Facts About Coin Collecting

Wondering what the name is for an individual that collects coins? That would be a Numismatist. (Pronounced new-miss-ma-tist.) It means “someone who studies and collects things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, paper bills, and medals.”

Interested in the art of coin collecting? This type of collection was once called “The Hobby of Kings”. Today, numismatics is a hobby available to anyone. With coins flooding the internet, anyone with access and a desire to hold history their hand is able to join in on this passion. Believe it or not, the origins of this captivating hobby are quite unusual. Until the 20th century, coin collecting was exclusively a pastime of royalty and wealthy.

The first recorded person to have a coin collection was Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. He lived from 63 B.C. to A.D. 14, and the eighth month of our year is named after him.

Not only did Augustus keep adding coins to his collection, but he also gave them as gifts. Starting this trend, many of the Roman emperors who ruled after Augustus also had large coin collections. The hobby became even more popular during the Middle Ages, when wealthy individuals and royal families built awesome collections.

This question may have crossed your mind from time to time, how long do coins last? And what happens to them once worn out? Most coins can circulate for about 25 years before they become too worn to be used anymore. That’s a long time when you consider that the average dollar lasts for only 18 months.

The United States Mint recycles worn-out coins it receives from a Federal Reserve Bank. The Mint then sends any usable metal that’s recovered to a fabricator, then repurposes for new coinage.

At first glance, many coins may look almost identical, but when you see the difference in the price tag you may think twice about how similar they really are. The things that affect the value of the coin most are age, rarity, condition, and precious metal. The value of any one coin can be surprising. For example, you can buy some Roman coins that are more than 1600 years old for less than $10.  But then there are some worn 1909 wheat pennies that sell for hundreds of dollars, or more!

Usually, the harder a coin is to find and the more people who want it, the more it’s worth. This is known as the law of supply and demand. It holds true no matter what the collectible.

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on a U.S. coin in 1864, during the Civil War. In particular, the two-cent piece; first minted in that year, was the first coin with the slogan.

Since gaining independence, the U.S. has minted coins in denominations that today may seem odd. For example, the U.S. has minted half cents (1793-1857), two-cent pieces (1864-1873), three-cent pieces (1851-1889), twenty-cent pieces (1875-1878), $2.50 gold pieces (1796-1929), $3.00 gold piece (1854-1889), $4.00 gold pieces (1879-1880), $5.00 gold pieces or half eagles (1795-1929), $10.00 gold pieces or eagles (1795-1933), and $20.00 gold pieces (“double eagles”) (1849-1933). Currently, the only coin denominations for circulation being minted are the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar.

Coin collecting is a pastime that has been around for thousands of years. It can grow with you as you find interest in different time periods in history, art-work of a particular coin and culture. There are as many avenues in coin collecting as you wish to travel, and with coins you can venture virtually anywhere around the world and to any period of time back to early human civilization right from the comfort of your home. Coin collecting can be a journey into history that lasts a lifetime – and the first coin to strike your interest may be sitting in your pocket or local coin shop right now.

Enjoy your journey in this very exciting hobby!

The History of St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. What is known about Saint Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. According to the Declaration Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland when he was sixteen years old. It says that he spent a total of six years working as a shepherd and that during this time he found God. The Declaration says that God spoke to Patrick, and told him to flee to the coast, where a ship would take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.

Irish Government Ministers travel abroad on official visits to various countries around the globe to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and promote Ireland. The most prominent of these is the visit of the Irish Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) with the U.S. President which happens on or around St. Patrick’s Day.

Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Christians who belong to liturgical denominations also attend church services and historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora around the world, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.

According to the tale, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years in the northern half of Ireland and redesigned the religious beliefs of thousands. Patrick’s efforts against the religious leaders were eventually turned into a legend in which he drove “snakes” out of Ireland.

Tradition holds that he died on 17 March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s most memorable saint.

Conventionally, the Taoiseach presents the U.S. President a Waterford Crystal bowl filled with shamrocks. This ritual began when Irish Ambassador to the U.S. John Hearne sent a box of shamrocks to President Harry S. Truman in 1952. From that moment, it became an annual tradition for the Irish ambassador to present the St Patrick’s Day shamrock to an official in the U.S. President’s administration. However, it was only after the meeting between Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and President Bill Clinton in 1994 that the presenting of the shamrock ceremony became an annual event for the leaders of both countries for St Patrick’s Day.

