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What is numismatics?

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Investors this thread is not for you....

 

the core of this heading is what drives NUMISMATISTS

 

Is it:

 

a) the HISTORY behind a coin, note or token.. OR

b) is it GETTING YOUR COIN GRADED AND ENCAPSULATED which appears to be a big issue here

 

Here is a quote from Wikipedia to help....

 

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Early money used by people is referred to as "Odd and Curious", but the use of other goods in barter exchange is excluded, even where used as a circulating currency (e.g., cigarettes in prison). The Kyrgyz people used horses as the principal currency unit and gave small change in lambskins.[1] The lambskins may be suitable for numismatic study, but the horse is not. Many objects have been used for centuries, such as cowry shells, precious metals and gems.

 

This is the source

 

Cheers

 

Scott Balson

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lilythepink    10
lilythepink

Interesting article, Scott. Many thanks. Keep it going and I hope nobody "hijacks" it!

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Cold Sea    0
Cold Sea

Scott,

 

The same Wikipedia article also says the following:

 

"Coin dealers, often called professional numismatists, authenticate or grade coins for commercial purposes. The buying and selling of coin collections by numismatists who are professional dealers advances the study of money, and expert numismatists are consulted by historians, museum curators, and archaeologists"

 

Professional dealers together have a wealth of knowledge and sometimes share it in a peculiar way. A grade is an opinion, and we all know about opinions and forums. Opinion is that modern numismatists study the physical attributes (grading?) of the payment media rather than the use and development, historical and economic.

 

Question is, are you old or new, snail mail or e-mail, Alta Vista or Google. Dealer, investor or collector. What determines today's numismatist and what will make numismatics grow?

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Cold Sea

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jwither    10
jwither

Scott's definition is the correct one. The Wikipedia quote above is not descriptive of numismatics, modern or not, though I agree this is common usage. The latter, such as dealers, are investors (real ones) and most collectors who spend "big money" on coins are speculators (aka, "investors) which is how I would describe most of the posts on this forum because the value of the coins is discussed far more here than anything about the coin itself.

 

There is nothing to prevent someone from being both a numismatist and a collector/"investor". But for those who have not thought about it, someone does not need to be a buyer of coins at all to be a numismatist. To give you an example, on the NGC Message Boards, there is one such person who goes by the name of "RWB". To my knowledge, he only researches coins and his published research is REAL research from ORIGINAL source documents.

 

Back to Scott's original question, the obvious answer is (a) because the grading opinion provided by a TPG does not have anything to do with it. Authentication and attribution, yes but the grade itself, no. Like others, I care about the grade because it impacts what I pay and resale, but the coin is the same coin regardless of whether it is "market acceptable" or not and what grade it receives.

 

To give a few examples of coins that are of interest to numismatists, I have included some links below to an upcoming Heritage auction. These coins are not traditional "investment" material though both are very rare and desirable and in my opinion, far superior to practically any "investment" coin.

 

1817 1/2 RL New Spain (Texas) Jola Half Real VF35 PCGS.... Colonials | Lot #3048 | Heritage Auctions For those who do not know it, this coin is important to US collectors because it is the closest known coin that can be attributed to the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) which never (apparently) issued its own coins. The Republic of Texas was annexed by the US in 1845 which precipitated the US-Mexican War of 1846. Today, Texas is known as the Lone Star State and the Texas state flag is the same one. This coin would have been issued during the Mexican Revolution which led to Mexican independence sometime around this date. (The first coin issued after the revolution is dated 1821.)

 

Though it is hardly the most valuable (estimate is likely to be $50,000 to $100,000), I consider it the most significant of US coins along with others such as the 1861 Confederate States of America ("original") cent and ("original") half dollar, selective Territorial gold coinage and a handful of colonial issues such as the 1792 Washington silver half dollar.This coin, the 1861 CSA half dollar and the 1792 half dollars are (for all intents and purposes) never available for sale.

 

PTOLEMAIC EGYPT. Ptolemy III Eurgetes (246-222 BC). AV mnaieion | LotID #1100 | Heritage Auctions I know nothing about this coin except that it is from Ptolemaic Egypt. Heritage has not included an image but from the description, it must be a coin which was reportedly recently discovered and which I read about on the web. At 28 grams, that is one impressive coin for an ancient and as AU/MS, it is doubly impressive. To give all of you some perspective on its size, this weight must make it about the same size as the UK 5 sovereigns. It is certainly one of the most significant coins ever struck.

