Coins in the Bible

Whether you take the Bible as word from God or as an incredible piece of writing; it’s undeniable that it is a fantastic reference point fir history and gives us an unparalleled look into the past. One thing we can closely exam are the coins in the Bible. A number of coins are mentioned in the Bible, and they have proved very popular among coin collectors. Specific coins mentioned in the Bible include the widow’s mite, the tribute penny and the thirty pieces of silver.

 

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The Widow’s Mite by James Tissot

Widow’s Mite

The Lesson of the widow’s mite is presented in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4, in which Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Judea, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.

Mark 12:41-44 (NAB) reads:

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.

The traditional interpretation of this story tends to view it as contrasting the conduct of the scribes with that of the widow, and encouraging generous giving; often compared with 2 Corinthians 9:7, “…for God loves a cheerful giver.”

However, in the passage immediately prior to Jesus taking a seat opposite the Temple treasury, he is portrayed as condemning religious leaders who feign piety, accept honor from people, and steal from widows:

Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.

The same religious leaders who would reduce widows to poverty also encourage them to make pious donations beyond their means. In some peoples opinion, rather than commending the widow’s generosity, Jesus is condemning both the social system that renders her poor, and “…the value system that motivates her action, and he condemns the people who conditioned her to do it.” It is also to be noted that if Jesus’ statement was to be seen as an endorsement of the widow’s action, it bears none of the usual comments, such as “Go, and do likewise.”

Widowsmite

Mite minted by Alexander Jannaeus, King of Judaea, 103 – 76 B.C.

Tribute Penny

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The Tribute Money by Titian 

One of the next most popular coins is the tribute penny. The tribute penny was the coin that was shown to Jesus when he made his famous speech “Render unto Caesar…” The phrase comes from the King James Version of the gospel account: Jesus is asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Mark 12:14) and he replies, “bring me a penny, that I may see it” (Mark 12:15).

The Greek text uses the word dēnarion, and it is usually thought that the coin was a Roman denarius with the head of Tiberius. It is this coin that is sold and collected as the “tribute penny,” and the Gospel story is an important factor in making this coin attractive to collectors. The inscription on the coin reads Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus, claiming that Augustus was a god. The reverse shows a seated female, usually identified as Livia depicted as Pax.

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Denarius of the Emperor Tiberius

However, it has been suggested that denarii were not in common circulation in Judaea during Jesus’ lifetime and that the coin may have instead been an Antiochan tetradrachm bearing the head of Tiberius, with Augustus on the reverse. Another suggestion often made is the denarius of Augustus with Gaius and Lucius on the reverse, while coins of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Germanicus are all considered possibilities

 

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Judas receiving thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, by Mattia Preti, c. 1640

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Lastly, an often cited coins are the thirty pieces of silver, which famously, was the price for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, according to an account in the Gospel of Matthew 26:15. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas Iscariot was a disciple of Jesus. Before the Last Supper, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins. Jesus was then arrested in Gethsemane, where Judas revealed Jesus’ identity to the soldiers by giving him a kiss.

According to Chapter 27 of Matthew’s gospel, Judas was filled with remorse and returned the money to the chief priests before hanging himself. The chief priests decided that they could not put it into the temple treasury as it was considered blood money, and so with it they bought the Potter’s Field. A different account of the death of Judas is given in Acts of Apostles; it describes Judas as using the money he had been rewarded with – no sum is specified – to buy the Potter’s field, and then falling there, dying of the resulting intestinal injuries.

The word used in Matthew 26:15 for the coins simply means “silver coins,” and scholars disagree on the type of coins that would have been used. Donald Wiseman suggests two possibilities. They could have been tetradrachms of Tyre, usually referred to as Tyrian shekels (14 grams of 94% silver), or staters from Antioch (15 grams of 75% silver), which bore the head of Augustus.

Alternatively, they could have been Ptolemaic tetradrachms (13.5 ± 1 g of 25% silver). There are 31.1035 grams per troy ounce. At spot valuation of $17.06/oz (the closing price on Monday, December 12, 2016), 30 “pieces of silver” would be worth between $185 and $216 in present-day value (USD).

The Tyrian shekel weighed four Athenian drachmas, about 14 grams, more than earlier 11-gram Israeli shekels, but was regarded as the equivalent for religious duties at that time. Because Roman coinage was only 80% silver, the purer (94% or more) Tyrian shekels were required to pay the temple tax in Jerusalem. The money changers referenced in the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 21:12 and parallels) exchanged Tyrian shekels for common Roman currency.

