Author Topic: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?  (Read 566 times)

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Offline mti

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Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« on: November 08, 2020, 07:46:21 PM »
Hello everyone: I have this exact coin:  https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces131763.html... In the listing it says it is made of Billon... however, the one I have is magnetic... it has all the other attributes exactly as in the Numista database... Weight, diameter, image - all match... so my question one: Is this normal for this type of coin to be magnetic...? did they mix silver with some magnetic alloy back in the times...?!!? and the second question is: does anybody else own this coin and is it also magnetic...?!?! and the third question: is the one I have - a fake...!?!? Thank your in advance for you help... =))

Online Figleaf

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2020, 11:04:34 PM »
Billon is a hopelessly imprecise word. It can mean anything from withdrawn coins and unminted silver via low grade silver to alloys that look somewhat like silver but do not actually contain silver. In this particular case, it is most likely to mean low grade silver, itself still pretty imprecise, but often meant to mean less than 30% silver, though it may possibly be less than 10% silver.

In any case, this coin probably contains a relatively large quantity of metal other than silver, probably more than one metal. If any of these other metals is magnetic, yes, the coin will be anywhere from weak to strongly magnetic, even though silver is not magnetic.

Personally, I try to avoid the word billon, except in diatribes like this ;)

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

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2020, 07:32:00 AM »
For me, billon is an alloy of silver (or much more rarely, gold) with copper/bronze, in which the precious metal content is low. If the coin is magnetic, then it's not billon in my book, however much silver it's got in it.

The imprecision of the term billon lies in the fact that the point at which coins stop being "0.xxx silver" and start being "billon" is very dependent on all sorts of things other than the actual fineness of the silver. Those big Mexican 1 peso coins from the 1960s are listed in KM as being "0.100 silver" (IIRC) but there are plenty of coins from the German and Italian states, and pre-Union Scotland, just described as billon. As far as I can see, the collective decision of the coin-collecting world to define a given issue as "billon" is down mostly to (a) convention (the turners and bawbees of the 17th century have always been called "billon" as far as I can tell), (b) lack of knowledge of what the proportions actually are or should be, and (c) related to (b), a lack of interest on the part of the original coiners in exactly how much silver was involved, because whatever it was, it was only a token amount and nowhere near the intrinsic quantity required to match the face value.

Conversely, where there is supposed to be a link between content and face value, the coins are generally termed "silver", even if the proportion of silver is very low. Some of the most debased products of Henry VIII's mismanagement probably had less silver than some Scottish small change or minor coins of the German states, but, debased though they were, they still had a precise amount of silver in them and are therefore referred to as "0.xxx silver".

In that context, I don't see that "billon" is any more imprecise than "cupro-nickel". In both cases they're mostly copper with "some" silver or nickel, where "some" varies and is rarely important for identification.

Online Figleaf

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2020, 02:03:30 PM »
It's a subject I researched in the past. After 1672, there was a great recoinage in the Netherlands. Regulations spoke about coins received as billon (ontvangen voor biljoen). The VOC thought of its silver supplies as billon. Coins without any silver (e.g. "German silver"), including the first decimal series of Switzerland) may be described in catalogues and auction lists as billon. Low grade silver is just another option and "low grade is not quantified.

Even as you take low grade silver as the only option, it is heart-breakingly imprecise, if only because it would turn many, if not most 90% gold coins into billon. Moreover, you don't need to word, as good descriptions are available.

And even if you don't accept any of the above, you accept by implication that low grade silver coins contain other metals. Surely, you don't want to suggest that magnetic metals cannot be used in low grade silver coins?

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

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2020, 03:13:20 PM »
"Low-grade silver" is a fine description for all of the coins I mentioned as being conventionally referred to as billon - it's a fair description of what they are, with the emphasis on the silver content (or lack thereof). "Billon" happens to overlap directly with "low-grade silver" in all the examples I mentioned, but that is not a given, because "billon" is a specific subset of low-grade silver, namely an alloy where the part that isn't silver is copper or bronze.

I don't see that "billon" is any more or less imprecise than "low-grade silver". Neither defines the silver content, for reasons I suspect are related to what I wrote in my last post. If you prefer the definition of billon as being an alloy of low-grade silver with any base metal, then the two terms are precisely equivalent. If you prefer the more restrictive definition of billon, then billon is actually more specific than low-grade silver, since it is specifically low-grade silver mixed with copper, and not iron, tin or anything else.

Quote
Even as you take low grade silver as the only option, it is heart-breakingly imprecise, if only because it would turn many, if not most 90% gold coins into billon.

Either way, this is not the case, because billon is a low-grade alloy of precious metal with a lot of *base* metal. 90% Au and 10% Cu is not "low grade", while the silver in 10% Ag and 90% Au is not alloyed with base metal, and so is not billon.

Billon is basically no more or less useful a description than electrum, the mixture of silver and gold that many of the earliest coins were made of.

