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ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club

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Volume 12, Number 10

October 1999

October Membership Meeting
Wed., October 6, 1999 Central Lutheran Church

7:30 PM Meeting


 

FROM YOUR EDITORS

Two bits occupied our discussions at the September 1st membership meeting: Loren's bit on the precursors of the American quarter and Larry's bit on how to collect quarters. A framed type set of quarters was passed around and Loren explained that the term "two bits" comes from two reales being one quarter of eight reales and the eight reales "pillar dollar" was the model for the early American silver dollar. In fact the Spanish eight reales and their fractions or "pieces of eight" circulated in the US well into the 1800's. Other coins in the type set included a James I shilling from the time of Great Britain's first colony in America.

Larry's bit on how he collected quarters included complete sets of quarters in various holders, including a custom Hard plastic holder for his Barber quarter collection and "coin safe" 2X2's in a notebook for his bust and liberty seated quarter collections. Larry passed these around for us to look at up close and explained how he filled the holes in his sets first with circulated coins....then as he could afford, Larry upgraded these sets to uncirculated coins. As Larry pointed out, he has a long way to go in filling out all of his sets with uncirculated coins.

Then we went into a discussion of the new state commemorative quarters. The only other commemorative quarters made were the Isabella quarter (1893) and the bicentennial quarter (1976). Carl showed us a nice example of an Isabella quarter and we passed around a proof set of the first 5 proof commemorative state quarters. The latest news from the Mint (http://www.usamint.gov) is that the silver proof version of the state commemorative quarters will be released in October.

But this was just a two bit prelude to the numismatic event of the season - Bill Fivaz's Coin Seminar. Bill showed us how to identify authentic and rare varieties of coins. Those who did not make it to the event did not see a rare Philiy Buffalo nickel with an S mint mark embossed on it with authentic luster lines running through it. This proved to be a fake added mint mark to lookout for.

They also missed the significance of pink colored gold and green colored silver and dozens of other points of information that Bill gave out.

To the YN's who attended the event, the three (7 hour) days must have seemed like numismatic boot camp. But we are very proud of the YN's who participated in the activities, and listened attentively throughout the seminar. Particularly Sarah Bilak... who was there from the start and won the 1938-D/D Buffalo nickel raffle prize. And there was Corey Rennell who got the second highest score on the final exam - outdoing almost everyone else in the room!.

Bill Fivaz gave us important points on the grading process and did extensive training on selected coin series. He showed us all the high points, told us things about grading services, and explained why some coins with full strikes are hard to find. He also gave us lists of significant Buffalo and Mercury varieties including the latest finds, several of which are not mentioned in the Cherry picker's Guide..

As well as a learning experience it was the social event of the season. Several members brought their best coins for Bill Fivaz and the rest of us to see. Lunches each day were great and a good time was had by all.... Your Editors.

 

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

Schedule of Events for the Month of October:

1. Monthly Membership Meeting: October 6th (Wednesday) at 7:30 PM at the Central Lutheran Church. Club members and general public welcome. A bullet auction of no more than 10 coin lots will occur. Members wishing to submit coins for the bullet auction can bring them to the meeting. There will be a presentation that evening by club member Richard Bilak on the subject of "Islamic Coinage".

2. YN (Young Numismatists) Meeting: October 8th (Friday) at 7:00 PM at the Central Lutheran Church. YNs, club members, and general public welcomed. Club member Richard Bilak will bring a hoard of ancient coins and give a presentation on "Ancient Coinage".

3. Anchorage Coin Club Board Meeting: October 20th (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM at the Central Lutheran Church. Club members welcomed.

Minutes of the September 15th Board Meeting:

The meeting was called to order at 7:15 PM.

Larry Nakata gave the Board a report on the results of the seminar held Sept. 10th - 12th at the Westcoast International Inn. The report indicated a very successful seminar with 25 people attending on Friday (Sept. 10th) and 30 people attending on Saturday and Sunday. The moneys collected for the seminar were sufficient to cover all expenses.

The Board wants to give a special thanks to Bill Fivaz (also a life member of our coin club) who was our instructor for this seminar. Bill and his wife, Marilyn, came up from Atlanta, GA to teach this seminar and we wish you could have stayed longer.

Following Larry's report, the Board reviewed coin club activities for the remainder of this year.

