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National coinages: design structure from the 20th century onwards

Started by <k>, August 19, 2021, 02:16:19 AM

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Figleaf

5-ore-1913.jpg


I would argue that in the barnyard series, apart from the hen, the hare the hound and the horse are also art déco.

Attached is an archetypical art nouveau coin design.

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

<k>

For me, the bull looks the only other art deco design in the Irish series.

OK, the horse has a rather straight tail, but that's all.


The hound is supposed to be an Irish wolfhound, but the design does not show its long hair.

Therefore the design just looks like a generic dog rather than an art deco dog.
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<k>

Quote from: Figleaf on August 19, 2021, 06:23:28 PM
Attached is an archetypical art nouveau coin design.

I had imagined that was just some traditional Scandinavian motif. Many of the old French designs look distinctly art nouveau.
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chrisild

Quote from: <k> on August 19, 2021, 06:40:34 PM
I had imagined that was just some traditional Scandinavian motif.

Not sure but I think so too. Those Norse or Nordic scroll elements are still in use these days - on the Danish 10 kr and 20 kr circulation coins.

<k>

After World War I, more coinages were issued, because there were some newly independent countries in Europe: Austria, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland. Then the UK began providing more of its colonies with their own coinage, rather than just sending them so called homeland coinage (British coinage). Southern Rhodesia received its own coinage beginning in 1932 - the silver coins first, followed by the copper-nickel penny and halfpenny in 1934. There was no farthing.

The Southern Rhodesian coinage followed a design pattern seen in other countries. The lowest denominations (penny and halfpenny) were given a rather plain reverse design that they shared, rather than having separate thematic designs. Also, they did not share a common obverse (in this case the monarch's portrait) with the higher denominations but had their own rather plain shared obverse design. Meanwhile, although the higher denominations were given attractive and reasonably realistic thematic designs, the highest denomination carried the national coat of arms on its reverse. So there was still often one heraldic remnant in the set, unlike in the 19th century, when several denominations - or sometimes all - would have carried heraldic designs.


Southern Rhodesia ½d. 1d.jpg





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<k>

UK two farthings.jpg

UK. Two different farthing designs.


UK halfpenny 1935, 1937.jpg

UK. Two different halfpenny designs.


Meanwhile, the UK still had an old-fashioned design series in the first half of the 1930s. The farthing, halfpenny and penny shared the same Britannia design. The remaining coins showed traditional stylised floral national emblems and heraldic lions on their reverse.

In January 1936, King Edward VIII ascended the throne. One of his ambitions was to modernise the coinage. The Royal Mint then had the problem of defining 'modern' and what it meant in practical terms. Some rather unsuitable designs were viewed, until eventually the King and the Royal Mint backed away from the radical idea of creating a modern and totally new design series.

Instead, new designs were restricted to the farthing (a wren), halfpenny (the Golden Hind ship)and the threepence (a stylised thrift plant). Previously the farthing, halfpenny and penny shared the same Britannia design, so at least the new series - not issued until after Edward abdicated - now had the novelty of having a different design on each reverse. Meanwhile, Britannia remained on the penny, to satisfy the traditionalists. Even so, the mixture of different styles - traditional and modern - did not give the new series a particularly coherent look.


See also:

1] King Edward VIII: His Place in Numismatics.

2] King Edward VIII: the unadopted coin designs of Edmund Dulac.

3] Humphrey Paget's unadopted sixpence design.

4] UK Royal Animals: Rejected Designs of 1936.
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<k>



New Zealand, a Dominion within the British Empire, adopted a fully thematic set in 1933, apart from the heraldic half crown.

However, it didn't finish off its set until 1939, when the half penny and penny were added.
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<k>




Exotic little Mauritius did not get a full coinage until 1934. This same design series was used into the 1970s. Given the precedents, you would imagine that the island would have been given an attractive thematic set with all different reverse designs, including some showing exotic plants or animals. Not so. It was given a set with a single thematic design, the deer on the half rupee. Since it is the only realistic pictorial design of the set, it looks like the "odd-man-out". The two heraldic (quarter rupee and 1 rupee) coins are separated by it, so again this looks wrong: those two coins should follow one another in sequence, just as the British heraldic florin and half crown did. Presumably the artist wanted to place the deer on a larger coin and considered the quarter rupee too small. In that case, he should have placed designs of animals on both the quarter rupee and the 10 cents coin. The deer could then happily have stayed on the half rupee coin.

Apparently the Royal Mint at that time did not like to use the same animal or plant on the coins of more than one of its colonies. Otherwise, Mauritius might have got a turtle, for instance, but one had already appeared on a Fijian sixpence. As a result, the set has four very plain reverse designs. Design-wise, it does not cohere.

The design structure of this set is indeed very strange. To my knowledge, the only other similar set with a single thematic coin is the Estonia set with the Viking ship on the kroon.

Can you think of any others?


See also:

1] Circulation sets with poorly unified design.

2] Mauritius: 1970s proposal for new circulation coin designs.