The 5th century BC Athenian tetradrachm (“four drachmae”) coin was perhaps the most widely used coin in the Greek world before the time of Alexander the Great (along with the Corinthian stater). It featured the helmeted profile bust of Athena on the obverse (front) and an owl on the reverse (back). In daily use they were called γλαῦκες glaukes (owls). The reverse is featured on the national side of the modern Greek 1 euro coin. Drachmae were minted on different weight standards at different Greek mints. The standard that came to be most commonly used was the Athenian or Attic one, which weighed a little over 4.3 grams. A drachma was approximately a day’s pay for a skilled laborer. So 30 pieces of silver (30 tetradrachm), at four drachmas each, would roughly be comparable to four months’ (120 days) wages.

 

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An Antiochan tetradrachm

There are several other mentions of coins in the Bible but this is a snapshot of some of the most important and widely discussed instances of coinage in the Bible. It’s incredible to think that some of these exact coins can be found in coin collections and museums across the world today.

 

Currency in Leper Colonies

Leper colonies or houses became widespread in the Middle Ages, particularly in Europe and India, and often run by monastic orders. Historically, leprosy has been greatly feared because it causes visible disfigurement and disability, was incurable, and was commonly believed to be highly contagious. A leper colony administered by a Roman Catholic order was often called a lazar house, after Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers.

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Depiction of A 13-year-old Boy with Severe Leprosy

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Leprosy is spread between people, this is thought to occur through a cough or contact with fluid from the nose of an infected person. Contrary to popular belief, it is not highly contagious. The two main types of disease are based on the number of bacteria present: paucibacillary and multibacillary. The two types are differentiated by the number of poorly pigmented, numb skin patches present.

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years. The disease takes its name from the Greek word λέπρᾱ (léprā), from λεπῐ́ς(lepís; “scale”), while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. Social stigma has been associated with leprosy for much of history, which continues to be a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment. Some consider the word “leper” offensive, preferring the phrase “person affected with leprosy”.

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Leper Colony in Crete, Greece, Closed in 1957

Some colonies historically were located on mountains or in remote locations in order to ensure quarantine, some on main roads, where there was hope for donations that would be used for their upkeep. Debate exists over the conditions found within historical leper colonies; while they are currently thought to have been grim and neglected places, there are some indications that life within a leper colony or house was no worse than the life of other, non-quarantined individuals. There is even doubt that the current definition of leprosy can be retrospectively applied to the Medieval condition. What was classified as leprosy then covers a wide range of skin conditions that would be classified as distinctly different afflictions today.

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1921 2 Centavos Leper Coin

Some leper colonies issued their own money (such as tokens), in the belief that allowing lepers to handle regular money could spread the disease. However, leprosy is not easily transmitted by casual contact or objects; actual transmission only happens through long-term, constant, intimate contact with leprosy sufferers and not through contact with everyday objects used by sufferers.

Special leper colony money was used between 1901 and around 1955. The oldest money known was made in 1901 for use in three leper colonies of Colombia, called Agua de Dios, Cano de Loro, and Contratación. Five denominations of coins were issued: 2.5 centavos, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 20 centavos, and 50 centavos. “República de Colombia 1901” was engraved. These coins were issued after the first leprosy congress in Berlin in 1897. Between 1919 and 1952, special coins were used in a Panama Canal Zone leper colony called Palo Seco Colony. One cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar coins with holes in the centers were made in the United States. 

Other countries that minted leper money include the Philippines; in 1913, special aluminum coins were minted, japan; in 1919, special coins were made in Tama Zenshoen Sanatorium,  and Malaysia; in 1936, 5 cents, 10 cents and 1 dollar notes were issued in the Sungei Buloh Settlement. Leper colony money is also known to have existed in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Korea, Nigeria, Thailand, and Venezuela.

The original reason for leper colony money was to prevent leprosy in healthy individuals.  In 1938, Dr. Gordon Alexander Ryrie in Malaysia proved that paper money was not contaminated with leprosy bacteria, and all the leper colony banknotes were burned in that country. Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India, China, and Africa. However, most colonies have closed, since over time it has been determined that leprosy isn’t easily passed along. Leper colony money can still be found sometimes and is an interesting find for collectors while telling a story of our world’s history.

Civil War Tokens

The year of 1862 for the United States was one of tensions and disparity as the relationship between the North and South became more and more strained. The economy was shaky as precious and semi-precious metals rose in value. People were hoarding their coins because it made more sense then to spend them. The metal in a one-cent penny could be worth up to five cents; so people kept their coins stashed away in hopes of saving money.

By the end of 1862 newly minted coins weren’t being spent. Business owners were struggling and needed to find a way to still sell their goods and services. The Union’s government tried to solve this by creating unsupported paper money and even briefly issued postage stamps to use as currency. While a good idea the currency was not ever widely adopted and did little to solve the problem.