Needless to say, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many countries and one of the longest-running and largest St. Patrick’s Day parades occurs each year in Montreal, Canada, whose city flag includes a shamrock in lower right corner. The yearly celebration has been organised by the United Irish Societies of Montreal since 1929. The parade has been held yearly without interruption since 1824. St Patrick’s Day itself, however, has been celebrated in Montreal since as far back as 1759 by Irish soldiers in the Montreal Garrison following the British conquest of New France.


In present day, celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, Irish traditional music sessions, and wearing green clothing, accessories and/or shamrocks. There are also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances, although these were more common in the past. St Patrick’s Day parades began in North America in the 18th century, but did not spread to Ireland until the 20th century. The events have participants from all walks of life, they generally include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organizations, charitable organizations, voluntary associations, youth groups, fraternities, and so on.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been criticised, particularly for their association with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Some argue that the festivities have become too commercialized and have become somewhat cut-rate and have strayed from their original purpose of honouring St Patrick and Irish heritage. Journalist Niall O’Dowd has criticised attempts to recast St Patrick’s Day as a celebration of multiculturalism rather than a celebration of Irishness.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have also been criticized for fostering offensive stereotypes of Ireland and the Irish people themselves. An very well known example is the people who partake in dressing in ‘leprechaun outfits’, which are based on derogatory 19th century caricatures of the Irish. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2014, the Ancient Order of Hibernians successfully campaigned to stop major American retailers from selling novelty merchandise that promoted negative Irish stereotypes. This year consider your celebrations and the way you can honor Ireland and Ireland’s beloved Saint Patrick.

New Year’s Good Luck Cake

Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe, which contains a hidden coin that is believed to bring luck to the one who obtains the coin. It is associated with Sainr Basil’s day. (Saint Basil’s Feast Day is observed on January 1, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season known as the Vasilopita Observance) January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are associated with Epiphany or Christmas The dough in which the coin is placed varies immensely depending on personal preference and location/region. In some families, instead of dough, it is made from a custard base. The pie is known as Chronópita, meaning New Year’s Pie.

On New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the bread by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. 

In older times, the coin often was a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. As time went on, the tradition of a costly coin (in most cases) changed. In more modern times, a gift, money or prize is given to the coin recipient. Many private or public institutions, such as societies, clubs, workplaces, companies, etc., cut their vasilopita on New Year’s Day and the beginning of the Great Lent, in celebrations that range from impromptu potluck gatherings to formal receptions or balls.

How did this tradition start you may ask? In popular belief, vasilopita is associated with a legend of Basil of Caesarea. According to one story, Basil called on the Roman citizens of Caesarea to raise a ransom payment to stop the enemy forces from surrounding the city, cutting off essential supplies with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside. Each individual of the city gave what they had in gold and jewelry. When the ransom was raised, the  adversary was so embarrassed by the people’s cooperation that he called off the siege without taking a thing. Basil was then tasked with returning the unpaid ransom, but had no way of knowing which items belonged to which family, so he baked all of the jewelry into loaves of bread and distributed the loaves around the city, and by a miracle each citizen received their exact share.

The Controversial Works of G.A. Henty

George Alfred Henty, best known for his historical adventure stories that were popular in the late 19th century, was a prolific English novelist and war correspondent.

G.A. Henty was born in Trumpington, near Cambridge. He was a sickly child who had to spend long periods in bed. During his frequent illnesses he became an avid reader and developed a wide range of interests which he carried into adulthood. He attended Westminster School, London, and later Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was a keen sportsman. He left the university early without completing his degree to volunteer for the Army Hospital Commissariat when the Crimean War began.

800px-Panorama_dentro

Depiction of the Crimean War by Franz Roubaud

Henty was sent to the Crimea and while there he witnessed the appalling conditions under which the British soldier had to fight. His letters home were filled with vivid descriptions of what he saw. His father was impressed by his letters and sent them to The Morning Advertiser newspaper which printed them. This initial writing success was a factor in Henty’s later decision to accept the offer to become a special correspondent, the early name for journalists now better known as war correspondents.

Shortly before resigning from the army as a captain in 1859 he married Elizabeth Finucane. The couple had four children. Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness and shortly after her death Henty began writing articles for the Standard newspaper. In 1866 the newspaper sent him as their special correspondent to report on the Austro-Italian War where he met Giuseppe Garibaldi. He went on to cover the 1868 British punitive expedition to Abyssinia, the Franco-Prussian War, the Ashanti War, the Carlist Rebellion in Spain and the Turco-Serbian War. He also witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal and travelled to Palestine, Russia and India.