3] Unrealised Mauritius set by David Cornell.
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<k>

I sometimes lazily think that the Irish barnyard set was THE set that influenced the drive towards thematic sets where all or most of the designs were different.

Certainly that set was highly influential, but it was not issued until 1928, and we have seen that there were already trends in that direction in the early 1920s and sometimes earlier.




South Africa, 1923 onward. Not all the designs of the set were so vivid, though.





Lithuania, 1925.  Admittedly, not all the coins are shown here, as some of them shared the same design.

Sadly, its design series of the late 1930s regressed to more old-fashioned design concepts for the lower denominations.
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Figleaf

Very much agreed. Change is not like flipping a switch. It's trial and error, a process that starts with "what's a republic to do with the place where a head would have been?" - which is where Vitautas comes in and leads to "those plants on the coin are looking good - they represent our values. You sense an openness to more change.

Now look at the ship on the South African coin. It also presents itself as a republic, but unlike the Golden Hind on UK halfpennies, the ship is not innovation. It is the Drommedaris. The shilling on its side refers obliquely to another ship in the same fleet: Goede Hoope (Good Hope). Its message is "White men were here first and they founded the country". That half-truth underpinned a whole racist system. And yet, there are those - art déco influenced - birds and they are AFAIK neutral. A reference to the British wren?

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

<k>

Quote from: Figleaf on August 20, 2021, 07:36:57 AM
And yet, there are those - art déco influenced - birds and they are AFAIK neutral. A reference to the British wren?

Peter

The Afrikaners were mostly a devoutly Christian people, and the two sparrows were chosen as the design for the reverse of the quarter penny or farthing:

Matthew 10: 29-31. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So be not afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

The sparrows have appeared on every South African coinage since 1923. The UK wren farthing, however, was not issued until 1937. So the UK may have been influenced by South Africa. However, the wren came from a suggested set by artist Harold Wilson Parker, known as the Royal Animals set, so maybe he wasn't thinking of South Africa at the time.
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<k>

Once these new countries found numismatic themes that they were happy with, they tended to reuse them across the years. This concept of "design continuity", as I call it, is one that interests me greatly. The sable antelope on the Southern Rhodesian 2 shillings later moved to the shilling of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, then onto the 25 cents coin of 1960s Rhodesia. Amazingly, these three coins, of three different denominations, co-circulated in 1960s Rhodesia but did not confuse anybody.

See: Rhodesia: design continuity.
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Figleaf

This point has two angles not typical for the 20th century, but for humanity throughout the ages.

The first is that coins are typically either in search of acceptance or legitimising. When a coin is in search of acceptance, it will look like an older coin the target group is familiar with. A wonderful example are the multiple drachmas of Alexander the Great. They show Alex as a red-cheeked youngster with horns and a curly hairdo. The design was still in use centuries later. There are many more examples, from bull-and-horseman jitals to Florentine ducats. Sometimes, the reason was a weak issuer, wanting to ride piggy on the back of a well-known coin. Sometimes, the objective of the design was to send the message "this is a coin", like the ancient punched coins of India. Sometimes the reason was holding on to external markets, like the Spanish colonial peso and sometimes it was just rabid conservatism.

A coin that is legitimising loves the renaissance rules: portrait, titles, heraldics. All three are legitimising. Many Islamic coins have a "religious" and a "secular" side, which has the same function as DEI GRATIA as a prefix for titles: showing religious approval of the issuer. These coins are issued by self-assured rulers. Republics may replace the heads by national symbols (e.g. Marianne), the titles with values (e.g. In God We Trust) and the heraldics with symbols for agriculture (political right), industry (political left) or flora and fauna (undecided or neutral). Of course all the above is stereotyping. Mix and match occurs.

The second angle is why people accept a coin. Research shows that the design of a well-known coin is no longer "seen". Recipients go by shape and weight, not design. This is why on decimalisation, the UK shilling and florin were re-designed, but kept their size and weight. You can juggle designs around on different denominations, as in Rhodesia, because the pattern is familiar enough and it's size and weight that count.

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

<k>

Quote from: Figleaf on August 20, 2021, 04:16:28 PM
The second angle is why people accept a coin. Research shows that the design of a well-known coin is no longer "seen". Recipients go by shape and weight, not design. This is why on decimalisation, the UK shilling and florin were re-designed, but kept their size and weight. You can juggle designs around on different denominations, as in Rhodesia, because the pattern is familiar enough and it's size and weight that count.

Unfortunately the Irish authorities did not understand that, when planning the transition to a decimal coinage, so they introduced new designs for the low denominations: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series.

But the Gambians did understand that point, so they put all their old designs on their new decimal coins: Gambia's predecimal to decimal design transition.
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<k>

Australian bronze.jpg

Australian silver.jpg

When New Zealand issued its first national coinage in the first half of the 1930s, Australia's coinage still looked like this.

Rather plain. The bronze coins shared one design (almost, with the slightest of differences), while the silver coins shared the coat of arms.

In fact, the coat of arms on those coins was already outdated.

See: Predecimal coinage of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Visit the website of The Royal Mint Museum.

See: The Royal Mint Museum.