During the Napoleonic era the British people had created their own tokens to be used in exchange for goods until the crisis had been taken care of. With most Americans having close descent to the British it wasn’t a far stretch to take on this same idea and thus Civil War Tokens were produced. There were a variety of tokens produced and manufacturers charged an average of 73 cents per hundred tokens. These tokens typically mimicked small change about the size of a modern day penny. Made with metals not in as high of demand such as lead, copper, brass, and sometimes even rubber. For die sinkers and private minters hoping to profit, tokens were a legal gray area they were quick, but careful, to exploit. At the time, counterfeiting laws were specific when it came to gold and silver coinage, but other metals were not in the same category. Two common types of Civil War Tokens were Storecards and Patriotics.

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Patriotic Civil War Token

Patriotics were coins that utilized a generic die to create and mass send out to merchants. It was common for them to feature pro-Union slogans and general patriotism- hence the name. These generalized coins were cheaper for merchants to purchase and were the best and easiest way to provide currency for their customers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dry Goods Groceries Storecard

Storecards were specialized tokens that would feature a merchant or proprietors name, address, advertisement, etc. These cost more than the Patriotics because they were specific to a business and couldn’t be mass produced in the same fashion as the Patriotics. While each coin was different there was a popular wreath design that often adorned the Storecard coins and it was common for them to be inscripted with something such as “Business Card” or Store Card”.

 

 

As the Civil War was coming to a close in 1864 the Civil War Tokens began to lose value. Officially use of them was banned in April with the 1864 Coinage Act. While this act didn’t specifically prohibit Civil War Tokens the cent’s size, weight, and metal composition was revised in a way that mimicked the Civil War Tokens while simultaneously outlawing the tokens.

 

While Civil War Tokens we’re only used for a short two years there’s an estimated 25 million that were created. With over 10,000 varieties that represented 22 states, 400 towns, and about 1,500 merchants.


Check out our collection of Civil War Tokens on our Ebay store.

Thanks for reading!

The language of the coin collector

In the world of coin collecting, words are often thrown around that may seem foreign to those not in the know.  The terminology can make the hobby of coin collecting seem intimidating.   Follow me, as I reveal some of the mystery behind words such as numismatic and planchet.

Numismatics:  The study or collecting of coins.  This word is also used to describe the collecting of currency, tokens and paper money.  A person who studies coins is called a Numismatist.  Around here we like to call coins “numismatic material.”

Mint: The industrial facility where coins are made.  The US government is in charge of minting (producing) any and all coins that are to be used as money.  There are mints in the following cities: Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point.

Reverse: The back side of a coin.  Also called “tails”.

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Obverse: The front face of a coin.  Also called “heads.”

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Reeded Edge: The groved lines that go around the perimeter of some coins (mainly quarters and dimes).  The edge of a coin is the space between the obverse and the reverse and is sometimes referred to as the third side of a coin.

Photo Courtesy of coinpage.com

Photo Courtesy of coinpage.com

Mint Mark: A small letter or symbol on a coin that indicates what mint a coin was produced at.  Mint marks can be found on either the obverse or reverse a coin, depending on which coin you are referring to.

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],

Circulated: A coin is called circulated if it shows any sign of wear. Generally this word describes coins that have been used as “money”.  There are varying degrees of wear and tear that a coin may have and many different grades that could be used to describe this wear, but that is a blog all its own.

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Uncirculated: Also referred to as Unc.  Uncirculated coins are coins that have been released to the public, but not for general circulation.  Although they have monetary value, they are generally purchased directly from a mint or coin dealer.

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Proof: A coin made from a highly polished press.  Proof coins are often struck twice, giving them extra detail and a mirror like finish.  They are generally made for numistmatic purposes, presentations, or souvenirs and not for general circulation.

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Planchet:  Smooth discs, cut from larger rolls of metal, that eventually become coins.  Also called “blanks.”

By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Strike: The process of stamping a coin design on a planchet.

Toning: This word is used to describe any coloration a coin may have.  Toning generally occurs over time when a coin has come in contact with the air.  Certain materials found in some metals used to make coins are more likely to become toned. Toning can give the coin a unique coloring, making it more desirable to collectors.

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Whether you want to start a coin collection of your very own, or just sound really smart at your next party, this list of words will definitely get you started.  Check out all the coins we have listed on Ebay and see if you can apply some of these terms yourself!

When Money was Made of Wood

In the 1930’s, our country was smack dab in the middle of a huge depression.  Banks were failing, factories closed and people stopped spending.  All of these things meant very little money was in circulation.  Many cities in our lovely State of Washington had an interesting response; Wooden Nickels.

In 1933, the bank in Tenino, Washington failed and closed its doors.  Suddenly, merchants from around the area had no way of cashing checks or getting change without traveling to a different city.  Today, this might not seem like the end of the world, but in the 30’s, this meant traveling up to 30 miles through rugged terrain.  What cars they had were not made to handle the mountain roads in this area, meaning a trip to the bank took around 4 hours.  Most merchants could not leave their stores for this long, or they would risk losing what little business they had.