Henty once stated  in an interview how his storytelling skills grew out of tales told after dinner to his children. He wrote his first children’s book, Out on the Pampas in 1868, naming the book’s main characters after his children. The book was published by Griffith and Farran in November 1870 with a title page date of 1871. While most of the 122 books he wrote were for children, he also wrote adult novels, non-fiction such as The March to Magdala and Those Other Animals, short stories for the likes of The Boy’s Own Paper and edited the Union Jack, a weekly boy’s magazine.

Henty’s children’s novels typically revolved around a boy or young man living in troubled times. These ranged from the Punic War to more recent conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars or the American Civil War. Henty’s heroes – which occasionally included young ladies – are uniformly intelligent, courageous, honest and resourceful with plenty of ‘pluck’, yet also modest. These virtues have made Henty’s novels popular today among many Christians and homeschoolers.

Henty’s commercial popularity encouraged other writers to try writing juvenile adventure stories in his style; “Herbert Strang”, Henry Everett McNeil, Percy F. Westerman and Captain Frederick Sadleir Brereton all wrote novels in “the Henty tradition”, often incorporating then-contemporary themes such as aviation and First World War combat. By the 1930s, however, interest in Henty’s work was declining in Britain, and hence few children’s writers there looked to his work as a model

s-l1600 (32)

A Tale of the Crimea

Henty usually researched his novels by ordering several books on the subject he was writing on from libraries, and consulting them before beginning writing. Some of his books were written about events (such as the Crimean War) that he witnessed himself; hence, these books are written with greater detail as Henty drew upon his first-hand experiences of people, places, and events.

Even during his lifetime, Henty’s work was a source of controversy; some Victorian writers accused Henty’s novels of being xenophobic towards non-British people and objected to his glorification of British imperialism in such books as True to the Old Flag (1885) which supports the Loyalist side in the American War of Independence, and In the Reign of Terror (1888) and No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée (1900) which are strongly hostile to the French Revolution. However, In Henty’s novel In Freedom’s Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce (1885) the hero fights against the English, and bitterly denounces the acts of England’s king, Edward I.

Henty’s popularity amongst homeschoolers is not without controversy. Quoting from the chapter of By Sheer Pluck called “The Negro Character” (“like children”), American television host and political commentator Rachel Maddow called Henty’s writings “spectacularly racist”. Carpenter and Pritchard note that while “Henty’s work is indeed full of racial (and class) stereotypes”, he sometimes created sympathetic ethnic minority characters, such as the Indian servant who marries a white woman in With Clive in India, and point out Henty admired the Turkish Empire. Some even accuse Henty of holding blacks in utter contempt, and this is expressed in novels such as By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War and A Roving Commission, or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti. Kathryne S. McDorman states Henty disliked blacks and also, in Henty’s fiction, that “Boers and Jews were considered equally ignoble”. In By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War, Mr. Goodenough, an entomologist remarks to the hero:

They [Negroes] are just like children … They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. … They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed. They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.

s-l1600 (33)

Illustration from the novel Facing Death

In the Preface to his novel A Roving Commission (1900) Henty claims “the condition of the negroes in Hayti has fallen to the level of that of the savage African tribes” and argues “unless some strong white power should occupy the island and enforce law and order” this situation will not change.

A review by Deirdre H. McMahon in Studies of the Novel in 2010 refers to his novels as jingoist and racist and states that during the previous decade “Numerous reviews in right-wing and conservative Christian journals and websites applaud Henty’s texts as model readings and thoughtful presents for children, especially boys. These reviews often ignore Henty’s racism by packaging his version of empire as refreshingly heroic and patriotic.”

Despite the controversies, Henty wrote 122 works of historical fiction. Several short stories published in book form are included in this total, with the stories taken from previously published full-length novels. On 16 November 1902, Henty died aboard his yacht in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, leaving unfinished his last novel, By Conduct and Courage, which was completed by his son Captain C.G. Henty. Henty is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.


Check out our eBay store to find some copies of G.A. Henty’s novels!

