The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 51, December 14, 2014, Article 30


David Pickup submitted this holiday article about coins and Christmas. Thanks! -Editor

Coins at Christmas - A Coin Collector’s Christmas
By David R Pickup

We will start not at the beginning of Christmas but at another beginning. Less important than the nativity, but of great importance to collectors. A few days before Christmas in 1836, on 22nd December, a number of "friends of numismatic science" met in London to set up the Numismatic Society. Their purpose was to "exhibit rare and curious specimens of numismatic art of all ages and countries" as well as read papers on numismatic subjects. I imagine they liked to chat about the "good old days" as well as coins collectors sometimes do.

Membership cost a guinea and a council of seven men were appointed which included William Wyon and Edward Hawkins. John Yonge Akerman and Isaac Cullimore were the first secretaries. Akerman started the society’s journal in the same year. Hawkins was keeper of antiquities at the British Museum and wrote the book called Medallic Illustrations. Akerman was the author of many popular and more specialised books on coins. This was the first meeting of what became the Royal Numismatic Society and the first society devoted to numismatics anywhere.

Charles Dickens two pound coin We associate Christmas with Charles Dickens. His novel, A Christmas Carol, was written a few years later in 1843. At the time Dickens was writing his now world famous story he could have consulted an ever-burgeoning number of popular histories of Christmas such as TK Hervey’s Book of Christmas (1836), and his A History of the Christmas Festival, the New Year and their Peculiar Customs (1843) and Thomas Wright’s Specimens of Old Carols (1841). Charles Dickens was featured on a well designed two pound coin in 2012.

Dickens is said to have invented our modern idea of Christmas with its snow, frost and cold. The 1830s were amongst the coldest on record. Snow lasted well into March, with 8 or 9 feet of snow being reported in parts of the country. This continued for a number of winters. On Christmas Day 1836, the roads were impassable with snow lying five to fifteen deep in many places, and drifts of over twenty feet. Let us leave the "friends of numismatics" to the snow and cold and think about other Christmas coins.

Latvia Christmas coin 2012 In recent years a number of mints have issued Christmas coins. The Isle of Man has issued a Christmas 50 pence piece nearly every year since 1980. Gibraltar has also issued Christmas-themed 50-cent coins most years since 1990. A country whose Christmas coins stand out for excellence of design is Latvia. For over 11 years the Bank of Latvia issued special 1-lats circulation coins. The standard of artistic design is very high on all their coins. The coin with Christmas bells was designed by artist Holgers Elers and modelled by sculptor Laura Medne and struck at the German mint Staatliche Münze Baden-Württemberg. The total circulation of the coin is one million a comparatively low mintage. I know it sounds a lot but a million in coin terms is not many. I have just noticed the lion on the left seems to be smoking a pipe!

Christmas is a time for presents of course. Chocolate coins are traditionally given to children as both a Christian and secular tradition at Christmas time and Saint Nicholas Day and in Jewish tradition during Hanukkah. Adult coin collectors are allowed chocolate coins as well in fact it is a good way of combining an interest in numismatics with food. They tend to study the foil wrapper closely to look for mint errors, brockages, and rare dates before eating them. In 2011 The British Daily Mail reported that shops were stopping selling Euro chocolate coins and going back to Sterling chocolate coins. Another tradition which I can remember, so it is later than the Middle Ages, is putting silver coins in Christmas puddings. You had to be careful not to break a tooth when you bit into the pudding. Perhaps it was a way of getting children to eat slowly. Good luck with that!

Not many numismatists seem to get numismatic presents even at this time of year. Why not buy yourself something as a treat? However you are celebrating have a brilliant Christmas and an uncirculated New Year.

Kraljevich E-sylum ad16 Henry Clay

Wayne Homren, Editor

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