Coin shows are planned for Sept. 25th and 26th (at the Northway Mall) and Oct. 9th and 10th (at the Cottonwood Creek Mall in Wasilla). Don Thurber, organizer of the Northway Mall Coin Show, indicated 16 tables thus far for the show with additional tables still available. Robert Hall, organizer of the Cottonwood Creek Mall Coin Show, indicated all tables sold out at this time. Discussions followed on future shows and the possibility of including coin auctions at some of these events. This will be explored further by organizers of the coin shows.

Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) Silver Tetradrachm

Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) Silver Tetradrachm

The Board also went over the presentation schedules for our monthly club and YN meetings for the duration of the year.

The final subject of discussion covered was our club's Christmas party. The event is scheduled for December 9th (Thursday evening) at the Central Lutheran Church.

With this date chosen, the Board will be planning the Christmas party events in the coming months. Check the club's newsletter over the next few months for details.

As there was no further business to discuss, the Board meeting concluded at 8:15PM.

 

YN CORNER
by Larry Nakata (Member #41)

It was great seeing a lot of YNs attend our coin club's seminar on "Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection". Some of our YNs were even able to get special permission from school to attend this event on Friday.

Day number one (Friday) saw us going over the subject of "Counterfeit Detection" of coins. Bill Fivaz, our seminar instructor and life member of our coin club, went over how coins are altered or made from counterfeit dies... especially the key dates which can cost the collector lots of money. A lot of emphasis was placed on key dates like the 1909-S VDB cent, the 1922 Plain cent, the 1955 "doubled die" cent, the 1916-D Mercury dime, the 1932-D & -S Washington quarters, 1928-P Peace Dollar, and other coins. What diagnostics and characteristics to look for on these coins was discussed, it proved to be great information for us collectors.

As an exercise early that Friday we were asked to examine about 50 coins and determine if they were real or counterfeit. At the end of the day we were again asked to examine the same 50 coins. It's amazing how we were able to look at these coins the second time around with what we learned that day. Lots of counterfeit coins were examined.... coins that could have easily fooled even the most seasoned coin collector.

Day number two (Saturday) and three (Sunday) saw a lot of YNs come to the seminar. It was good seeing 30 people attend the weekend portion of the seminar. "Coin Grading" was the main subject covered. What we learned was that grading circulated coins ranging from AG (about good) to XF (extra fine) is fairly easy and can be graded through the "ANA Grading Standards for U.S. Coins" which the majority of our members and all YNs have in their library. We found that the harder grades to evaluate tend to be the AU (about uncirculated) and MS (mint state) grades. Characteristics such as luster, bag marks, wear, and eye appeal come to play when grading AU to MS type coins. When you consider the jump in price can be very significant.... especially between higher mint state grades..... one can appreciate the importance of such a seminar.

Also discussed that weekend was:

How coins are chemically dipped and treated to enhance their grade.

Toned coins (a result of oxidation on the surface of coins) and their effect on grading.

Some of the unscrupulous practices made to enhance a coin's appearance... such as "whizzing" and painting on a cameo finish onto the surface of a coin.

Storage and treatment of coins.

Lots of coins were upgraded and examined during the course of the seminar. A fine time was enjoyed by all of us. During the seminar, we raffled off our 1938-D/D Buffalo nickel graded MS-65 by NGC. The prize was won by YN Sarah Bilak. It's a fine coin to add to her collection.

Now that the seminar has concluded, we will be resuming our YN meetings beginning with our October 8th session at 7 PM / Central Lutheran Church. Club member, Richard Bilak, will be giving a presentation to our YNs on "Ancient Coins". It should be a pretty good session for all YNs with lots of ancients to look at. Who knows....you might even get a few of these coins to add to your collections.

I want to remind YNs of our October 6th club meeting for all of our members (including the adults). We usually have a nice coin auction at these meetings.

So figure on two coin club meetings that week...with the Friday session for the YNs.

Also....there will be two coin shows planned. One will be at the Northway Mall over the weekend of Sept. 25th and 26th. The second will be at the Cottonwood Creek Mall in Wasilla over the weekend of October 9th and 10th.

There will be a number of coin tables... including our coin club table at both shows. We will be manning the coin club table and hope to see a lot of you

YNs at these events.........

