Coins Of The Realms

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My coin collection started innocently and modestly enough, with a few older Canadian coins. Then, as described in my ‘Penny, lira, etc.’ post, I was tricked into collecting foreign coins. Slowly but steadily, over the (many) years, I’ve added coins to both groups, till now I don’t count my coins, so much as weigh them occasionally.

I have almost 600 foreign coins, from over 100 countries around the world, some of which no longer exist, as well as numerous Canadian and American coins. The five binders shown above include Canadian and American coins, as well as bills, and total just over 47 pounds.  I store them on a closet shelf, next to the wall, directly over the support bracket, so as not to collapse it.

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Clamshell 2 x 2s come in various sizes, for various coins. They are folded over a coin and stapled shut on three sides, then the unit is inserted in a plastic sheet with 20 pockets.  Soon after I got started, I received some helpful tips from a couple of old collectors/dealers.

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I buy mounting sheets with reinforced holes, because the weight of 20 coins can tear unprotected sheets. If you’re collecting sequentially dated coins, and one always follows the next, they are inserted into the sheets and forever remain there.

If I get another Spanish coin, I might need to now give Portuguese coins their own page for enough room. My coins can move around.  One dealer advised me to trim the bottom corners of the 2 X 2s at 45°, so that they would slide into the tight pockets easier.  Clipped bottoms and unclipped tops seem ‘unfinished’ to me, so I trim all 4 corners, creating little square ‘malls’ among the coins on the sheet.

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Staples holding the 2 X 2s closed, protrude in small bulges at the back, causing an already bulky assembly to take up even more room. I have a special pair of pliers, with which I crimp them flat, ensuring smoother insertion and retraction, and less volume.

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The arrangement of my foreign coins in my catalogs resembles a giant M on a world map.  They start at the bottom of South America, work their way up past Panama and the Caribbean, and throw a quick wave at the USA and Canada with a couple of odd/special coins.

They cross the Atlantic, through England, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands, and work their way across Europe. They then dodge the rocket attacks in the Middle East and flow down the body of Africa.  Returning, they trudge eastward through Russia and China, and down through South-East Asia, to Australia and New Zealand.

My foreign coins have taught me much about geography and history. Separate regions are arbitrarily jammed together to form the likes of Czechoslovakia.  Countries are split apart, like Germany, or India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  World economy, and that of individual countries, changes coins from gold and silver, to brass, steel, nickel and copper, all the way down to aluminum.

My little digital camera will not take good photos of individual coins, but I have some bright, flamboyant foreign bills/notes I hope to show you later. To some of you, these are not ‘foreign’, but merely coins of your realm.

Old Stuff – Part 4

Nun

As the youngest of nine Catholic children, the wife’s two oldest siblings, through no fault of their own, both became nuns. The eldest rather vainly insisted one day, that she was not 20 years older.  Careful calculation revealed it was only 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

Not being terribly Catholic, I knew that priests moved from parish to parish as needed, but thought that nuns more or less served where they enrolled, or were sent where needed – and left there. Watching these two women over the years, I was amazed at the frequent-flyer miles they racked up.  Join a convent, and see the world.  If I’d known that there was this much free world travel, I’d have become a nun.

They both became School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The younger of the two was a better administrator, so she got more trips.  She was sent for two years to Le Pas, Manitoba, to organize a school district for Aboriginals, although that was more cruel and unusual punishment than reward.  She went for six months of missionary work to Ecuador – in our winter.  She flew to Rome, to the Vatican, where she met the then-Pope, and spent six months with a world-wide think-tank group.  She was brevetted to Mississippi for two years to reorganize their Catholic school system.

After several years of break-in period at a local Catholic girls’ school, the elder sister went to work at the Mother House in the Hamilton Diocese, which administers most of Southern Ontario. Not exactly world travel, it’s only an hour’s drive away and, if nuns owned cars, she could have commuted home each evening.

She returned after a couple of years, and worked as an aide at the Catholic School Board offices. Finally she was awarded a real trip.  While her younger sister, the Sister, spent six months in Ecuador, she was parachuted into the jungles of El Salvador.  She returned to Canada, and spent another couple of years at the Hamilton Mother House.

