figleaf

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 01:04:20 PM »
Classical Greek commemoratives of the Olympic Games. Sassanide coronation commemoratives. German 17th and 18th century Schauthalers and "Bergwerk" coins. Many pieces now considered obsidional were produced after the siege as souvenirs. The "visit to the Mint" pieces could be considered commemoratives (some circulated), but I tend to look at them as medals.

I would consider the British SSC, Northumberland and Dorien and Magens shillings commemoratives. Not sure about post-1816 maundy, but they might be a candidate also.

Looking over the above, I realise that pseudo coins (Schauthalers, faux-obsidionals, visit to the Mint, Dorien and Magens) were not invented yesterday either...

Peter
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Offline <k>

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2011, 01:07:09 PM »
Many pieces now considered obsidional were produced after the siege as souvenirs.

Peter

obsidional: Of or pertaining to a siege. I had to look that one up!
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Online Figleaf

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2011, 01:17:46 PM »
Here is an example of a commemorative from 400BC, a silver stater of Elis. The picture and description comes from Heritage World Coin Auctions, Long Beach Signature Sale 3015.

Olympia, located in the precinct of Elis in the western Peloponnesus, was less of a city than a religious sanctuary dedicated to Zeus where the all-important Olympic Games were held. The games commenced in 776 BC and continued uninterrupted at four-year intervals until AD 394, when they were abolished by the Emperor Theodosius as being too 'pagan' in spirit. From about 600 BC, the site of Olympia was embellished with temples, shrines, treasuries and athletic stadiums financed by the cities of Greece and individual Greek leaders.

Between games, the site was maintained by a skeleton crew of priests and acolytes, but during the games huge crowds, numbering up to 50,000 spectators, converged on Olympia to witness the contests and cheer on their local champions.

Starting about 470 BC, Olympic coins were struck during the games to provide attendees with currency for the local markets, and to provide income for the shrine (a small fee was charged for changing other civic coinages into Olympic coin). Each coin type thus became a keepsake of the games in which they were issued, much as modern commemorative currency is tied to specific events.

After 420 BC, two mints were active -- a "Zeus" mint striking coins with images of Zeus and his avatar, the eagle, and a "Hera" mint striking coins with imagery of, and associated with, his wife. This piece, struck by the Hera mint, portrays the goddess wearing her distinctive decorated headdress. It was issued for the 95th Olympiad, in 400 BC.
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2011, 01:20:38 PM »
And I suppose that in those days, if a coin didn't circulate, then there really was no point in making it - unless Roman emperors or other ancients kept collections in which coins were struck for them alone?
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Online Figleaf

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2011, 01:29:02 PM »
On the contrary. In those days, coins were not just medium of exchange, but also store of value. Rich people would hoard treasures, brides would keep some coins "just in case", sometimes as clothes decoration, diplomats would offer gold coins to chieftains they had made an alliance with. The chiefs might just wear them as amulets. Gold coins were also given to military and civil leaders as rewards. It has been suggested that all early Roman gold coins were not for circulation.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline villa66

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2011, 02:54:25 PM »
On the contrary. In those days, coins were not just medium of exchange, but also store of value. Rich people would hoard treasures, brides would keep some coins "just in case", sometimes as clothes decoration....
I find this function alive and well even in our own century...people keeping gold and silver (or what they think are valuable) coins for a rainy day. It's one reason, I think, for giving collector coins and bullion coins more respect--as coins--than they often get.

 :) v.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2011, 03:23:18 PM »
That "respect" issue has a lot to do with the fact that many collector coins cost much more than the nominal value and the intrinsic value. Collector and bullion issues that do not command such high premiums will usually get a better press ;) and will also be preferred by those who think they should put precious metal aside for rougher times.

One thing we should also keep in mind, when talking about the history of commemoratives, is that in former times such "special" pieces would often be medals (celebrating a nobility wedding, a military victory, or whatever) instead of coins. But a medal that contains, say, 30 grams of silver may well be as good as a 30 g silver coin ...

Christian

Offline villa66

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2011, 04:29:20 PM »
That "respect" issue has a lot to do with the fact that many collector coins cost much more than the nominal value and the intrinsic value....
I think that goes to the quality of the bargain, but not to whether they function as a store of value.

The coin with which coffeetime began this thread, the Columbian half dollar, was sold at double its nominal value, and more than double its intrinsic value. It also was sold at amazingly high prices, depending upon the chronology of its strike. But then it was also put into circulation at face value.

Can we really say that particular Columbian halves vary in virtue (not interest, not price, but virtue) depending on how they descend to us?

 :) v.

Offline villa66

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Re: Earliest numismatic commemoratives?
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2011, 04:34:24 PM »
...It's also interesting to see the denominations they favoured. Australia, for instance, issued quite a few commemorative florins....
For the first half century or so after the formation of the SMU, the 2-kronor denomination was the Swedish favorite.

 :) v.