Edited by jwither

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Pierre_Henri    14
Pierre_Henri

Mandeliana

 

I have learnt a dear & clear lesson – as soon as one asks a relevant and interesting question regarding our hobby here – like Scott did – and Ernesto answered – one gets a blank & total silence

 

I am so tired of this – lets all just collect Mandela R5 coins and all just talk & be merry & happy about Mandeliana (as in Victoriana) numismatics.

Give me room to breath boys; I am struggling getting down those no-steps Union Buildings

Pierre

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Cold Sea    0
Cold Sea

Hi Pierre

 

I have been meaning to respond to this question from a different perspective to stimulate a bit of a discussion, but meant to read up a bit more before posting.

 

I am “old school” when it comes to collecting and studying my loot with my magnifying glass, but I wonder that if numismatics is in the main the theory and study of a payment medium, then does electronic payments and so-called e-money also form part of numismatics. In other words, what makes a serial number on a bank note any different from a transaction report.

Edited by Cold Sea

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jwither    10
jwither

I too wish that there would be more responses to a topic like this one. Scott asked an entirely reasonable question and one would think that if numismatics was the focus of this forum section (which is after all, titled "Coins and Notes for the Numismatist" and not "How to maximize your profits or make a killing by buying overpriced plastic") that more would have something to say about it.

 

This just supports my prior statements that there are far more here interested in the "investment" aspect of buying coins than the coin itself. Yes, because the coins are more expensive now, the money aspect is not unimportant but I for one at least liked buying SA coins (particularly) a lot more when they were much cheaper.

 

I also wanted to clarify part of my response to Cold Sea's first post. Actually, I agree with the Wikipedia quote he included. What I do not agree with is this:

 

"Opinion is that modern numismatists study the physical attributes (grading?) of the payment media rather than the use and development, historical and economic."

 

Yes, grading is a part of traditional numismatics but only a VERY SMALL part of it. Better graders (including those who are better at it than I am) are familiar with minting methods which is relevant to how the coin was made and therefore, the quality of the strike. They will also know which parts of the design are more or less susceptible to wear (hint: the high points of the design).

 

On the other hand, the factors that impact TPG grading (especially to those who are in favor of technical grading) for MS coins (which are about the only coins most everyone here has any interest in at all) really have nothing to do with traditional numismatics. Before TPG grading existed, I do not see real numismatists obsessing over whether a particular coin had a few more or a few less contact marks which differentiate ( as an example only) an MS-65 from an MS-64 or MS-66. Yes, collectors in the past preferred better quality coins over inferior ones but the fact of the matter is that the difference between these MS grades is numismatically irrelevant. And since it is numismatically irrelevant, that is why the price spreads between coins that today receive different MS grades were also (very) narrow. It only became and is relevant to the "investor" who seeks to make a windfall by acquiring an overpriced "conditional" rarity for resale at an even more absurd price.

 

In my opinion, South African coin collecting lacks what I would describe as scholarship. When I started buying SA coins in larger quantities around 2002, I attempted to find something - anything - and was really surprised that nothing was available. Even now, the only actual research that I am aware of for South African coins are the Nomisma Journals for the Union series written by Alex. There may be others but I have never heard of or seen them and no, price guides such as Hern and the predecessor Randburg and Kaplan books do not qualify as a real reference book any more than the annual "A Guide Book Of US Coins" or "Red Book" does.

 

This is also why I really do not consider professional dealers in SA to be numismatists equivalent to those in the US or UK. Yes, with the US at least, there are far more of them because the US is a much larger market but SA could really use someone like a Q David Bowers (now back with his old namesake firm as part of Stacks & Bowers) who has written dozens of coin books from the simple to the complex.

 

Finally, to answer Cold Sea's last question, I do not see how electronic payment mediums can possibly ever be included in numismatics. Sure, someone could study the development of electronic money but that sounds more like a field for historians and economists to me. Personally, I believe that virtual currency represents the future of money (though it may or may not be backed by something tangible such as metals in some instances) but I do not see anyone ever "collecting" it. What exactly is there to collect given that it has no tangible form?

 

I recall sometime in the last 10 years or so reading an article describing either an actual or proposed attempt to create "electronic collectibles". It never said how they would be created; I presume through some algorithm which would determine how "rare" each would be. I only recall that they would be stored in a "virtual vault" on some server. Maybe I am old fashioned also but I see no appeal in that at all and to my knowledge if it was an actual proposal, it has gone nowhere.

Edited by jwither

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Guest Guest   
Guest Guest

Why did a slabbed Griquatown IIIII sell for LESS than an unslabbed Durban Club 6d?

 

Last year I sold a Durban Club 6d here on Bid or Buy for R8,500 and another for over R8,000

 

A slabbed XF Griquatown IIIII sold this week for just over R8,000...