She so impressed upper management with her rigid, assertive attitude, that they offered her a five year post as a house mother to about twenty teenaged Catholic girls at an upscale private school in London, England. These were the privileged daughters of ambassadors and minor foreign royalty.

The boarding house, along with its convent and school, were hundreds of years old. With solid stone outers, there wasn’t much need for interior repair and redecorating.  The dining hall had gorgeous oak wainscoting on the lower halves of the walls.  Oxidization and polish had turned it almost black, but the grain still glowed beneath the shine.

The same oxidation eventually deteriorated the plaster walls and ceiling and it was finally decided to redo them. The Sister watched in dismay, as the glorious wood was pried off the wall and thrown away.  As the tradesmen worked, suddenly something fell from between the wood and the wall, and rolled almost to her feet.

When she examined it, it was a very thin coin. At first, she thought it might be something one of the girls had inserted, a toy, like Monopoly money.  A closer look revealed that, as thin and worn as it was, it was a real coin.  It is still a prevalent practice around the world to add a coin to a new building or addition for good luck.

Knowing that I collected coins, she held it until she returned to Canada and gave it to me. Study reveals that it is an Edward II, short-cross, silver sixpence, minted between 1547 and 1552 – Eddie didn’t rule very long – back then coins often weren’t dated.

From the wear on it, it probably didn’t get hidden till near 1600, but it gives you an idea how long ago the building was erected. Because of the wear, it’s worth ‘only’ about $25 today, but would have had about that level of buying power when it was minted.  Someone was serious about this one.  It was more than mere pocket change.

At over 450 years old, it’s the oldest thing I own. I’ve also included a few photos of my older, 1850 – 1900 Canadian coins, including a couple that were minted before the government got around to producing coinage, and allowed individual banks to issue their own.

For those who can’t see the detail, Tails side first;

Pre-1858 Bank of     Bank of Upper    Two-headed 1965
Montreal token        Canada token      Churchill commemorative
one sou.                      one penny            crown

Edward VI                 Hanover                Victorian penny
short cross               love token              186?
sixpence                   penny equal

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Fathers’ Day

Fathers’ Day is just past, and I would be remiss if I didn’t describe mine, not for me, but to spotlight some young-uns.  I’ve been a father for a long time.  Hell, I’ve been everything I am or was, for a long time.  I don’t get too worked up about birthdays or Christmas or Fathers’ Day.  The wife will shove a hot poker up my ass if I forget her birthday, or our anniversary, but otherwise, meh!

Since the son is almost as sentimental as me, (Remember that first part!  It’s SENTImental, not just mental) his Fathers’ Day present was a guided tour of Kings’ Buffet Chinese Restaurant.  It was also his Mothers’ Day present to the wife – kill two birds with one obesity stone.  He also picked out and purchased about $30 worth of gorgeous cholesterol beef tenderloin, from which we cut three thick, beautiful filets, and two small roasts for later.  The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I have an 8-lane super-highway, complete with on-ramps.

1986 Dollar

My darling daughter, LadyRyl chose to enhance my coin collection.  When she and the grandson came over on Fathers’ Day, she presented me with a Presentation Grade, 1986, Canadian Dollar coin.  This is different from the simple, bronze-colored, Loonie coin in general circulation.  These used to be ‘Silver Dollars’ but are now Nickel, and silver in color only.  This one commemorates 100 years of coast-to-coast railroad in Canada.

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The coin came safely snuggled in a plastic holder, inside a black holding case with a gold panda embossed on the top.  It has never been touched by human hands – cotton inspectors’ gloves, but never oily skin.  The finish is immaculate.  Certain areas have a mirror polish.  Truly an impressive coin, and a tribute to a vanishing technology.  I just can’t imagine one with a semi big-rig on it.

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Now we come to the grandson – the 6’ 2” little scamp.  (Fortunately) abandoned by his father before he was born, the son and I have tried to support and guide him through life as best we can.  We may have helped his mother do something right, because he has grown up to be a super young man.

He handed his uncle a $100 gift card to the Chapters Bookstore chain.  Knowing the son’s reading habits, that might last till the middle of July.  For something to munch on while he’s reading, he also gave him about two quarts of party mix snack, from the bulk food store.

He brought with him, a cardboard box, about 4” square, and almost 4 feet long.  Being a little slow on the uptake, I wondered what it was. He brought it over to me, slit open the seal on one end and handed it to me.  ‘Hmmm, doesn’t weigh much.’  And the dénouement began.

