Ian Fenn's Blog

25 Feb 2017

Obverse or reverse: how would you call it?

| Ian Fenn

Some years ago I recall an on line discussion over how to identify a coin obverse and reverse. I was a very new collector and was stunned at how heated the discussion became. I always assumed the head side was the obverse and tails side was the reverse. That appears to work for the majority of coins but in some cases its not so clear. IN the end that internet discussion wound its way to an untidy end but from my lurking I learned from it that the side bearing the the details of the issuing authority is the obverse. I have stuck with that approach since then. However I now have an interesting puzzle ( For background to the coin refer to my 25 November 2016 blog). This Zwolle mint Luigino clearly has a head and tails but I believe that in this case the heads side of the coin is actually the reverse. The coin was produced for trade by the Zwolle mint( Netherlands) and was a privately commissioned issue. In this case the the heads side bears the the likeness of the French King Louis XIV ( to make it similar to the French coin it was imitating) while the tails side bears the arms and legend of the Zwolle mint. In the two catalogs that include the coin ( one French/Italian, the other Dutch) the heads side is designated as obverse. I believe to be technically correct the tails side should be referred to as the obverse. I would note That in casual discussion of the coin I would have no issue with any one referring to the heads side as obverse, but I believe to be numismatically accurate the tails side is the one that should be called the obverse. What do you think? Edit: in the dutch catalog Zwolle mint duits of 1636-1639 & 1663 are listed with the side that is similar to the tails side of this coin as "Obverse"

16 Jan 2017

Book Review; Medieval European Coinage Vol 12 Italy(I) (northern Italy.

Medieval Coins | Ian Fenn


25 Nov 2016

1664 Zwolle half shilling/5 Sols/Luigino

Coins-World | Ian Fenn

At least 3 years ago, probably closer to five I developed an interest in a,mostly, forgotten series of coins that are often referred to outside of the USA as Luigino. "Luigino" is an Italian diminutive for the French 5 sols piece. The coin in the mid 17th century became popular for trade with the Ottoman Levant, and was imitated by a number of different producers in Europe. The series is cataloged in a French/Italian language reference by Maurice Cammerano "Corpus Luiginorum". With this series of coins, like many others the successful variants are easy to find and cheaply purchased. The failures of course are rare and , in relative terms expensive. One very rare example ( and likely a failure) is from the Netherlands. Cammarano lists Zwolle mint in the Netherlands as producing a Luigino in 1662. A Dutch language reference D Purma "Handboek van de Nederlandse Provinciale Muntslag 1573 -1806, Deel II" lists two striking dates for the same coin (described as a halve Schelling) 1662 and 1664. I obtained an aF examp[le of the 1662 strike for around US$800.00 a few years back and have kept my eye out for a 1664 strike ever since. In communications with other collectors I was told that Cammarano, didn't believe the 1664 existed. It was stated to me that his research had not identified any sales of a 1664 date. I likewise started researching auction records and also found no records of a sale of the 1664 coin. Discussing it with a fellow ANA member at a summer seminar a couple of years ago the suggestion was made, to me, that perhaps the 1664 strike was just a re-striking of the 1662. It was an attractive idea as it explained the absence of sale records for 1664 while not casting doubt on Purma's research. A few weeks ago all that changed. Heritage Auctions ( Europe) put their latest auction on line and in that auction was a rough example of the 1664 strike. Of course I had to bid and, unsure as to whether I would be able to bid live, I submitted an absentee bid online well in advance. It was clear before the Auction that there was only one other collector who was interested in the coin. Before the online bidding closed and the live auction began the other bidder and I took the coins pre-bids up to €1200.00. I was able to log on and participate, unnecessarily, in the live auction. I, with no further bidding, became the owner of the first confirmed 21st century sale of the 1664 strike. I say 21st century because Heritage auctions, as is now common in European coin sales listed the coins provenance. The coin had resided in a collection since it was last sold in April 1975 ( Schulman's Amsterdam). I am now hunting that 1975 Auction Catalog, I suspect I missed finding the coin in Auction records because I failed to search under the Dutch designation of "halve schelling". All up with postage and BP I paid US$1600.00 for a coin that for me had taken on a mythological status. With only two interested bidders the coin might not appreciate further in value and perhaps might depreciate over time... For me the important thing is I finally have proof the coin exists, and have the pleasure of it residing in my collection. The coin is about the same size as a nickel.Edit(11/29/2016): An update. Cammarano states the Reverse of the coin bears St George and the Dragon. I had never questioned that attribution. I posted the find on a Closed face book group for the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand and a member of that group took one look at the reverse and asked if it were St Michael ( the archangel) I responded stating I thought it was St Gerorge but that person then posted pictures of medals and coins that bore St Michael and the visual evidence was hard( I would say impossible) to deny. I then scanned through Purma's book looking at Zwolle mint coins from the same period. A number of coins had St Michael, as attributed by Purma, in the Coat of Arms for , I assume, Zwolle on them. Of course now it seems obvious: St George is never portrayed with wings, so it is clear that the reverse bears the image of St Michael attacking Satan. If you look at the "dragon" you can see it has arms and legs as well as serpent features. I had been so focused on the story behind the coin that I had omitted to look at the story on the coin.