Edmund Dulac

Edmund Dulac was a French-British magazine illustrator, book illustrator and stamp designer. Born in Toulouse he studied law but later turned to the study of art at the École des Beaux-Arts. He moved to London in the early 20th century and in 1905 received his first commission which was to illustrate the novels of the Brontë Sisters. During World War I, Dulac produced relief books and when after the war he turned to mainly magazine illustrations. He designed banknotes during World War II and postage stamps, most notably, during the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

Edmund_Dulac_-_Prince_and_Princess

“She had read all the newspapers” from “The Snow Queen” London, Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1911

At 22 Dulac was commissioned by the publisher J. M. Dent to illustrate Jane Eyre and nine other volumes of works by the Brontë sisters. He then became a regular contributor to The Pall Mall Magazine, and joined the London Sketch Club, which introduced him to the book and magazine illustrators of the day. Through these connections he began an association with the Leicester Galleries and Hodder & Stoughton. The gallery commissioned illustrations from Dulac which they sold in an annual exhibition, while publishing rights to the paintings were taken up by Hodder & Stoughton for reproduction in illustrated gift books. Books produced under this arrangement by Dulac include Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907) with 50 colour images; an edition of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1908) with 40 colour illustrations; The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1909) with 20 colour images; The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales (1910); Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1911); The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1912) with 28 colour images and many monotone illustrations; and Princess Badoura (1913).

During World War I he contributed to relief books, including King Albert’s Book (1914), Princess Mary’s Gift Book, and, his own Edmund Dulac’s Picture-Book for the French Red Cross (1915) including 20 colour images. Hodder and Stoughton also published The Dreamer of Dreams (1915) including 6 colour images – a work composed by the then Queen of Romania.

 

s-l1600 (12)

1910 Shakespeare’s Comedy of The Tempest Illustrated by Edmund Dulac

After the war, the deluxe edition illustrated books became a rarity and Dulac’s career in this field was over. His last such books were Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book (1916), the Tanglewood Tales (1918)  and The Kingdom of the Pearl (1920). His career continued in other areas, including newspaper caricatures (especially at The Outlook), portraiture, theatre costume and set design, bookplates, chocolate boxes, medals, and various graphics (especially for The Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate).

He also produced illustrations for The American Weekly, a Sunday newspaper chain in America and Britain’s Country Life. Country Life Limited (London) published Gods and Mortals in Love (1935) (including 9 colour images) based on a number of the contributions made by Dulac to Country Life previously. The Daughter of the Stars (1939) was a further publication to benefit from Dulac’s artwork – due to constraints related to the outbreak of World War II, that title included just 2 colour images. He continued to produce books for the rest of his life, more so than any of his contemporaries, although these were less frequent and less lavish than during the Golden Age.

Dulac also designed postage stamps for Great Britain, including the postage stamp issued to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI that was issued on 13 May 1937. The head of the King used on all the stamps of that reign was his design and he also designed the 2s 6d and 5s values for the ‘arms series’ high values. As well he contributed designs for the sets of stamps issued to commemorate the 1948 Summer Olympics and the Festival of Britain.

Stamp_UK_1953_1shilling3d_coronation

Dulac Designed 1953 Coronation Stamp

 

Dulac was one of the designers of the Wilding series stamps, which were the first definitive stamps of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. He was responsible for the frame around the image of the Queen on the 1s, 1s 3d and 1s 6d values. His image of the Queen was rejected in favor of a photographic portrait by Dorothy Wilding to which he carried out some modifications by hand. He also designed the 1s 3d value stamp of the set issued to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II but he passed just before it was issued.

Dulac designed stamps (Marianne de Londres series) and banknotes for Free France during World War II. In the early 1940s Dulac also prepared a project for a Polish 20-zlotych note for the Bank of Poland (Bank Polski). This banknote (printed in England in 1942 but dated 1939) was ordered by the Polish Government in Exile and was never issued.

Halfway through his final book commission (Milton’s Comus), Dulac passed away of a heart attack on 25 May 1953 in London. He is forever remembered as a prominent illustrator of the 20th century.


If you’d like a 1910 copy of The Tempest illustrated by Edmund Dulac check out our Ebay Store

John Ruskin

John Ruskin was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. His writing styles and literary forms were varied; he penned essays, treatises, poetry, lectures, travel guides, manuals, letters, and fairy tales. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

Ruskin was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation steadily improved since the 1960’s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognized as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.