Rapier

The Well-Dressed Renaissance Gentleman

Of all the weapons I’m interested in, I’ve wanted a rapier for display for years – and that’s what slid out of the box.  This thing is fully functional.  I could engage in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) fencing tournaments, but like the Dollar coin above, I don’t want to ruin some polished surfaces.

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It has a 39” long, diamond profile blade, with no sharp edges.  This is a stabbing weapon.  It weighs 2-½ pounds.  Movies aside, real sword fights didn’t last all that long.  Your arm would tire quickly.  Interest in rapiers must be cycling/dying down.  A few years ago, it would have been possible to also purchase a matching ‘main gauche’, a left hand parrying knife – but no longer.

I am fascinated by the shiny, beautiful, swirling, interlaced-rod guard, developed over years of experience to protect the hand.  It has a heavy pommel to counterbalance the heft of the sword, and for punching or head-bashing, in close.  The handle is bone, perhaps giraffe, from Africa, spiral grooved and inlaid with twisted gold(-plated brass) wires, for solid grip.  At each end of the bone handle is an assembly ring which is engraved with flowers.

I have cast my bread upon the waters, and it has been returned to me seven-fold.  I have the love of my daughter – and an impressive coin, and I have an upstanding, generous grandson – and a mesmerising rapier.  I have displayed (pictures of) the sword on my blog site.  Now I have to find a place to display the real thing, proudly in my home – and stop waving it around, knocking over the lamp, and (gently) poking the dog.  Baseball bat?  Shit!  Now I’m waiting for the first stupid burglar.   😳

#477

Poet’s Corner

Poetry

On Thinking Of My Love

And love Thee; And need Thee; And have Thee not,
Yet the Light of Thy Presence banishes the darkness of my loneliness,
Joy and sweet Happiness personified.

But the great pinions which would fly to Thee
By dark and dreary mundane passings, are clipped.

Oh Beauteous One!  Sweet life itself Thou art to me.
Full well know I Thou art my soul,
And my heart be not full and complete without Thee.

And forget Thee?
Say nay!!  For with me always art Thou,
In both angelic face and soul,
In sweet remembrance.

Thy kind, pure person,
With ever-happy, smiling countenance
And silvern, crystal laughter,
Desire I by my side.

Yet despair not and nor will I.
Soon, Love, shall we be rejoined,
That I may again drink deep of the pure, clear stream
Of my devotion, and offer Thee

On humble knees,
The obeisance
Of my love to thee.

Phoenix-Maker Thou art; Truly,
Shaper of Fate and Fortune,
To burn away the nothing detritus
Of a nowhere life,

And from the ashes, draw,
Hot and molten, the nub of an almost forgotten past,
To be forged on the anvil of Reality,
Into a tool with which to garner a fuller future.

Guide Thou art, taking by the hand
A soul, lost in the wilds of mediocrity and suburbia,
Drawing a willing spirit past
The traps and pitfalls and morés
Of reliability, and respectability, and responsibility,

To a haven of a life to be lived
And savored and enjoyed,
Not merely observed and endured.

Friend Thou art, and much, much more.
Lover even, to give of the heart and soul and mind and body
To one so unworthy of Thee.

Treat me as Thou will,
Yet I hope it be not ill.
Spurn me not, nor leave me lonely,
For now Thou art my one and only.

In the ongoing Autumn Housecleaning, I came upon this, one of my first (and fortunately few) love poems, in free verse and archaic language.  The wife and I are coming up 48 years married, so you can imagine how old this attempt is.  Be kind to the callow 21-year-old me, who thought he could impress a woman with poetry.   🙄

#459

Triviana Fore

 

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation
I’m retired!!  It’s ALLLL vacation.

I received my WordPress email outlining my year.  I ignored it.  Last year I displayed my stats.  This year…Pfft!  I’m not disappointed; it’s just that guys like BrainRants and The Byronic Man get year-end notices that include the statement, “The population of the Earth is seven Billion.  Every one of them visited your site last year – twice!”  I think mine mentioned a Mini car….or was it an electric scooter?