        Larry Nakata.

 

SURFING THE INTERNET

CHIEF EDITOR'S NOTE: In reviewing the articles that we have published this year, I noted there were no articles on the subject of ancient coins. To remedy this situation, the newsletter for this month and next month will concentrate on this subject. I have been promised articles by three of our club members who are ancient coin collectors. To start off this month's newsletter, I browsed the Internet looking for some nice articles on the subject of ancients. The Ancient Coin section of Collector's Universe had this rather nice article that I figured would be a good lead-in on the subject of ancient coins. It talks of the early minting process used in ancient coinage.

From: http://collectors.com/library/article view, html

 

THE EARLY MINTING PROCESS
by Jeremy Haag - August 27, 1999

At the very early stages of trade, humans relied on barter to obtain wanted good they could not produce themselves. As time progressed and the need for a simpler system of exchange developed, several forms of odd and curious money came into use. Seashells, metal rings, and cast objects were all used at one point or another as a form of currency. The idea evolved until someone thought of stamping marks of value onto nuggets of precious metal. Once coinage got its start, there was little to slow its spread of influence. In the span of two hundred years, nearly the entire Greek world was minting coinage. The production procedures were perfected to a science and lasted until the Renaissance when machinery came into use.

Ptolemy 1 (305-283 BC) Tetradrachm Obverse

Ptolemy 1 (305-283 BC) Tetradrachm Obverse

Nuggets of precious metal were originally used in various forms as a medium of exchange. The drawback of this was that each time the nuggets changed hands, the value had to be re-determined by weighing and testing the purity. With the introduction of coinage, those same nuggets were transformed into an easily accepted form of money. Though often irregularly shaped, ancient coins bore recognizable designs attesting to the issuing authority's guarantee of weight, purity, and value. The Lydians are acknowledged with the invention of the first coins in the seventh century BC, but the evolution of coinage can largely be credited to the Greeks. The spread of coinage was very rapid and by 500 BC most of the important Greek cities were minting. The first coins were composed of precious metal such as gold, electrum, and silver and were usually produced in large denominations. It seems probable that some time must have elapsed before coins were used for general trade or shopping. The original purpose of coinage was most probably to facilitate specific needs of the state such as to pay mercenary soldiers. Because governments issued them, the coins often declare independence or civic pride. They would have later been used to receive state income such as taxes or to facilitate exchange within the state or externally. Small change was a later development that eventually led to the introduction of bronze coinage in the fifth century BC. By this time coinage began to be used as a store of wealth and was employed in trade.

The technical methods the Greeks used to produce ancient coins were actually fairly simple and were done completely by hand. The first step would be to prepare the lumps of metal, or planchets. The metal would be melted and cast in molds into suitable shapes and weight for striking. The planchets differ just as the designs do. Some molds were fore individual planchets, others had channels that formed strips of planchets that were later broken apart after striking, and still others exhibited beveled or serrated edges. Once cooled, the planchets would be stored until needed. Modern attempts have shown this process is not as simple as it sounds. The accuracy in weight of the planchets is amazing and experts still do not fully understand how the ancient mints managed such precision.

Once ready for striking, the planchet would be heated just below the melting point and placed with a pair of thongs onto the obverse die fixed in the anvil. The upper die with the reverse design was placed on top of the planchet to be struck by a hammer. With a single blow the impression of both dies was left on the planchet transforming it into a coin. Because each coin was struck by hand, the results of striking would vary with the die alignment, pressure of strike, and sometimes the temperature of the planchet. Even two coins struck from the same pair of dies will exhibit differences. Eventually, hinged dies were developed that kept the obverse and reverse dies in perfect alignment. Despite the labor involved, mints were capable of producing large quantities of well-struck specimens. Mint supervisors, or magistrates, pushed the mint workers to produce as many coins as possible while ensuring the quality of the product and preventing fraud. Due to the tight security, relatively few artifacts remain from actual mint operation. Mint workers needed to not only be very talented but also adequately motivated. In cases where they were not, it is obvious. Literally tons of mis-struck coins on bad planchets or coins that exhibit some kind of striking error escaped the mints and have survived in various stages of circulation.