One thing that Washington State did not have a shortage of was trees.  A man named Albert Balch, of Blaine, Washington, had been going around promoting a new printing product, called slicewood. Produced in Aberdeen, WA, this thin, pressed wood was made out of Sitka Spruce, Port Orford and Red Cedar.  It was rolled out into flat sheets that measured 1/80th of an inch.  Balch had intended for this product to be used for printing Christmas cards (see above), but in light of the circumstances, thought it might be great for printing emergency money. The Chamber of Commerce in Tenino agreed and wooden money was issued as legal tender. It was backed by non-interest baring warrants, mostly in denominations of 25 cents. Pieces worth $10, $5, $1 and 50 cent pieces were also available.  Merchants could redeem them for US currency or gold.

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When the same need arose in Balch’s hometown of Blaine, Washington, a similar idea was adopted.  This time, the wood was rolled out and cut into circles to more closely resemble coins. On one side was an image of the Peace Arch Monument and the words, “Acceptable at par for MDSE. 1933.”  The other side said, “Peace Arch, Wooden 5¢ Nickel, Blaine, Wash.” These wooden nickels put Blaine on the map.  Some were even sent to President Roosevelt where they eventually made the national news.

A few years later, after the depression, wood was outlawed as a form of currency.  Merchants continued to issue wooden nickels for things like promotions, advertising and souvenirs.

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Today, Wooden Nickels from Blaine are worth a bit more than their denomination might tell you.  On Ebay, depression era wooden script sells for between $20-$30, making them a relatively affordable thing to collect.  Although you can not cash them in at your local store, they do carry the history of a very tough time in American history and the story one town’s unique solution to an overwhelming problem.

Top 5 Most Expensive Coins in the World

These top five coins are the most expensive coins out there.

Currency is a funny thing — sometimes, thanks to government mishaps or indecision or even rogue goldsmiths, currency turns out to be worth much more than its original value.

Here we present to you the five most valuable coins (as determined by public auctions) in the world.

FlowingHairObverse1. The Flowing Hair dollar
The Flowing Hair dollar was the first coin to be issued by the U.S. Federal government. At the time, the Spanish dollar was a popular piece used for trade in the Americas, and so the U.S. based the Flowing Hair dollar’s size and weight on the Spanish dollar. In 1795, five years after the Flowing Hair dollar had been started in production, the “Draped Bust” dollar replaced it.

Where’s the money?: In 2013 a 1794 coin sold for 10 million dollars.

Double Eagle Obverse2. 1933 Double Eagle
The 1933 double eagle is a 20-dollar coin, with the second-highest price paid at auction for one U.S. Coin. A 1933 act in the U.S. called for people to trade in their gold coins for other currency, as gold coins were declared to no longer be legal tender. Most of these 1933 Double Eagle coins were melted down in the same year.

Where’s the money?: A 1933 Double Eagle sold in 2002 for 7.5 million.

brasher doubloon3. The 1787 Brasher Doubloon EG on Breast
In 1787, a goldsmith and silversmith named Ephraim Brasher petitioned New York State to mint copper coins. New York did not want to get into minting copper coinage, but Brasher himself had the skills to strike his own copper coins. He made his own copper and gold coins over the next few years.

Where’s the money?: A 1787 Brasher Doubloon sold for 7.4 million.

doubleleopard4. Edward III Gold Florin
In the 1340s, the English Parliament petitioned Edward III for the creation of gold coins for international trade. The new coins were florins of fine gold, worth six shillings, with designs of French influence.
The coin’s face value was higher than the value of its gold weight, and the six shillings value was not a good fit for England’s currency system. Soon the gold florin was replaced by the noble, worth a third of a pound and half of a mark – a much more useful ratio. Only three coins of this type have been known to survive the centuries, making them extremely valuable.

Where’s the money?: A 1343 Gold Florin sold for 6.8 million.

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5. 1804 Class I Silver Dollar
The 1804 Silver Dollar (also known as the Bowed Liberty Dollar) had limited production in the 1830s and 1860s, long after its face date. It was not uncommon at the time to mint coins from older dates. Only fifteen genuine 1804 Silver Dollars exist.
There are many replicas and counterfeits of this coin, some made to trick collectors, some made as cheap substitutes.
According to legend, King Rama IV of Siam gave a 1804 silver dollar (produced in 1834) to Anna Leonowens as seen in the film The King and I. Anna’s family kept the coin for several generations until a pair of British ladies claiming to be her descendants sold the coin, where it found its way to the “King of Siam” collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Where’s the money?: An 1804 Silver Dollar sold in 1999 for 4.14 million.