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I found some money (what a surprise), and got panhandled for a bit of it – twice in one day.  If Ace is the place for Americans, Canadian Tire is the place for Canucks.  I went there with the wife to buy the grandson presents – tools he’ll need for his welding apprenticeship.

While she was dithering deciding, I ambled up the aisle.  I’m planning a post about written stuff I find on the floor/ground.  Halfway between me and an oncoming woman, there was something on the floor.  Probably just someone’s shopping list – but I hurried a bit, to get there first.  I picked up $15 – a ten and a five.

I went into a non-usual grocery store, and checked out the coin-counter machine, as I always do, and got 45¢ for my Scottish trouble, a quarter and two dimes.  The next day I went to my usual store, and was barely inside the door when some young colored female asked me for a dollar.  She was well dressed in figure-displaying clothing, but had a Muslim modesty scarf over her head.  Oh, that sexy hair.  That’s what guys go crazy for.

She and her friend had come in to purchase a single-use aluminum roast pan.  Probably going to cook up a camel haunch.  They had brought their little change purses, but had both left the big ones with the real money locked in the car.  The roast pan cost more than they’d thought it would.  They didn’t want to have to go all the way back to the car in a snow storm, and would I just give them a dollar.  Uh, NO!

The nerve!!  The absolute gall!!  I was about to tell her what she could do for a dollar, when I realized she already had.  This tale alone was worth more than the dollar.  As I left this store, I checked out their coin counting machine – and picked up another 45¢, this time a nickel and four dimes – including a 1952 silver, King George one to add to my collection.

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I went a quarter-mile down the road to another supermarket which carries a house brand not available elsewhere.  As I exited, I was accosted by a mid-20s male, slightly scruffy, but warmly dressed.  He politely asked if I could spare any change toward ‘bus fare.’  Yeah, right – but his girlfriend?, seeing that he had a big one hooked, came rushing over – on her power wheelchair.  Oh damn.

I kept the silver dime, but bought some Karma by giving them all the change in my pocket – not a lot, more than a dollar, perhaps less than two.

The wife and I shopped for groceries together one day.  The couple checking out – the guy ahead of us – and we were third in line.  As the first pair bagged up and left, the guy in front of me stepped forward, and onto, and then off, what appeared to be a coin.

I moved forward into the area he’d vacated, and bent forward slightly to see if it was a quarter I might later pick up.  Suddenly he was all in my face!

“What the FUCK are you lookin’ at??!  Just keep your goddamned nose out of my business!  I don’t want you snooping at my shit!  Just stand the FUCK back, asshole, and mind your own fucking business.”

Dear Lord!  Take a chill pill Bill.  Increase the medication dosage, and attend those court-ordered anger management courses.  Nosy??  Snooping??  Your business? – in a grocery store??  All for looking at a dirty spot on the floor?  Does your wife have you picking up panty liners, or are those yours Nasty Nancy?

Even my wife, who is usually judgemental and unsympathetic of my ‘shenanigans’, was amazed at this over-the-top paranoia performance.

General Motors recently sent me a letter, telling me that, if I attach a bowling ball to the keychain for my Chevy Impala, it may cause the jet engines to fail in midflight, and kill more than the AirAsia crashes.  Nice going idiots!  This 54¢ part recall has been going on for years.  I’ve owned this car for almost 11 years, and you finally got around to telling me that my vehicle is one affected.  I feel so cared for.  🙄

I had an awkward moment recently, when I wasn’t sure if I actually had some free time, or if I was just forgetting something again.

 

A Penny, Lira, Peso, Etc, For Your Thoughts

So, you were asking how it was that I began collecting foreign coins.  You weren’t??!  Well, get with the program here.  I’ve got an ego to support.  Alright, don’t beg.  I will reveal all.

Once upon a time….I like that opening so much more than, “In the beginning”!  My father had a few coins tucked away in a fireproof cashbox.  They included some old Canadian large-pennies, bigger than quarters.  They were fifty years old or more, I’m embarrassed to say I sneaked a few out to buy penny candy.  No wonder the store keeper was so happy to accept them.  In a fit of remorse, I bought a bunch back for him when I was in my forties, at a dollar apiece.

He also had a few foreign coins.  He may have just picked them out of pocket change, or he may have got them from servicemen returning from Europe when he was stationed in Halifax during W.W. II.  However he got them, as a Scottish child, I was always interested in money.  Money maybe, but not always coins.  I worked in a bank for almost a year.  An 18 year-old kid, and I walked seventeen $1000 bills a mile down the street one day, but still had no real interest in coins.