17 Mar 2016

Sold out before the day of Issue: Austria €25.00 bimetal coin

| Ian Fenn

I gave up collecting NCLT (Non Circulating Legal Tender) a number of years ago. There was one series I just couldn't give up on though. The Austrian €25.00 bi-metalic coin. It has a center pill of niobium and a silver ring. The Nobium centre is anodized to produce different colors( the coins are not "painted the colors you see in the center are the metal its self. The series started in 2003 and was planned to last only 9 years. This years coin makes it 14 and counting. This year like last year they were able to anodize the cetre of the coin so that it is bicolored. As usual even though the mintage is 65000 it sold out with pre-orders. On issue day if you had not ordered one and wanted one you would find you need to pay €40.00 more than the €69.00 issue price to a dealer. The Theme of the coin this year is Zeit (Time)

27 Feb 2016

Encapsulation New Zealand style

Coins-World | Ian Fenn

In 2004, when the coin this blog is focused on was issued, I was regularly buying NCLT from New Zealand( New Zealand post). When I saw this coin and its method of encapsulation I had to have it.The coin is a 40 gram silver dollar sized gold piece of 22 Kt gold. It is in a traditional Maori treasure box called a Wakahuia. When I received the advertisement for the coin I jumped at the chance to own such an unusual type of NCLT. I submitted my order with credit card details and waited and waited. What I and many other weren't aware of was NZ post had underestimated demand for the 300 coins( for an expensive NZ$1500 in 2004) on the official issue date they had had only had 150 struck and the wooden boxes were taking longer than anticipated. It took them nearly 4 further months to fulfill my order. The delay was such that I was almost going to cancel my order for the coin when I received the latest NZ catalog. That catalog had the coin valued at NZ$500.00 more than the issue price. Behind the production was negotiations with the Ngati Whakaue sub tribe to whom Pukaki, the person the carving represents, was a venerated ancestor. There is much more behind the story; but with indigenous peoples rights and the chance of offending through my ignorance I will not venture here to tell the full story as I understand it. What I can report is that 30 of the 300 coins were given to the tribe and a further 75(or so), unlikely to ever come to market again, were also purchased by tribe members. This of course means the coin will remain a rarity. It is certainly one I treasure. I prefer this form of encapsulation but I don't see PCGS or NGC adopting the method.

23 Dec 2015

Photographing slabbed coins

Exonumia | Ian Fenn

Longstrider in a recent post commented about photographing Encapsulated coins( at least thats what I assume he was asking). Personally I find photographing coins in plastic prisons extremely hard to do. About 6 weeks ago I found a solution that matches my techniques. It may not suit other people so it would be great to have suggestions from others. I use lenses at the largest possible aperture, this is different to the way many others photograph coins. The technique works for me because I have a large megapixel camera. With some of my lenses I find that if I use an F stop number higher than 8 the images I take suffer from diffraction blurring. With the F stops I use I am working with very shallow depths of field some times only a slice of a few microns is in focus. I understand that one sucessful technique of photographing slabbed coins is to tilt the slab slightly. I would imagine that would work very well with a deep depth of field ( using an F stop of 12 or smaller). With my technique tilting the slab would see most of the coin out of focus. My serendipitous solution arose because I was trying to make a portable light source. I have used ring lights in the past but I have found them limiting as the light source is just too close to vertical. I fitted the lens mount section from an un-serviceable ring light to a polypropylene board of 9.5 inches by 8 inches. I then attached a cold white LED lighting strip to the board. This produced a very successful lighting system that was very portable and was mains powered. By chance I tried it on an encapsulated coin( the last photo) and I was stunned by the result. I still have to finish the light panel off. So far one very useful modification was to fit a lens hood to the homemade panel light. I think the pictures are self explanatory. The third picture looks a little blurry the reason for that is the leds' are on in that picture. The coin photo shows the result that can be obtained. Cost was about US$50.00.

19 Dec 2015

The first Russian additions to my collection

Coins-World | Ian Fenn

Noble Auctions in Sydney Australia had an auction over the period 17 -19 November I was interested in one lot which I won. The lot consisted of two low grade( but still collectible) ducats that Nobles had identified as from the Netherlands. I had recently become aware that Russian produced imitations of Netherlands Ducats in the late 18th century and again in the 19th century. I wanted to add examples of the Russian strikes to my collection. The two ducats in the Auction were dated 1840 and 1849. Both dates are good candidates for the Russian strikes. In particular. Russia produced Ducats dated 1849 from that year through to 1867. The Dutch only produced around 13000-14000 ducats in 1849 so my bet was that the coin would be Russian. The coins finally arrived last week and for me the fun part of collecting began. The task was to identify whether the coins were Russian or Dutch. I posted questions on facebook, and two separate coin forums. Very quickly some kind person sent me scans from a reference with identification information. That information confirmed the 1840 was Russian and suggested to my inexperienced eye that the 1849 was Dutch. However I didn't quite trust myself so I emailed another expert in Poland who came back a couple of days later with a very simple check for the 1849 strike. That information confirmed what I had originally thought before I received the coins: the 1849 is Russian. the quick check look at the third photo. A dutch 1849 strike will have the thumb covering all the arrows, as you can see on my coin the thumb, what you can see of it, only covers five arrows. However for me I am still not finished I need to have solid documented evidence so currently I am hunting down these two Jnl editions. If any one has copies I would greatly appreciate getting scans of the relevant sections( the ANA LIbrary does not appear to have these dates):Journal Of The Russian Numismatic Society - issue Number 8, September 1982Journal Of The Russian Numismatic Society - issue Number 66, Summer 1998

05 Dec 2015

Three Books: US$350.00 and only one didn't disappoint

Library | Ian Fenn

Note: In this blog I report that only one publication actually met my expectations it is that book that is pictured( it isn't a great picture)I recall in a recent edition of the numismatists reading a suggestion that the ANA set up an academic program for numismatics. Its a long over due idea I think. I live in one of the few countries that has a university with a numismatics department. As a result many of the local coin dealers employ numismatists who have Masters degrees and PHDs in numismatics, and the locally published books are of a very high standard. My recent experience with "new" numismatic publications further re-enforces the idea that some form of academic accreditation is needed. I spent approximately US$350.00 ( rough exchange rate) on three books and only one meet my expectations.


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