 

Here is the link to the Griquatown IIIII sold on BoB this week (note many of the claims made in the supporting text on this item have no historical foundation and are simply unsubstantiated and very questionable heresay).

 

A numismatist would understand why the Durban Club piece has much more relevance to South African numismatics than an older silver token coin (The Griquatown IIIII) which never circulated in South Africa as money*.

 

* There is no historical evidence to support the claim made in recent coin books, including Hern, that they circulated as money.

 

In short a numismatist would know what I am talking about while a coin investor or dealer (in the main) would not have a clue.

 

Kind regards

 

Scott Balson

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Mike Klee    10
Mike Klee

Hi Scott,

 

The price of R8500 was indeed very low, but then the buyer bought a cleaned coin. As you know, the price of a cleaned coin is always going to be a pittance compared with that of its brother in an NGC slab graded higher up on the Sheldon scale.

 

Mike Klee

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Cold Sea    0
Cold Sea

Could the lack of new articles covering South African numismatics be laid at the door of old fashioned numismatic clubs in South Africa. Would an on-line presence/club not be a better vehicle for creating a scholarship environment. This would enable everybody from every corner to participate in a structured manner.

 

Scott's comment about the Griqua piece seems odd, as I recall a Durban Club 6d pattern selling for R975.00 last year. The more members that belong to an accessible numismatic society with dues payable, the more everybody will benefit through their common knowledge and expert opinions.

Edited by Cold Sea

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jwither    10
jwither
Last year I sold a Durban Club 6d here on Bid or Buy for R8,500 and another for over R8,000

 

A slabbed XF Griquatown IIIII sold this week for just over R8,000...

 

Here is the link to the Griquatown IIIII sold on BoB this week (note many of the claims made in the supporting text on this item have no historical foundation and are simply unsubstantiated and very questionable heresay).

 

A numismatist would understand why the Durban Club piece has much more relevance to South African numismatics than an older silver token coin (The Griquatown IIIII) which never circulated in South Africa as money*.

 

* There is no historical evidence to support the claim made in recent coin books, including Hern, that they circulated as money.

 

In short a numismatist would know what I am talking about while a coin investor or dealer (in the main) would not have a clue.

 

Kind regards

 

Scott Balson

 

I understand the point you are trying to make but I think you are also making a claim about numismatists that is not representative of most collectors or numismatists.

 

If by numismatist your definition requires that someone places the history of the coin (or other form of money) above (much less to the exclusion of) everything else, you are going to find almost no one who shares that priority with you, even among those who do not put financial considerations first. Also, I do not believe you are going to find very many who agree with this definition either. I and others will agree with you that the history is ONE aspect of numismatics but NOT ALL of it.

 

Even before TPG became an influence in the late 1980's, most collectors did not have that priority. Even before coins came to be widely viewed as "investments" in the late 1970's during the gold ands silver boom, most collectors did not have that priority. To my knowledge, most coin buyers have NEVER valued or preferred coins in the manner you imply, even when they were worth much less.

 

The simple reason for this is because most collectors place other attributes of the coin above the history. In the document I sent to both you and Cold Sea, I attempted to identify and describe those that I believe MOST collectors/numismatists use to determine how desirable a coin is or is not. The historical component is ONLY ONE of them but hardly the most important one most of the time.

 

To many, the current price of the coin seems to be the most important factor (which I did not even specifically specify in my list). And yes, to those who it is, I would not call these people real numismatists though they may be collectors. I also agree it does not apply to most dealers because a dealer is primarily in a business to make a living. If they were not a coin dealer, they might not even care about coins at all. They might run a restaurant or have a job unrelated to coins at all like I do.

 

To others, it is the rarity, the metal content, the size, the artistic appeal and in some instances, sentimental reasons unrelated to coins at all. For example, if I had never lived in SA, it's unlikely I ever would have collected them at all and I would not be posting on this board either. But since I did, SA coins have sentimental value to me unrelated to anything else anyone here has described.

 

The last point I will make in this post is that there are two types of history related to numismatics. There is the history represented BY the coin and the history OF THE coin itself. From all your posts, you are primarily or only interested in the first while in actuality, most numismatists (and yes, they ARE real numismatists) are usually and primarily interested in the second.