John_Ruskin_by_James_Northcote

Ruskin as a young child, painted by James Northcote

Ruskin was born in 1823 and he grew up in the village of Camberwell in South London. He was educated at home by his parents and private tutors, and from 1834 to 1835 attended the school in Peckham run by the progressive Evangelical, Thomas Dale (1797–1870). Ruskin went on to enroll and complete his studies at King’s College, where he prepared for Oxford under Dale’s tutelage

 

Ruskin was greatly influenced by the extensive and privileged travels he enjoyed in his childhood. Travel helped establish his taste and enriched his education. His father visited business clients in Britain’s country houses, exposing him to English landscapes, architecture and paintings. The tours provided Ruskin with the opportunity to record his observations of nature. He composed conventional poetry, some of which was published in Friendship’s Offering. His early notebooks and sketchbooks are full of visually sophisticated and technically accomplished drawings of maps, landscapes and buildings, remarkable for a boy of his age.

Ruskin’s travels also provided inspiration for writing. His first publication was the poem “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” (August 1829). In 1834 three short articles for Loudon’s Magazine of Natural History were published; they show early signs of his skill as a close “scientific” observer of nature, especially its geology. From September 1837 to December 1838, Ruskin’s The Poetry of Architecture was serialized in Loudon’s Architectural Magazine, under the pen name “Kata Physin” (Greek for “According to Nature”). The poetry was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centered on an argument that buildings should be sympathetic to their immediate environment and use local materials. In 1839, Ruskin’s ‘Remarks on the Present State of Meteorological Science’ was published in Transactions of the Meteorological Society.

Ruskin toured the continent again with his parents in 1844, visiting Chamonix and Paris, studying the geology of the Alps and the paintings of Titian, Veronese and Perugino among others at the Louvre. In 1845, at the age of 26, he traveled without his parents for the first time and it provided him with an opportunity to study medieval art and architecture in France, Switzerland and especially Italy. In Lucca he saw the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia which Ruskin considered the exemplar of Christian sculpture.

During 1847 Ruskin became closer to Effie Gray, the daughter of family friends. It was for Effie that Ruskin had written “The King of the Golden River”. The couple was engaged in October and they married on 10 April 1848 at her home in Perth. The European Revolutions of 1848 meant that the newlyweds’ earliest travelling together was limited, but they were able to visit Normandy, where Ruskin admired the Gothic architecture.

 

Their early life together was spent at 31 Park Street, Mayfair, a home bought for them by Ruskin’s father. Effie was too ill to undertake the European tour of 1849, so Ruskin visited the Alps with his parents, gathering material for the third and fourth volumes of Modern Painters. He was struck by the contrast between the Alpine beauty and the poverty of Alpine peasants.

In November 1849, Effie and John Ruskin visited Venice. For Effie, Venice provided an opportunity to socialize, while Ruskin was engaged in solitary studies. In particular, he made a point of drawing the Ca’ d’Oro and the Doge’s Palace, because he feared they would be destroyed by the occupying Austrian troops. One of these troops, Lieutenant Charles Paulizza, made friends with Effie, apparently with no objection from Ruskin. Her brother, among others, later claimed that Ruskin was deliberately encouraging the friendship to compromise her, as an excuse to separate. Their marriage, not consummated, later dissolved under discord and eventual annulment.

Ruskin’s sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. Effie, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her “person” repugnant:

He alleged various reasons, hatred of children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April [1848].

Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings:

It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.

The cause of Ruskin’s “disgust” has led to much controversy. Ruskin’s biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking. However, Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, “It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife’s pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood.” Ruskin’s biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odor may have been the problem.

Ruskin’s later relationship with Rose La Touche has led to claims that he was a pedophile, since he outwardly declared that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine. It is also true that in letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway he asked her to draw her “girlies” (as he called her child figures) without clothing In a letter to his physician John Simon on 15 May 1886, Ruskin wrote:

I like my girls from ten to sixteen—allowing of 17 or 18 as long as they’re not in love with anybody but me.—I’ve got some darlings of 8—12—14—just now, and my Pigwiggina here—12—who fetches my wood and is learning to play my bells.

Ruskin’s biographers disagree about the allegation of “pedophilia”. Tim Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that Ruskin “was a pedophile” but leaves the claim unexplained, while John Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because Ruskin’s behavior does not “fit the profile”. It is because of this that many speculate Ruskin’s marriage with Effie truly never worked out.

Meanwhile after Ruskin’s marriage was annulled, he was making the extensive sketches and notes that he used for his three-volume work, “The Stones of Venice” (1851–53). Developing from a technical history of Venetian architecture, from the Romanesque to the Renaissance, into a broad cultural history, Stones also reflected Ruskin’s view of contemporary England. It acted as a warning about the moral and spiritual health of society. Ruskin argued that Venice had slowly deteriorated, that its cultural achievements had been compromised, and its society corrupted, by the decline of true Christian faith. Instead of revering the divine, Renaissance artists honored themselves, arrogantly celebrating human sensuousness.

