Author Topic: Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)  (Read 297 times)

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Offline Vincent

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Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)
« on: May 03, 2020, 11:46:24 AM »
The first Norwegian 2 kroner coin is from 1878. It carries the portrait of King Oscar II of Sweden. Norway had been in a union with Sweden since 1814, when Denmark - due to developments during the Napoleonic wars - had to hand Norway over to Sweden. Because of this, Norwegian coins were issued in the name of Swedish kings during most of the 19th century. Nevertheless, Norway had its own parliament and its own currency. The Scandinavian Monetary Union was established between Denmark and Sweden in 1873 and joined by Norway in 1875, instituting the krone unit. Norway declared independence from Sweden in 1905, and the series of Oscar II 2 kroner coins came to a halt, the last date in the series is 1904. Proof restrikes of the 1887 coin were minted in 1987.
   One funny aspect of Norwegian coinage in the Oscar II era is that there are no commemorative coins. Denmark had released commemorative 2 kroner coins in 1888, 1892 and 1903, and Sweden had released one in 1897, but Norway had released none. In this time period, all of the commemorative coins of the two other countries were celebrating royal anniversaries and events. If Norway were to issue similar coins, they would be celebrating King Oscar II of Sweden - the monarch from whom Norway was seeking to secure independence. It should not come as much of a surprise, then, that no commemorative coins were issued before the declaration of independence.
   After separation from Sweden, a grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark was selected as King of Norway, he was formally crowned in June 1906 as King Haakon VII. The first coins with his portrait on them - with the exception of patterns - are from 1908. In the mean time, three varieties of a 2 kroner coin type without portrait were issued during 1906 and 1907. These are usually considered commemorative coins, they are after all explicitly honouring Norway's newly found independence. I don't think it's unambiguous that they are commemorative coins, though. If they were unambiguously commemorative, they should logically be dated 1905, not 1906 and 1907. (Are we supposed to believe that they represent the one year anniversary and the two year anniversary of independence, respectively?) Judging from the pattern 2 kroner coins minted at the time, there was definitely a desire to commemorate Norway's independence with a coin. In accordance with this desire, the 1906 2 kroner coin was minted and released. The repetition of the 1906 type in 1907 (with slight design variations), however, should probably be seen as a temporary solution employed until the standard Haakon VII 2 kroner coin design was ready.
   There are three variants of the 2 kroner 1906-07 type: those from 1906 have large coat of arms, those from 1907 have small coat of arms, and within this latter group there's a version with two guns and a sabre in the tree. The version with guns and sabre is a presentation issue, they were presented to military personnel who had been personally deployed during the declaration of independence to secure the borders in the event of an invasion. The other 2 kroner coins of 1906-07 were regular circulation coins. The production numbers are not very high, but the production numbers for 2 kroner coins were generally low, commemorative and non-commemorative alike. This denomination must generally speaking have been uncommon in circulation, even in its own day.
   The new 2 kroner coin with the portrait of King Haakon VII was ready in 1908 and mass produced. Some catalogues also have a 1909 2 kroner coin. The rare coin from 1909 is actually a pattern coin. It seems counter intuitive that a pattern would be prepared after the design had already been released. However, the Haakon VII 2 kroner coin was ever so slightly redesigned in 1909, the adjusted design being used for the first time (other than the pattern coin) with the 2 kroner coin of 1910.
   During World War I the Scandinavian Monetary Union was still in place, and the coins of all three countries could be used in all three countries. The exchange rates of the three currencies developed differently during the war, though, and the purchasing power of the coins was higher in Sweden than in Norway and Denmark. This caused the coins to have a tendency to "flee" to Sweden. Under these circumstances it became untenable to continue minting these coins, and the last 2 kroner coin was minted in 1917.

2 kroner 1914 constitution centennial. This particular specimen has spent some time in North Dakota, apparently brought over by Norwegian immigrants. Now it's back in Scandinavia.

   The final 2 kroner type is a one year commemorative 2 kroner coin from 1914, celebrating the centennial of the Norwegian constitution, which was adopted in May 1814 as part of an abortive attempt at creating an independent Norwegian state. This event is celebrated every year on the 17th of May. The obverse has the Norwegian state emblem lodged in a forested landscape, with the dates "1814" and "1914" above. The reverse has Mother Norway gazing over a landscape. Some people think the figure on the reverse looks more like Fleksnes, a character invented and portrayed by (male) comedian Rolv Wesenlund. Note that the king (Haakon VII) is not represented on this coin, which is unusual.
   Occasionally, an X shaped discolouration can be seen on uncirculated specimens of the 1914 commemorative. This is caused by the way the coins were packaged in their own time. They would put ten coins in a wrapper (similar to a roll) and then hold the wrapper together with two rubber bands. The coins in each end of the roll would be in direct contact with the rubber bands and thus susceptible to react chemically with them, leaving the X shaped discolouration. This is true for all of the Norwegian 2 kroner coins, but is especially visible on high quality specimens of the 1914 commemorative type because of their large flat surfaces, vulnerable to this chemical reaction. In the specimen above, this phenomenon can be observed on a circulated coin, although it is only visible in the scanned image, not with the naked eye. On the obverse there's a broad, dark line from "KRO" above to "RG" belov, and from "1914" to the tree tops on the opposite side. This coin must have been exposed to the rubber bands in a roll of circulated coins.

