What is the difference between silver and white gold?

White gold is a mixture of pure yellow gold and other white metals, to give it a white presence very much like silver. White gold is often coated with a metal called Rhodium to strengthen and give it an extra shine and long lasting quality. On the other hand, Sterling Silver is pure silver that is mixed with copper to make jewelry, and has a shiny white look like white gold. This is an affordable alternative to white gold, although it does need polishing more often.

The determination between white gold and silver isn’t as easy of a choice as it once was. Many people today are choosing the exquisite look of silver even when they can afford gold, and others who thought they couldn’t afford gold are choosing the pure, shiny gloss that only white gold can offer.

A lot of people actually question what the difference is between the two. Due to their similar looks, it’s obviously tough to tell the difference between silver and white gold at first glance. They’re so comparable, it’s possible to think they are the same thing, or made of similar materials, when this could not be further from the truth! But, before you make a decision it’s important to weigh out the pros and cons of white gold vs. silver before deciding on one or the other.

Silver is a shiny, white precious metal that’s often mixed with copper when making jewelry, also known as sterling silver. Mixing pure silver with other materials gives it the strength to ensure it won’t be too soft to create beautiful jewelry pieces. Sterling Silver is the least expensive of the white metals. It’s usually stamped “925,” which means 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals.

White gold is created by combining pure gold and a white metal such as nickel or palladium, which gives the unique shiny white look to the regular gold. Many people have concerns about whether white gold or silver products contain nickel, since it’s such a common source of sensitivity. Nickel is the main metal people are allergic to, and jewelry that contains this can be very irritating to the skin and cause itchy and painful reactions. It’s important to ensure that if you have sensitivities to nickel, that any piece of jewelry you buy will be nickel-free.

There is a material called Rhodium, which is a precious metal often used for plating white gold jewelry, because of its alluring finish and how it gorgeously sets off the white gold. The Rhodium plating is perfect to include with the white gold; however this finish does wear off over time and require re-plating occasionally.

Silver – Has a very shiny and lustrous finish, Is an affordable and beautiful budget-friendly alternative, Substantially lower price than white gold, Tends to be much softer than white gold and can change shape over time, Silver also shines brightly when new; however this will need to be cleaned more frequently to maintain its lustrous look, because it often tarnishes.

White Gold –Has a beautiful mirror-like white shine, from its Rhodium plating, Is a great choice if you have a higher budget and want a fine quality material, Considered an investment, since it’s a very high quality and damage-resistant material, Has a more durable, hard finish that’s able to hold more intricate details, Stays shiny for a long time, needs re-plating with Rhodium every couple years or so.

One of the biggest differences, when you’re weighing white gold or silver, is clearly the price. Silver is a much cheaper material, and is quite beautiful if you are on a budget and looking for quality elegant sterling silver jewelry. White gold costs $23.86 per gram, while sterling silver costs only $0.59 per gram. So when you’re making the difficult decision between white gold vs. silver, cost is definitely a major deciding factor for most people. But you might be surprised by a beautiful piece of white gold jewelry you absolutely adore. And while it might be a stretch to afford gold, it’s definitely worth the higher price tag for white gold to invest in a lasting, beautiful quality piece.

At the end of the day, whether you choose white gold or silver, knowing and considering these different characteristics of these two metals will help you decide which option is going to give you the gorgeous piece of jewelry you’ll be proud to wear and enjoy for a lifetime.

New Coins We Can Expect to See in 2019

While nothing can ever replace some of the classic U.S. coinage it is always exciting as a collector to see what new coins are being designed. From commemorative coins to new circulating coinage, here is a list of coins we are excited for in 2019!

American Eagle 2019 Silver Proof Coin

This design never gets old and who doesn’t love a silver coin?

The obverse features Adolph A. Weinman’s full-length figure of Liberty in full stride, enveloped in folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left. The reverse features a heraldic eagle with shield, an olive branch in the right talon and arrows in the left.

Each coin bears the “W” mint mark reflecting its striking at the West Point Mint. This product will be available very soon, on January 10, 2019, at 12 noon (ET).

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coins

The world eagerly watched on July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. took mankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unprecedented engineering, scientific, and political achievement was the culmination of the efforts of an estimated 400,000 Americans and secured our Nation’s leadership in space for generations to come. The Apollo 11 crew—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins—safely returned to Earth on July 24, 1969, fulfilling the national goal set in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. Nearly half a century later, the United States is the only country ever to have attempted and succeeded in landing humans on a celestial body other than Earth and safely returning them home.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon, Public Law 114-282 authorizes a four-coin program: a curved $5 gold coin, a curved $1 silver coin, a curved half-dollar clad coin, and a curved 5 ounce $1 silver proof coin.

These coins will be available on January 24, 2019, at 12 noon (ET).

Native American $1 2019 Coin

The theme of the 2019 Native American $1 Coin design is American Indians in the Space Program. Native Americans have been on the modern frontier of space flight since the beginning of NASA. Their contributions to the U.S. space program culminated in the space walks of John Herrington (Chickasaw Nation) on the International Space Station in 2002. This and other pioneering achievements date back to the work of Mary Golda Ross (Cherokee Nation). Considered the first Native American engineer in the U.S. space program, Ross helped develop the Agena spacecraft for the Gemini and Apollo space programs.

The obverse design features the “Sacagawea” design first produced in 2000.