Ruskin was unanimously appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869, largely through the help of his friend, Henry Acland. He gave his inaugural lecture on his 51st birthday in 1870, at the Sheldonian Theatre to a larger-than-expected audience. It was here that he said, “The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues. Thus, its effect on each man should be visible and moving.”

In 1871, John Ruskin founded his own art school at Oxford, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. Ruskin endowed the school with £5000 of his own money. He also established a large collection of drawings, watercolors and other materials with which to illustrate his lectures. His lectures were often so popular that they had to be given twice, once for the students, and again for the public. Most of them were also eventually published. He lectured on a wide range of subjects at Oxford, his interpretation of “Art” encompassing almost every conceivable area of study, including wood and metal engraving (Ariadne Florentina), the relation of science to art (The Eagle’s Nest) and sculpture (Aratra Pentelici). His lectures ranged through myth, ornithology, geology, nature-study and literature. “The teaching of Art…,” Ruskin wrote, “is the teaching of all things.”

In the same year he founded his art school, Ruskin set out to found his ‘utopian society’: The Guild of St George. Its aims and objectives were articulated in Fors Clavigera; a communitarian venture, it had a hierarchical structure, with Ruskin as its Master, and dedicated members called “Companions” whose first loyalty was nearly always to Ruskin personally. Ruskin wished to show that contemporary life could still be enjoyed in the countryside, with land being farmed traditionally and with minimal mechanical assistance. With a personal donation of £7,000, Ruskin acquired some land and a remarkable collection of books, art and other precious and beautiful objects.

Ruskin worked out different levels of “Companions”, wrote codes of practice, described styles of dress and even designed the Guild’s own coins. Ruskin wished to see St George’s Schools established, and published various volumes to aid its teaching, but the schools themselves were never established. In reality, the Guild, which still exists today as a charitable organisation, has only ever operated on a small scale.

Portrait_of_Rose_La_Touche_1861_2

Rose La Touche, 1861, by John Ruskin

In 1858, Ruskin had become acquainted to the wealthy Irish La Touche family; Maria La Touche, a minor Irish poet and novelist, asked Ruskin to teach her daughters drawing and painting. The aforementioned, Rose La Touche was nine, and Ruskin gradually fell in love with her. Their first meeting came at a time when Ruskin’s own religious faith was under strain, which always caused difficulties for the extremely Protestant La Touche family who at various times prevented the two from meeting. Ruskin’s love for Rose was a cause of great joy and deep depression for him, and always a source of anxiety.

Ruskin proposed to La Touche on her eighteenth birthday in 1867, but she asked him to wait three years for an answer, until she was 21. A chance meeting at the Royal Academy in 1869 was one of the few occasions they came into personal contact thereafter. She finally rejected him in 1872, but they still occasionally met. After a long illness, she died on 25 May 1875, at the age of 27. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to increasingly severe bouts of mental illness involving a number of breakdowns and delirious visions. Ruskin turned to spiritualism and was by turns comforted and disturbed by what he believed was his ability to communicate with the dead Rose.

In the 1880s, Ruskin returned his writings to some literature and themes that had been among his favorites since childhood. He wrote about Walter Scott, Byron and Wordsworth in “Fiction, Fair and Foul” (1880) and returned to meteorological observations in his lectures. Ruskin’s prophetic writings were also tied to his emotions, and his more general dissatisfaction with the modern world.

His last great work was his autobiography, “Praeterita” (1885–89) (meaning, ‘Of Past Things’), a highly intimate, but incomplete account of his life.

John_Ruskin,_1882

John Ruskin in 1882

The period from the late 1880s was one of steady decline and it became too difficult for him to travel to Europe. He suffered a complete collapse on his final tour, which included Beauvais, Sallanches and Venice, in 1888. His later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He also attacked Darwinian theory with increasing violence, although he knew and respected Darwin personally.

 

Ruskin’s 80th birthday was widely celebrated in 1899, but Ruskin was scarcely aware of it. He died from influenza on 20 January 1900 at the age of 80. He was buried five days later in the churchyard at Coniston, according to his wishes. As he had grown weaker, suffering prolonged bouts of mental illness, he had been looked after by his second cousin, Joan Severn and she inherited his estate. “Joanna’s Care” was the eloquent final chapter of his memoir which he dedicated to her as a fitting tribute.

