Rule Britannia

August 2014, Volume 51 No. 8
A silver (or gold) lining

THE Royal Mint has recently unveiled a rather classy new look for their gold and silver “Britannia” issues this year with a standing, almost wistful looking figure on the reverse—a far cry from the recent warrior queen bestride a chariot or the windswept Britannia defiantly brandishing her trident against the elements. I wonder if this wistfulness stems from the fact that each coin is worth, in pure metal terms, something less than it what this time last year . . . is Britannia herself mourning the drop in the price of gold and silver and wondering what value she will have in 2015? Back at the end of 2012 we could all have been forgiven for thinking that soon such precious metal issues as the Britannia would beyond the means of most of us, gold was heading towards $2,000 an ounce and silver was creeping up to $50—this at a time when the dollar itself was seemingly getting stronger by the day. Such a combination meant that those who collect based as much on the metal content of the coin as its numismatic interest were having a lean time of it, as everyday it seemed that prices were going up and up. Fast forward to the summer of 2014 and not only have gold and silver come back down to more realistic and sustainable levels (there’s been no major movement up or down for some weeks now) but the US dollar is at its lowest level against the pound for nearly six years, meaning that for us Brits an ounce of gold is far more affordable than it was 18 months ago. This of course is a double edged sword for many collectors. On the one hand we are able to buy in today’s market more easily than we could, thus able to add to our collections on a more regular basis. However, on the other hand, our collections are now “worth” less than they once were, making us feel that little bit poorer and so less willing to spend, even though we can afford to again! But all of this is actually just an illusion and whilst I accept that the dealers specialising in bullion may be feeling the pinch (having been forced to buy at the higher prices to replenish stocks only to watch prices fall with nothing they can do to recoup the money spent), us collectors really shouldn’t worry that much. Yes, the drop in precious metals does indeed mean that your collection is worth less intrinsically than it was last year. But let’s be honest, how much of your collection was purchased in the past 12 months? Didn’t you, in fact, buy the majority of it at a time when gold and silver were even cheaper than they are now? And as you aren’t looking to sell, the whole thing is irrelevant anyway!

This is the thing about collecting and it doesn’t matter whether you collect Roman bronzes, Athenean owls, milled silver or shiny bullion, your collection is only worth “x” amount when you come to sell it—and until you do, it is just lumps of round shiny metal in a cabinet. Yes, there’s the thorny question of insurance, so it is always wise to have a rough idea of what you have stashed away, but in general you really shouldn’t think of your collection in monetary terms at all. This isn’t an ISA or savings bond, it isn’t a current account or even cash under the mattress—this is a collection that you have enjoyed putting together, that you have taken pleasure in owning and in reality it is STILL probably worth many times what you paid for it as, despite the recent downward trend on metals, prices have continued to go up and up! So, please, next time you look at the price of gold and the state of the dollar, don’t feel poorer than you did in 2013, but rather see it as a good sign, a sign that you can add to that wonderful collection of yours for less money than it might have taken you last year, and until you need, or want, to sell don’t treat your collection as a nest egg—it is far more than that and should be enjoyed as such. If you look at it in those terms you will realise the pleasure of ownership is far greater than any small loss the vagaries of the metal markets may cause. On the subject of metal markets it is actually interesting to note that even though the metal value of the Britannias is less than last year, the Royal Mint have actually produced the smallest-ever such coin—a 1/40th ounce with a nominal value of 5p! More in News and Views on
page 16.

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In This Issue

Ancients35
Minerva
The owl goddess
Insight41
1,000 years of Irish coinage
Crowns and harps 1460–1601
In focus44
Leopold the Hogmouth—Part II
A prolific issuer of coins examined
Personalities47
T. H. Paget
The man who changed the halfpenny
Out and about50
The art of money
A visit to the American Museum of Finance
Dealer’s notebook55
Collecting 19th century US Coins
Coinage from a new country
Medallic miscellany59
The railway medals of Fascist Italy
“il Duce” and punctuality celebrated
Tokens63
Dealers in curiosities & animals
The weird and wonderful
Back to basics65
Learning the hard way—Part II
Notophilic experimentation
Banknote feature74
Banknotes of the Raj
Imperialism celebrated in papermoney

Regulars

Editor’s Comment2
Coin News & Views14
Look who’s talking20
View of the Bay22
Around the World24
New Issues Coin Update26
Royal Mint Bulletin28
Market Scene31
Price Guide to MAUNDY 4d & 3d66
Banknote News71
New Issues Banknote Update72
COMPETITION—WIN A BRITANNIA78
Coin of the Month81
Mailbox83
Dealer Directory85
Diary Dates86
Semi-display Adverts90
The Web Page92
Classified Advertising95