 

The fact of the matter is that for most coins, there is nothing that most people would find particularly interesting about the historical events associated with or represented by the coin. The reason for this is that in actuality, they are far more IMAGINARY than real. I know you like these Griqua pieces but what exactly is there historically that is so significant about them? They circulated there and what else? And how exactly is this really any different than say, US 19th century coinage which circulated in the "Wild West"? The "Wild West" is easily as historically significant to most Americans as whatever happened in Griquatown is to most in South Africa, yet in actuality, the coins really have NOTHING to do with the historical events that occurred then and there. Yes, there are SOME 19th century US coins which are viewed as you describe but not many. Nor is there any reason they should be. And for those that are, there is still really nothing different for MOST of them.

 

In actuality, it is only for a few coins that there is any actual history associated with them. To those in SA, it is probably the ZAR Veld Pond. To those who are even familiar with the events, it would be the Jewish Revolt coinage associated with the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem from AD 66-70. Even with the Spanish colonial pillars I collect which are easily considered by most collectors to be more historical than any SA coin except maybe the Veld Pond, there is no direct historical linkage except occasionally with "treasure" ships. Using your criteria as I understand it, I rank the Jewish Revolt coinage FIRST of any that have ever been struck. Yet I do not consider them the most desirable nor do I expect others to do so either even ignoring financial considerations altogether. The reason this is undeniably true of most collectors - and yes, numismatists - is because personal preferences - whatever they may be - trump what appear to be the objective criteria which would be expected to make one coin more desirable than another.

 

On the other hand, there is occasionally "history" associated with many famous coins. But in actuality, these are stories. The 1913 US Liberty Head Nickel is famous because of Texas dealer B. Max Mehl. The 1933 US gold $20 is famous because of President Roosevelt's executive order and the government's subsequent attempts to confiscate these coins. It is stories like these along with the often colorful personalities who were associated with them that add the human touch that makes these coins desirable to so many, not the bland statistics of rarity, grade or whatever other events occurred at the time that have mostly been forgotten by most people.

Edited by jwither

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jwither    10
jwither
Could the lack of new articles covering South African numismatics be laid at the door of old fashioned numismatic clubs in South Africa. Would an on-line presence/club not be a better vehicle for creating a scholarship environment. This would enable everybody from every corner to participate in a structured manner.

 

The more members that belong to an accessible numismatic society with dues payable, the more everybody will benefit through their common knowledge and expert opinions.

 

Maybe, but ultimately it comes down to the dedication of individual members and not necessarily some organization. (In the US, the ANA has sponsored research in the past but to my knowledge, it is not and never has been the primary driver of it.) For whatever reason, an interest in numismatic scholarship apparently has never existed (except in isolation) in South Africa. This is actually not that unusual and I know this now that I have paid more attention to this subject since I started collecting non-US coins in 1998.

 

There are actually only a few areas within numismatics that I am aware of that are widely researched. The most researched to my knowledge are the US, Great Britain and England before it and Ancient Greek and Roman. To provide other examples, The "Milled Columnarios of Central and South America" by Frank Gilboy is the only reference work of any kind to my knowledge on pillar minors. There are several works that cover or include the crown sized "pillar dollar", but that is almost certainly because it is a large coin. The Spanish colonial era coinage (from Spain itself) has at least partially been documented by Juan Cayon (of the auction house) but I have only seen it for the gold coinage and crown sized 8R. Nothing for the minors I collect. For the Mexico Cap & Rays 8R, there is "Resplendores" by US dealer Mike Dunigan but nothing again for the minors. For the Spanish colonial "Lion & Castle" quarter real and Bolivian Republic decimal coinage I collect, absolutely nothing that I have seen. Probably, only a handful like myself even care.

 

For the US specifically, obviously the size of the market is a big part of the explanation. There is likely a reference work of some kind for practically every specialty and subspecialty you can imagine. The Sheldon scale all of you know was originally published (I believe) in 1949 in "Penny Whimsy" but it only covers US large cents from 1793-1814. It describes all die varieties Sheldon identified. There are also other reference books covering die varieties for other US coins including later large cents (Newcomb), early half dimes (Valentine), early quarters (Browning) and early half dollars (Overton) among many.

 

Aside from this individual dedication, the other reason why these references exist is because the US Mint and other related departments (such as the US Assay Office in San Francisco) must have kept extensive records in many instances. Also, there appears to be reasonably extensive and complete information within the numismatic community itself on the history of US coin collecting since there are also either books or at least articles on this subject. In the link I included in a prior post here, "RWB" I believe used original source documents at least to some extent.