Kenneth Clark defines Ruskin:

‘He was a character of great fascination and complexity . . . made up of contradictions:
intelligence and silliness; puritanism and a refined sensuality; selfishness and extreme generosity . . . The central drama of his life, that of the pampered aesthete who gradually becomes aware of social injustice and as a result sacrifices his reputation, his wealth and ultimately his sanity, is as moving as anything in fiction . . . We should read Ruskin for the very quality of his mind . . . his refusal to consider any human faculty in isolation.’


To purchase your own copy of The King of The Golden River, written originally for Effie, visit our Ebay Store!

Swedish Daler Plate Money

When we think of coins we typically think of fairly small circular slabs of various types of medal. Some are slightly larger than others, have ridges on the edges, or even have a hole in the middle; what we don’t imagine is a large ‘plate’ of copper that weighs 1.5kg and measures 18.5 x 20cm. The Swedish riksdaler plate, was first minted in 1624 and was the currency of Sweden for several years.

From 1624, daler were issued in copper as well as silver. Because of the low value of copper, large plate money (plåtmynt) was issued. These were rectangular pieces of copper weighing, in some cases, several kilograms. (The largest one is worth 10 daler and weighs almost 20 kilograms (44 lb)). They circulated until 1776. As silver became scarce, the silver daler rose in value relative to the copper daler, with the exchange rate between the two eventually being set at a ratio of 3 to 1.

Use of copper for plate coinage began during the reign of Gustav II Adolf (1611-1632). The copper mine in Falun (Dalarna county) produced about 2/3 of the worlds copper at the time and the use of copper coinage was an attempt to control the price of copper to the advantage of Sweden.

Falu_gruva_1

Mining Tools in the Falun Mine

There are no written accounts establishing exactly when mining operations at Falun Mine began. Archaeological and geological studies indicate, with considerable uncertainty, that mining operations started sometime around the year 1000. No significant activities had begun before 850, but the mine was definitely operating by 1080. Objects from the 10th century have been found containing copper from the mine. In the beginning, operations were of a small scale, with local farmers gathering ore, smelting it, and using the metal for household needs.

Around the time of Magnus III, king of Sweden from 1275 to 1290, a more professional operation began to take place. Nobles and foreign merchants from Lübeck had taken over from farmers. The merchants transported and sold the copper in Europe but also influenced the operations and developed the methods and technology used for mining. The first written document about the mine is from 1288; it records that, in exchange for an estate, the Bishop of Västerås acquired a 12.5% interest in the mine.

By the mid 14th century, the mine had grown into a vital national resource, and a large part of the revenues for the Swedish state in the coming centuries would be from the mine. The then king, Magnus IV, visited the area personally and drafted a charter for mining operations, ensuring the financial interest of the sovereign.

Sweden had a virtual monopoly on copper which it retained throughout the 17th century. The only other country with a comparable copper output was Japan, but European imports from Japan were insignificant. In 1690, Erik Odhelius, a prominent metallurgist, was dispatched by the King to survey the European metal market. Although copper production had already begun to decline by the time he made his report, something Odhelius made no secret of, he stated, “For the production of copper Sweden has always been like a mother, and although in many places within and without Europe some copper is extracted it counts for nothing next to the abundance of Swedish copper”.

By modern standards, however, the output was not large. Peak production barely reached 3,000 tonnes of copper per year, falling to less than 2,000 tonnes by 1665; from 1710–1720 it was barely 1,000 tonnes per year. Present worldwide copper production is 18.3 million tons per year

Swedish_plate_money_in_the_British_Museum

8 Daler Plate in the British Museum.

In 1643, the first plate money was issued in the denomination of 10 Daler SM. These plates were approximately 13 by 27 inches in size and weighed 43 pounds. Today, these first plates are rare and may only be found in museums. The Coinage Act of 1649 stipulated plates in denominations of 1, 2, 4 and 8 silver Dalers and after 1684 the denominations were 1/2, 1, 2 and 4 silver Dalers. Metal content also decreased over time such that 1 Daler SM weighed 3.5 pounds in 1660 and settled at 1.7 pounds in 1715. The last year plates were produced in large quantity was 1759 with some 2 Daler plates in 1760. There are also rare plates from 1768.