Offline Vincent

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Re: Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2020, 12:02:34 PM »
Here's an anecdote. I bought the Norwegian 2 kroner 1914 commemorative above together with a Danish 1888 10 øre coin. They had both come from an estate in North Dakota. I sensed that they had probably originally arrived there together with a family of immigrants from either Norway or Denmark. Since the 2 kroner coin was issued in the year in which the Scandinavian Monetary Union began to disintegrate, it would be unlikely to have ever circulated in Denmark. On the other hand, the Danish 10 øre coin could have circulated far and wide within Scandinavia, including in Norway. So, the most likely explanation would be that a Norwegian immigrant had brought both coins from Norway to the United States. I asked the seller, and - low and behold - the estate in North Dakota had belonged to descendants of Norwegian immigrants. Funny how a bit of cultural history can be teased out if you put in the effort to do it!

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2020, 01:02:37 PM »
Food for thought again, Vincent. I'd like to bring in an international perspective to illuminate the question of whether the first 2 kroner coins were commemoratives or not.

My take is that modern commemoratives (as opposed to Schauthalers and mining thalers) were not invented as much as they were coming about in the process of German unification.  When Germany unified, the coin arrangement of 1871 was that the minor coins (1 pfennig to 1 Mark) would be struck nationally, while the states would mint the larger denominations (2 mark to 20 mark), provided that their specifications were set on a national level.

In practice, the states issued not just current coins, but also commemoratives on royal events, still adhering to national technical specifications. The first world war interrupted the commemorative issues, but they returned on a national level afterwards. It is likely that surrounding countries took these as examples for their own commemorative issues.

Now consider the Dutch 2½ gulden 1898, a one year type dated in the year of the coronation of queen Wilhelmina when there was little demand for the denomination. Advanced collectors consider it a commemorative (I agree), but it fits well into the series of minor coins issued later. Its intention was probably a first, hesitant step into the world of commemoratives, but the design was so ambiguous that its status is not clear.

With that background in mind, I wouldn't hesitate calling the 1906 and 1907 coins commemoratives. The dates don't bother me much. At this time, the "rules" for issuing commemoratives were not yet firmly set. Maybe the coronation got things moving or maybe preparing the dies took longer than expected or maybe the coins were so readily accepted that a follow-up emission as a circulating coin seemed logical. Some more research may clarify the issue and that also brings out that the decision of whether they were commemoratives or not was taken - perhaps even unconsciously - in the brains of people long dead. Without written evidence, we can only guess.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2020, 06:30:43 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Vincent

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Re: Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2020, 04:33:18 PM »
It is true that the modern concept of a commemorative coin developed gradually. The Swedish central bank has published a nice little booklet in 2005 cataloguing all Swedish commemorative coins and notes up until that point in time: Mynt till ära och minne – Svenska jubileums- och minnesmynt. They, too, are having problems figuring out what belongs in the category. They consider a coin from 1721 to be the first commemorative coin, but they also mention coins from 1695 (commemorating the discovery of gold), 1706 (commemorating the manufacture (!) of gold) and 1727 (unknown occasion). The early commemoratives (until 1821) are discussed and catalogued on p. 7-16. Then there's a gap from 1821 to 1897.

I assume that German commemoratives were a source of inspiration for the modern commemorative coins of Denmark, although thaler-sized coins were issued in association with royal ascension in 1848 and 1863. The introduction of 2 kroner commemoratives in Denmark in 1888 presumably influenced (through the Scandinavian Monetary Union) Sweden's decision to issue a similar coin in 1897, and Norway's decision to issue one in 1906.

I was initially wondering if the independece commemorative was devised as a regular annual type, since it's not a one year type. I since became aware that there are two different commemorative designs from 1906, the other one being an unadopted pattern. The latter carries the dates 872, 1814 and 1905, pointing to three separete foundations of Norwegian nationhood. These designs (both of them) are definitely commemorative in nature.

It is definitely true that a definitive answer is sometimes elusive - either because it would require archival research to get to it, because we can't get access to relevant archives, or because the intentions in the decision making process may not have been crystal clear, even at the time when those decisions were made.

Offline eurocoin

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Re: Norway: On the evolution of the 2 kroner coin (1878-1917)
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2020, 02:51:41 PM »
   Occasionally, an X shaped discolouration can be seen on uncirculated specimens of the 1914 commemorative. This is caused by the way the coins were packaged in their own time. They would put ten coins in a wrapper (similar to a roll) and then hold the wrapper together with two rubber bands. The coins in each end of the roll would be in direct contact with the rubber bands and thus susceptible to react chemically with them, leaving the X shaped discolouration. This is true for all of the Norwegian 2 kroner coins, but is especially visible on high quality specimens of the 1914 commemorative type because of their large flat surfaces, vulnerable to this chemical reaction. In the specimen above, this phenomenon can be observed on a circulated coin, although it is only visible in the scanned image, not with the naked eye. On the obverse there's a broad, dark line from "KRO" above to "RG" belov, and from "1914" to the tree tops on the opposite side. This coin must have been exposed to the rubber bands in a roll of circulated coins.

I had not seen this topic before. Today I came across a post about this on Facebook, referencing a Russian coins forum where there was being suggested that the cross was a security feature. That seemed odd to me, so I am glad to find a more convincing explanation for it on here. It is an interesting occurrence.