Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on the topic of size in numismatics, namely, how big is too big for something to still be
considered a numismatic object? Thanks! -Editor
With the realization that the Pablo Picasso medallic item mentioned in the last two issues of The E-Sylum is 16 1/2 inches (42cm) the
question becomes --- Is this numismatic? Would you consider this is too large to be placed within the realm of numismatics?
This discussion is not for the collector of coins whose specimens are all silver-dollar size or smaller. I have often heard this statement from
such collectors: "If it doesn't fit in a 2x2 the hell with it!"
There is a larger world out there in an upper echelon of numismatics. Those coin collectors are missing a wide variety of the pleasures of the
field in specimens which don't fit in a 2x2.
But it brings up the question: What is the range of sizes of collectible items which could be considered "numismatic"?
We know the smallest coin, at least struck in America, is the "Panama Pill" the 2 1/2 centesimos with a diameter of 10mm. But what is
the top end of the numismatic spectrum?
The winner, hands down, is the 10-daler Swedish plate money. James Mackey lists a number of large coins in his book, "Coin Facts &
Feats," starting with Swedish plate money and also listing the largest gold coin, the largest silver coin.
The E-Sylum carried an article in 2010 about large gold coins from Russia and China. But these were eclipsed by a $1 million dollar gold
coin made in Canada the size of an auto wheel.
While these were made as dramatic stunts, perhaps, let's consider what can be acquired by an average collector.
Consider galvano reliefs. These are made from the sculptor's original patterns for both coins and medals. Coin models are generally less than
ten inches (to be easily reduced to coin size dies).
Models for medals have been made up to 16-inch diameter (as some of the Society of Medallists series). It does not matter what size the artists
makes these models, whatever he is comfortable in creating. They are reduced when cutting the die to desired size. Formerly this reduction was
accomplished on the Janvier die-cutting pantograph, more recently by computer controlled engraving.
Often those original relief patterns were made into galvanos -- or foundry casts -- of the same size. Many of these have passed into
collectors' hands, frequently offered in auctions of Presidential Art and other auction houses. They prove popular among collectors, despite the
fact they don't fit in a coin cabinet and are destined to be hung on a wall.
Certainly then, the 16 1/2-inch Picasso relief mentioned above would obviously be considered "numismatic" since it falls in the category
of a "medallic object."
So where is the boundary line for what is numismatic? For my databank I have arbitrarily chosen 18 inches as the top size. Anything smaller could
be collected by an individual. Anything larger would more than likely be in the collections of institutions.
What is your opinion?
A line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think Dick's 18-inch cutoff is as good as any. But a case could be made for a much
smaller size; after all, if it can't fit in my pants pocket, can it really be a coin? Many medals would fit, but many others would not, and
they're still numismatic. At some point the item is more of a small sculpture than a coin or medal. What do our readers think? -Editor
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
LOREN GATCH ON BIG GOLD COINS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n26a20.html)
MORE ON THE PABLO PICASSO SILVER AND GOLD MEDALS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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