The plates have four corner stamps bearing the name or initials of the current monarch and the year of issue. The center stamp bears the denomination and the reverse is blank. Some plates have an additional stamp due to redenomination. Many plates show signs of the manufacturing process with hammer marks; the copper was formed into sheets of necessary thickness, cut to size with shears, and  then stamped. This was hand work using large tools and gives each plate a unique character.

It is hard for most people to imagine using such coins in commerce. Illustrations of the era depict citizens with sacks of copper plates over their back or pulling a load of plates to the bank on a sled. This inconvenience was the catalyst for the creation of the world’s first bank notes. In the 1660’s, a bank was formed where plates could be deposited in return for a paper certificate of value. This paper money was an instrument which could be exchanged in commerce and the value repaid to the bearer in copper at the bank. This led to the creation of the world’s first central bank, Sveriges Riksbank (The National Bank of Sweden).

Today, around 11,000 pieces of plate money are known to exist across all years and denominations. Approximately 3,000 of these were recovered from the wreck of the trading ship Nicobar, which was discovered and salvaged in the 1980’s off the coast of southern Africa. On July 23, 1782 the Nicobar left Sweden with a load of recently undenominated plates to be traded at Danish posts on the Indian coast and the Nicobar Islands, east of India. On the way to the Cape of Good Hope it was forced to replenish on the west coast of Africa at False Bay, on May 20, 1783. On July 10, shortly after leaving False Bay, it was wrecked in a storm. Two hundred years later, local fishermen found the wreck.

Being such a numismatic oddity, plates are desired by collectors with widely varying interests. Prices range from a few hundred dollars for smaller sea water damaged examples to several thousand dollars for scarcer 4 Daler plates in nice condition.

The Trial of the Pyx

The Trial of the Pyx (pronounced pIks) is a procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to the required standards. These trials have been held from the thirteenth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year.

800px-Henry_III_funeral_head

King Henry III

In medieval times the Master of the Mint was ordered to save for trial one coin for every ten pounds of silver minted. A trial at that time was normally conducted every three months. This procedure was developed during the reign of Henry III and even with modern day technology, the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD. These events are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of metallurgical assayers. Given modern production methods, it is unlikely that coins would not pass the “trials”, but it has been a problem in the past—being too tempting for the Master of the Mint to not steal the coins’ precious metals.

The title of these trials comes from the Greek word for wooden box, pyx. In modern day The Pyx are reinforced (often plastic) boxes of currency ready to be assayed or tested. In them are hundreds of envelopes containing thousands of coins.The coins in 2017’s Trial of the Pyx ranged from a £49,995 commemorative coin made from a kilo of solid gold, down to a simple 20p piece.

The_Livery_Hall_at_Goldsmiths'_Hall-3269860504 (1)

Livery Hall at Goldsmiths’ Hall

Trials are currently (as of 2018) held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths; formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster. There is also a Pyx Chapel (or Pyx Chamber) in Westminster Abbey, which was once used as secure storage for the Pyx and related articles. The Goldsmiths’ Hall is an  impressive temple to the yellow metal, featuring huge chandeliers, gold-leaf on the walls, and prominently displayed treasures. For the trials, members of the public and invited dignitaries are sat on one side of the room. The Queen’s Remembrancer, a judge, sits at the head of the table to give her address and start the trial.

Throughout the year, coins are selected at random from batches of each denomination struck by The Royal Mint. They are then sealed in bags that contain 50 coins each and locked away in the Pyx chests. The chests of coins are taken to the Trial of the Pyx. The Jury at each trial is made up of leaders from the financial world and at least six assayers from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, who put the coins to the test. The assayers are given two months to test that the coins meet the statutory limits for metallic composition, weight and size. They test the coins against what is known as a Trial Plate, which acts as a benchmark. Trial plates are kept by the National Measurement and Regulation Office. With more than 35,000 coins to count, a lot of the work is also done behind the scenes by machines. After two months the trial reconvenes and the Queen’s Remembrancer asks the Jury for its verdict. The verdict is given every May in the presence of the Master of The Royal Mint, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or his Deputy.

Statutory basis for the Trial of the Pyx is given by the Coinage Act of 1971, the latest in a long series of similarly named Acts of Parliament. Specific procedures are established by Order in Council, the most recent being the Trial of the Pyx Order 1998, which was amended in 2005, 2012, and 2016. It is not required for a new Order to be issued for each Trial: this is mandated (to occur) only with regulatory revision.

This age old tradition is an important step in the minting process for coins in the United Kingdom. It guarantees authenticity of all British coinage and keeps the Royal Mint accountable to their important job.