 

In comparing what I just described to South Africa, I doubt it would even be possible to attempt such an exercise. Maybe somewhat more for Union since the Mint only dates back to 1923 but given the limited collecting culture and interest at least until recently, I doubt it. But a bigger reason why I do not see much prospect for it is because there simply isn't enough subject matter to write about. The US is unsual in the sense that even for a country of its age, the variety available for collecting is immense and far more than anywhere else to my knowledge when covering the same time period. Most other countries tend to use similar designs across many, most or even all denominations which leaves little to cover. (Think Union which has KGV, KGVI and QEII. I do not see anyone writing about KGV farthings or shillings as someone has for US Lincoln cents.) Now that Alex has covered Union die varieties in Nomisma, I could see a few other candidates for research such as a history of the SA Mint (if it has already not been covered) and the change to decimalization. There are others but you should be able to see my point.

Edited by jwither

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Patricia_Gert    10
Patricia_Gert

In my opinion, South African coin collecting lacks what I would describe as scholarship. When I started buying SA coins in larger quantities around 2002, I attempted to find something - anything - and was really surprised that nothing was available. Even now, the only actual research that I am aware of for South African coins are the Nomisma Journals for the Union series written by Alex. There may be others but I have never heard of or seen them and no, price guides such as Hern and the predecessor Randburg and Kaplan books do not qualify as a real reference book any more than the annual "A Guide Book Of US Coins" or "Red Book" does.

 

Good day all,

 

I whole heartily agree with this. A good couple of years ago I started buying any printed material that I could find relating to South African coinage and discovered that in the last +- 20 years very little research material on numismatics in South Africa has been published. Most books being published is simply catalogues (i.e. price lists showing mintage figures).

 

If you refer back to the journals that used to be published by the various numismatic societies in SA (mostly dated from the 1960s to the 1980s), a lot of research has been done on various aspects of numismatics and a wealth of information has been published in these journals. However, nothing of this sort has been happening of late. The closest to this is some of the information sometimes posted on the Bidorbuy forum.

 

The problem with all of this is that the wealth of numismatic knowledge that mostly sits in the heads of the old time dealers, collectors and numismatists (i.e "Numismatics is the study … of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects.) is not published.

 

The risk of this is that a lot of this knowledge about South African coinage will be lost to future generations...

 

Kind Regards

Gert

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Cold Sea    0
Cold Sea

 

Hi, I have noticed the leather edition before and felt it was a bit expensive. Maybe you can bring a both copies along to the Cape Town fair for us to have a look at.

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Ladyk81    10
Ladyk81

Contact Randburg Coin, they are selling these items.

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jwither    10
jwither

Gert,

 

Thanks for the information. I was not aware that anything was published in the past and I will definitely look for it. I have Nomisma Volume 1 and 2 plus some pamphlet that was published in 1956 but I cannot remember by whom. But even this last document essentially skips over all coinage that SA collectors actually buy. It primarily covers what was used as money prior to ZAR which while interesting, doesn't really tell anyone anything that would be helpful in better understanding their collection.

 

The thing that really puzzles me in your response though is what topics were actually covered in this literature? I have a wide ranging interest in coin topics but the ones of most interest to me are the "practical" applications which when I started collecting SA coins would have been how available these coins actually are.

 

To me, it seems incredible that if any significant quantity was published that it would not include this and even more incredible that if it was, that few either knew how scarce many of these coins are or could not be bothered to buy them at the time I did. Because if this last point of mine was not true, I do not see how I would have been able to buy as many of my coins so cheaply.

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Pierre_Henri    14
Pierre_Henri
Gert,

 

Thanks for the information. I was not aware that anything was published in the past and I will definitely look for it. I have Nomisma Volume 1 and 2 plus some pamphlet that was published in 1956 but I cannot remember by whom.

 

I do not really like holidays and when we go to Still Bay coming December for our annual summer holiday, I have a little numismatic project for myself in mind.

 

I have a fairly complete library of publications (not books) on South African Numismatics – (e.g. the ASANS journals, SAN convention publications, De Nummis editions, etc.).

I would like to list all the topics covered in these publications and then publish them for easy research e.g. .....

 

Interested in Paper Currency of The Anglo Boer War? – see ASANS journal number 1 pages 25 to 30.

 

Interested in early Cape Coinage? – see page 19 of the souvenir brochure covering the Third South African Numismatic Convention held in July 1967.

 

Interested in Commemorative Medallions of South Africa? See pages 62 to 71 of DE NUMMIS, number 4 of 1971.

 

And then as an afterthought! .... Anyone interested in how the old SA coin FARTS looked in 1955?

 

Then see following drawing from the first edition of De Nummis (July 1955). BTW, is there anyone on this forum who remembers / recalls some of the guys pictured here 57 years ago?

 

http://i37.photobucket.com/albums/e71/Pierrex/NumismatistsSA1955.jpg

 

Pierre

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