Way back in 1983; across my room in the ‘Haslav* Technicum’, stayed a Danish boarder. The nest egg on his table caught my attention. The wholesome ‘piggy bank’, a conglomeration of coins in a clip-on see-through jar, became an object of motivation for me. Though I had a small collection of coins at home, I saved a few Scandinavian coins to begin with, followed by the currencies from the countries, I happened to visit. I became a casual numismatist, thus.

I admire coins for their artistic value, collect for their bullion value; and look at some as a long-term investment.

Coins throughout the ages have reflected the artistic styles; used as creative media of expression. During the ‘Classical period’ the coinage gained a high level of technical and aesthetic quality.

  • Back home, I took to numismatics; studying the physical technology and historical context of coinage and money:-
        • Numismatic gold and its value refer to collectable gold coins. The increased value is largely due to the coin’s quality, rarity, age and demand.
        • Scripophily is the hobby of collecting antique stock certificates and other historical financial instruments.
        • Hard money is a currency backed by a gold standard or precious metal.

      • Bullion coins are made from precious metals- commonly from gold and silver or platinum.
      • Seigniorage is the difference between the face value of money and the cost to produce it.
      • The knife and spade money; the knife and spade-shaped pieces of bronze were perhaps the first coinage.
      • Error coins: Any coin with a flaw. These are often extremely rare, difficult to acquire and carry a high price tag.
      • Proof coins: Specially minted for collectors. They have an immaculate design and finish made to the highest quality.
      • Brilliant Uncirculated coins: Coins with a fine mint appearance and lustre because they’ve never been in circulation.
      • Commemorative coins: Issued to mark a special event or tribute to an important person,
      • Ancient coins: Exceptional pieces of history, often handmade. Many of the first coins illustrated the images of animals, mythical gods and goddesses; no ruler had dared illustrate his portrait on coinage until the 5th century BC.
      • Billon A lower quality of silver with more copper mixed in.

    Head and tail also known as the ‘obverse’ and ‘reverse’ are the faces of a coin; besides the rim, the relief, the field and the legend. The relation of the images on the obverse and reverse of a coin is the orientation. On toss, if the probability of heads is exactly 0.5, the coin is fair.

    Tokens embossed with images of gods are mythical items to collect.

    • Metallurgy
      • Coins were strongly linked to copper, more so, the red copper alloy for its malleability, resistance to impacts, wear and corrosion. Tin, zinc and nickel lent ductility and rendered it harder with anti-fouling properties. Gold only has better corrosion resistance.
      • Bimetallic and even trimetallic coins are sometimes used for higher values and commemorative purposes.

    A ‘metallic’ smell of a coin is just body odour produced upon contact with oils in the skin.

    Circulating coins commonly suffered from “shaving” or “clipping”: the public would cut off small amounts of precious metal from their edges and then pass on the mutilated coins at full value.

    Most coins presently are made of base metal, and their value comes from their status as fiat money. Thus, these coins are monetary tokens, just like paper currency; backed up by government guarantee.

    The ‘thaler’, the monetary unit of the Germanic countries, is considered the ancestor of the United States dollar. To allow them to be strung together, some coins are manufactured with holes in them.

    Coins can be used as creative media of expression – from fine art sculpture.

    A coin’s value may depend on its condition, specific historical significance, rarity and beauty of the design. Exchange is on the Go- anywhere, anytime.

    Circulating coins rarely suffered from “shaving” or “clipping” when miscreants would cut off small amounts of precious metal from their edges and then pass on the mutilated coins at full value.

    Here I am reminded of the first farmaan (order) of a cobbler to issue leather coins after ascending the throne for one day as Baadshah (Emperor) favoured by Mughal Emperor Humayun. In the 13th century, Emperor Muhammad –Bin –Tughlaq introduced leather as a form of currency on a mass scale in India.

    Various cultures have used stones as a form of currency; even the use of salt as currency in various ancient societies is a part of history.

    In 1970 UNESCO passed a resolution that identified coins and other classes of objects more than 100 years old as cultural property.

    * Denmark

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