Ptolemy 1 (305-283 BC) Tetradrachm / Reverse

Ptolemy 1 (305-283 BC) Tetradrachm / Reverse

Individuals known as celators engraved the coin designs into the bronze dies. The earliest of coins were marked with a single punch that had a simple design. Lines were scratched into the anvil to help prevent the planchet from moving. Because most coin designs were rendered in relief, a negative of the design was engraved in the die. Later, a die was placed in the anvil to provide a second template for the engraver's work. At this stage coins had both an obverse and reverse design. The first designs found on coinage are rather simple depicting civic badges. As time passed though, the designs became more involved depicting animals, plants, and mythological figures. Impressively, the celators relied on the naked eye to engrave those intricate designs. The bronze dies were very easy to engrave, and, once completed, would be hardened over intense flames. A die of this type could strike at least ten thousand specimens without damage or wear to the die and would have been used until it significantly deteriorated. Today many look at ancient coins as miniature works of art. The Greeks themselves saw their coins as pieces of art and actually copied designs from other coins and artwork. Some celators are known to have traveled from city to city offering their services to the local mints. At the height of artistic creativity in coinage, issuing authorities such as Sicily actually allowed the celators to place their signatures on coins This is a rarity in the early history of coinage and reflects how the Greek: admired coinage in the same way a pottery or carved gems.

Ptolomy IV (221 - 204 BC) 35 mm. Bronze

Ptolomy IV (221 - 204 BC) 35 mm. Bronze

The technology and methods employed by the ancient Greeks and Romans continued up until the seventeenth century. At this time minting machinery began to be employed by the Europeans, which resulted in planchets that were more perfectly round. This allowed the coins to be better struck and more consistent in size and shape. These coins look very much like the coins that are in circulation today. By studying the ancient coins themselves, much can be learned of the minting techniques employed. There is still debate on how the planchets of Alexandrian bronze coinage were prepared and why some Roman Republic denarii exhibit serrated edges. Part of the fun of this area is making observations on the remnants of minting preparation and trying to work backward through the minting process to determine how and why they resulted.

Bibliography:

Carradice, Ian. Greek Coins. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995 pp. 11-16.

Jenkins, O.K. Ancient Greek Coins. New York: G. P. Putnum's Sons, 1972 pp. 9-20.

Sayles, Wayne G. Ancient Coin Collecting. Volume 1. lola, WI: Krause Publications, 1996. pp 9-13.

 

 

ALEXANDER'S SONS AND GENERALS - Part 1
by Loren Lucason (Member #97)

Philip II united Greece in 440 BC (by force)... then in 437 BC set the united Greek army against the Persian Empire to avenge them for what they had done to the Greeks in the past.. He was assassinated in 336 BC and his son, Alexander III took up his quest. Coins in Philip's name were struck for the next forty years at two mints, Pella and Amphipolis. These coins were in the Thraco-Macedonian weight standard of 14.4 grams to the tetradrachm. Philip II tetradrachms have the head of Zeus on the obverse and a horse and rider on the reverse. Gold staters weighing 8.6 grams have the head of Apollo on the obverse and a rider in a chariot pulled by two horses (a biga) on the reverse. They are identified by Philip's name in Greek on the reverse. With their long mintage time these coins are attainable. A nice tetradrachm runs about $350 for a VF and a gold stater ranges from about $3000 to the moon.

Back to the quest; the first Asian cities Alexander encountered were once Greek city-states and they welcomed Alexander as a liberator. With the latest technology (catapults and such) and a lot of luck Alexander III went on to conquer the Persian Empire and take Egypt as well. In the north-eastern extent of his domination he met and married the local prince's daughter, Roxanne. Some say it was to stabilize his power in the area and some say it was because she was incredibly beautiful. Probably it was both. Then on the way back to Macedonian from an attempt to conquer India Alexander died of fever.

Ptolemy X (106 - 101 BC) Tetradrachm

Ptolemy X (106 - 101 BC) Tetradrachm

Alexander had set up a standard coinage for all his conquered lands in the Attic weight standard of 17 grams to the tetradrachm. Coinage in his name was issued for decades after his death and, in general, the weight standard slipped downward. Tetradrachms had the image of Herakles in a lion skin headdress on the obverse and Zeus in a chair on the reverse. There are countless mints and styles but they all have Alexander's name spelled as ALEXANDROS in Greek on the reverse. An Alexander the Great tetradrachm (starting about $250) is required if you want to say you have a collection of Ancient Greek coins. Drachms (starling about $100) are the same design only smaller. Gold staters are available and even more common than Philip II staters. They feature Athena with a Corinthian helmet pushed back on her head on the obverse and winged Nike standing on the reverse. They start at about $3000 and should be purchased from someone you trust.