When I worked at the metal-fab plant, I liked to take my breaks and lunches with the guys in the plant.  If I stayed at/near my desk, there was always somebody asking, “Can you check this?  Can you phone this guy?”  As I’ve said, the list of nationalities working there was varied.  The other young guy in my department was born before me, during the Second World War, and was brought to Canada as soon as they could get out, after hostilities ended.  I asked him one day what country, and found that, by the time he emigrated; he had lived in three countries, and never left the house.  They kept re-aligning the borders.  His family was *German*, but he was born in Austria, then his village became part of Hungary, and finally settled in Czechoslovakia.

Especially around vacation time, I would hear guys say, “I’m going home to see my parents.” Or, “I just got back from visiting my grandparents.”  Often I would ask where – Poland, Portugal, Italy, Romania.  One day one of them said, “I’ve still got some coins left from the trip,” and pulled them out.  The first ones were Polish, I believe.  I oohed and aahed, and he asked, “Do you want them?”  I never saw the bus coming.  I said, sure.  Not even knowing what to do with them, I showed them to the wife, and left them on the dresser.

A couple of days later, one of the other guys said, “You took some Polish coins from Potrzebi, would you like my Portuguese pesetas?”  Oh great, can’t insult him.  Sure.  I went back into the office and commented on how I had just acquired coins from two European countries, and a newly hired female clerk piped up, “I just came here from Peru.  Would you like some Peruvian coins?”  Well, the genie’s out of the bottle now, might as well.

Now I started watching for foreign coins, and discovered that there were quite a few floating around, if you kept your eyes open for them.  I also started asking guys in the plant, “Going home to Jamaica at Christmas?  Bring me a few coins back.”

Strangely enough at that time, I could not find a local coin club.  There was one in the smaller city fifteen miles away, so, once a month I would drive over and attend a meeting.  They were concentrated on Canadian coins, with maybe some American, but there were always a couple of dealers with a slush-box which included cheap foreign coinage that I could buy for ten, or twenty-five cents each.  One night, at the club auction, I went wild and spent two dollars for a two-headed coin.  It’s a British, Churchill commemorative Crown, with the Queen on the front, and bull-dog Winston on the back.  It’s the only legal English coin with the face of anyone but a monarch on it.  They say Cromwell doesn’t count.  He was just a usurper.

As people found out about my foreign coins, I got more and more donations from people who got stuck with them in change.  My wife’s twenty-year-older sister was a Catholic nun who was a house-mother to foreign female teen-age students at an English convent boarding school.  It used to be a sign of good luck to place money in the wall of a newly erected building.  The convent decided that they wished the dining hall renovated, and the beautiful, old, dark, oak wainscoting was ripped off the walls.  Out rolled this thin, quarter-sized coin.

Our nun picked it up.  At first she thought it was something from a game, perhaps like Monopoly, something one of the girls had shoved in.  As she looked at it, she realized it was a real coin, worn till it was almost illegible, but real.  She saved it, and when her contract was up and she returned to Canada, she gave it to me.  It turned out to be a silver, Edward II, short-cross sixpence.  It was minted between 1547 and 1552, the years of his reign.  Back then, they didn’t date coins.  It’s badly worn, but still worth about $25.

I have coins from places like Russia, and Cuba, where coins aren’t legally allowed to leave.  Collecting foreign coins is an exercise in both geography and history.  Where’s that coin from?  South Pacific?  Where exactly?  British East Africa?  That’s Mali now.  French West Africa?  That’s Zimbabwe.

I have WW II coins, both from free France, with their Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite motto, and from German-occupied France, where the Nazi-imposed motto was Travail, Famille, Patrie – Work, Family, Homeland.

The best historical run of coins I have starts with the Weimar Republic, soon to be incorporated into the newly organized Germany.  I have pre-war German coins and Nazi-German coins. I have East German coins and West German coins.  I have re-unified German coins, and finally German-minted Euro coins.

I have over 500 coins, from over 100 countries, and still keep an eye out for more.  The Scotsman has found that money isn’t just for saving, or occasionally, grudgingly, for spending.  It can be fun, and educational.