Offline Henk

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2020, 05:53:07 PM »
After 1672, there was a great recoinage in the Netherlands. Regulations spoke about coins received as billon (ontvangen voor biljoen).
Peter

The Dutch word "biljoen", related to a coin can mean one of two things. One is a coin with a low silver contect, typically 50% or less. The English word for this is "billon". The other is a coin with its worth determined only by the noble metal it contains instead of its nominal (legal) value. The noble metal can be either gold or silver. The English word is "bullion". The worth of the metal content can either be higher (which happens in the case of inflation) or lower (in case of clipped or worn coins) than the nominal value.

When the idea was that a coin should contain (nearly) its full value in silver (or gold) small denomination coins were made with a small percentage of silver because otherwise they would become to small to handle. For the lowest values this could mean a silver content of less then 10%. In practice such coins did contain less silver then they should because of the cost of minting and the cost of the copper. Such coins were of course not accepted for their silver content but only for their nominal value and they were certainly not suitable for international trade. Around 1500 the silver came to be left out in the smallest coins and these were made of copper or copper alloys.


Offline Henk

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2020, 07:17:17 PM »
the one I have is magnetic...

It is well know that several Bactrian, Ptolomeic, Roman and medieval Indian coins are slightly attracted by a magnet although one would not expec this as these coins are made of copper. The reason is they contain small amounts of iron, nickel or cobalt as impurities, which substnces are strongly attracted by magnets. A discussion about this can be found here: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=49787.0;all

this phenomenon does not indicate that the coin is a fake although fakes made of iron or nickel would of course be attracted to a magnet!

Online Figleaf

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2020, 07:36:40 PM »
That's a good example of the dramatically imprecise nature of the word billon. The word came about in the 17th century and originally meant "unminted silver", whether in the form of withdrawn coins of varying silver content or in the form of very high silver content metal bars. There was no need for a word for low grade silver, because a term already existed. High grade silver coins were called white money, low grade silver coins were black money. These terms are still in use, e.g. in Duplessy's catalogue of French coins. Also, the word was not needed to distinguish coins counted by weight (e.g. foreign, withdrawn, banned coins) and coins counted by tally (approved, current coins), as this sentence proves. Bullion is a term that can be used for gold also, but it is not used for withdrawn coins. The confusion only increases.

In time, billon came to mean all kinds of different things, including alloys looking like silver, but containing no silver like "German silver" which is why I maintain that billon can be used for a silver content of over 90% to a silver content of 0%. There is no quantitative measure that separates silver from billon. However, any person in the 17th century could distinguish black money from white money by looking at a worn coin.

And, now that you have conceded that the dominating metal can be anything except gold, I repeat my contention that a coin called billon can very well contain magnetic metal.

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

Offline mti

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2020, 08:06:39 PM »
Thank you gentlemen for your informative answers...  I learned a lot, but still would like to find similar coins (as mine) and see if they are also magnetic...  The discussion posted by Henk gave me an idea that it is a possibility with Indian ancients...  and other ancient coins... very fascinating subject I must say...  My coin is dated AH851/1447AD, which is a different date from the one listed in the Numista database: https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces131763.html...  so my thinking is that to forge such a coin is a great trouble to go through... especially with the different dates and overall details of the coin...  therefore in my opinion it is real and a rare one, too...  I will try to research this coin a little further and will post my findings here (hopefully soon...)  Thank you again... =))

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2020, 10:16:55 PM »
And, now that you have conceded that the dominating metal can be anything except gold, I repeat my contention that a coin called billon can very well contain magnetic metal.

I originally said "For me, billon is an alloy of silver (or much more rarely, gold) with copper/bronze, in which the precious metal content is low. If the coin is magnetic, then it's not billon in my book, however much silver it's got in it."

It's not a question of "conceding" or scoring points. In my experience of modern English, inasmuch as billon is used at all, it is used to describe low-grade silver coins in contexts where it's useful to distinguish these from (pure-ish) copper, and because in the European context the rest of such coins tends to be copper rather than, say, iron, it implies a coin that is mostly copper with a bit of silver. Hence my comment. If the non-silver part is often something other than copper in other places, fine. I was, as said, simply explaining my experience.

I would, however, in any discussion of the meaning of words be wary of using other languages (Dutch in this case) or centuries-old citations as fundamental planks in your reasoning. Words "mean" what they are taken to mean now, when used by speakers/writers now. "Decimate" means something different from the Latin verb it is descended from. "Actually" and "eventually" mean something different in English from any other language I've encountered cognate words in. And so on.

Offline andyg

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Re: Is magnetic billon normal...?!!?
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2020, 10:22:03 PM »
Coins without any silver (e.g. "German silver"), including the first decimal series of Switzerland) may be described in catalogues and auction lists as billon.

It is my understanding that the small Swiss coins from the 1850's were 10% silver....  ie. Billon. :)
always willing to trade modern UK coins for modern coins from elsewhere....