Ptolemy XII (80 - 58 BC) Tetradrachm

Ptolemy XII (80 - 58 BC) Tetradrachm

With Alexander dead the heir to the throne was a compromise between Alexander's feeble minded half brother and Alexander IV (Alexander's son by Roxanne). The real power was put in the hands of the generals who were already governing the provinces. In the next two decades Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Seteucus, Antigonus, and others proceeded to chop up the empire into their own countries in a series of wars called the Diadochi wars.

Ptolemy had himself declared Ptolemy I; a god in Egypt, settled into Egyptian ways, and set up a dynasty. It ended when Cleopatra VII (daughter of Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VI) committed suicide after her bad encounters with Mark Antony and the Roman army (as seen in the movies).

Ptolemy I tetradrachms are the best for weight, silver content, and portraiture. During his reign the weight dropped to 15.5 grams. The obverse of his early coins have Herakles in a lion skin headdress and some have a wonderful portrait of Herakles in an elephant headdress. Elephants were important to

Egyptians. It is hard to find a well centered coin with all of the elephant's snout. His later coins have self portraits on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. The silver content in the coins of later generation Ptolemies dropped lo the point where they are considered debased. There are portraits of the other Ptolemies but the quality of the artwork went down towards the end of the dynasty. Ptolemy I tetradrachms in VF should be available for about $250. The later Ptolemy tetradrachms drop in price to a Ptolemy XI tetradrachtn going for $60 and they cannot be found in nice VF because of their lower silver content.

Bronze Egyptian coins, minted in Alexandria (a very Greek-like city at the mouth of the Nile), had the head of Zeus on the obverse with his long beard and hair. The reverse had either one or two eagles. They come in a variety of sizes and the price depends on the grade ranging from $7 to over a hundred.

Portrait coins of Cleopatra VII are sought after by history buffs as well as because of her fame. However she is not the beauty portrayed in the movies. She must have been a good talker. There is a silver drachm with her portrait (Seaby #7954) but I have never seen one for sale. The portrait bronzes I have seen are both ugly because of copper corrosion and because she looks like a "battle-ax". However she did have power, she had a child with Julius Caesar, seduced Mark Antony, and ran one of the most powerful and ancient countries in the world. So her bronze coins in bad shape start about $250 and go through the roof in better shape.

Lysimachos, another one of Alexander's generals took over the government of Thrace, built the city of Lysimacheia, and proceeded to strike coins in his name. He was cruel and unpopular, and eventually his country was conquered by Seleucus, another one of Alexander's generals who was building an empire stretching across Asia. They both had coinages that excelled in art but that will have to be taken up next month in Part II of my article.....

        Loren.

 


The Anchorage Coin Club
 

Meetings:       Membership meeting - First Wednesday of the month, 7:30 PM
                        E-Board meeting - Third Wednesday of the month, 7:00 PM
                        Meetings held at the Central Lutheran Church, at the corner of 15th and Cordova

 

Club Officers

President-                    Loren Lucason    Eves: 272-3700
V. President-                John Larson       Eves: 276-3292
Treasurer-                      Robert Hall        Eves: 561-8343
Secretary-                   Larry Nakata        Days: 269-5603
                                                                    Eves: 563-1729

Editors -                     Loren Lucason
                                    Larry Nakata
                                    Robin Sisler
                                    Mike Nourse
                                    Jim Susky
Club Archivist / Photographer - Robin Sisler

Board of Directors

Roy Brown-                      Days: 563-6708

Don Thurber-                  Eves: 338-7488

Mike Orr-                         Eves: 522-3679

DUES

To save costs, members not responding to renewal notices within 3 months will be considered inactive.

The Anchorage Coin Club is a non-profit organization formed to provide information, education, and a meeting place for individuals having an interest in numismatics.

Correspondence Address: Anchorage Coin Club, P.O. Box 230169, Anchorage, Alaska 99523