The reverse design features Mary Golda Ross writing calculations. In the background, an Atlas-Agena rocket launches into space, with an equation inscribed in its cloud. The equation, denoting the energy it takes to leave Earth and reach the orbit of a distant planet, represents her important contributions to the space program. An astronaut, symbolic of Native American astronauts, including John Herrington, conducts a spacewalk above. A group of stars in the field behind indicates outer space.

This coin is projected to be released sometime in February.

2019 America the Beautiful Quarters

The 2019 coins will represent the 46th through 50th coins from the U.S. Mint’s program of America the Beautiful Quarters®. The series calls for one quarter celebrating a site in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories. A combined 56 sites will be honored by end of the program in 2021.

Release dates and the locations commemorated on the 2019-dated quarters are:

Feb. 4, 2019 – Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts.
April 1, 2019 – American Memorial Park in Northern Mariana Islands.
June 6, 2019 – War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam.
Aug. 26, 2019 – San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas.
Nov. 4, 2019 – Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.

Each of the 2019 quarters will begin their journey into general circulation on the above published dates, and all of them will be minted at the facilities in Denver and Philadelphia. The San Francisco Mint also produces quarters but only for specially packaged numismatic products.

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.

 

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Widow's_Mite_(Le_denier_de_la_veuve)_-_James_Tissot

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

800px-Tizian_014

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.

Emperor_Tiberius_Denarius_-_Tribute_Penny

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

 

Mattia_Preti_-_Tribute_Money_-_WGA18400

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.

 

C+B-Stater-StaterOfAntioch

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.

 

The Creation of the Peace Dollar

From 1921 to 1928 and again in 1934 and 1935 the United States Peace dollar was minted. Designed by Anthony de Francisci, the dollar coin was the result of a competition to find designs symbolic of peace. Most coin collectors will recognize the coin with the obverse representing the head and neck of the Goddess of Liberty, and the reverse depicting a bald eagle at rest clutching an olive branch, with the legend “Peace”. It was the last United States dollar coin to be struck for circulation in silver.

Charles Moore, the chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and James Earle Fraser, Buffalo nickel designer, met with Mint Director Baker on May 26, 1921, and they agreed that it would be appropriate to hold a design competition for the proposed silver dollar. This was formalized on July 26 with the Commission’s written recommendation to the Mint that a competition, open only to invited sculptors, be used to select designs. The winner of the competition was to receive $1,500 prize money, while all other participants would be given $100.

The artists were instructed to design a coin with the head of Liberty on the obverse, to be made “as beautiful and full of character as possible“and with a reverse which would depict an eagle. The piece was also required to bear the denomination, “E pluribus unum”, the motto “In God We Trust” and the word “Liberty. Otherwise all other design details were left to the discretion of the artist. On December 13, the commission assembled to review the submitted designs. After considerable discussion among Fraser, Moore, and Herbert Adams, a design by Anthony de Francisci was unanimously selected.

De Francisci was one of the least experienced and at the age of 33 was the youngest of the competitors. While most of the others had designed regular or commemorative coins for the Mint, de Francisci’s work had been with the conversion of drawings for the 1920 Maine commemorative half dollar to the finished designs. De Francisci had had little discretion in that project, and later said of the work, “I do not consider it very favorably.

TeresadeFrancisci.JPG

Teresa de Francisci

The obverse design of Liberty’s features were based upon de Francisci’s wife, Teresa de Francisci. Due to the short length of the competition, he lacked the time to hire a model with the features he envisioned. Teresa de Francisci was born Teresa Cafarelli in Naples, Italy; in interviews, she related that when she was five years old and the steamer on which she and her family were immigrating passed the Statue of Liberty, she was fascinated by the statue, called her family over, and struck a pose in imitation. She later wrote to her brother Rocco,

You remember how I was always posing as Liberty, and how brokenhearted I was when some other little girl was selected to play the role in the patriotic exercises in school? I thought of those days often while sitting as a model for Tony’s design, and now seeing myself as Miss Liberty on the new coin, it seems like the realization of my fondest childhood dream.

The crown that the Liberty head bears is similar to certain Roman coins, but is “more explicitly intended to recall that on the Statue of Liberty“. Anthony de Francisci recalled that he opened the window of the studio and let the wind blow on his wife’s hair as he worked which inspired the flowy design of Liberty’s hair. However, he did not feel that the design depicted his wife exclusively; de Francisci noted that “the nose, the fullness of the mouth are much like my wife’s, although the whole face has been elongated“. De Francisci also submitted two reverse designs; one showed a warlike eagle, aggressively breaking a sword; the other an eagle at rest, holding an olive branch.

On December 15th, Baker, de Francisci, and Moore met in Washington; at that time, Baker, who hoped to start Peace dollar production in 1921, outlined the tight schedule and requested a few design changes. He wished to see the inclusion of the broken sword from the sculptor’s alternate reverse design, to be placed under the eagle, on the mountaintop on which it stands, in addition to the olive branch. Baker approved the designs, subject to these changes; the revised designs were presented to President Harding on December 19. Harding insisted on the removal of a small feature of Liberty’s face, which seemed to him to appear as a dimple, something he did not consider suggestive of peace.

On December 19, 1921, the Treasury announced the new design. Photographs of Baker

Baker_Francisci

Sculptor Anthony de Francisci  and Mint Director Raymond T. Baker

and de Francisci examining the final plaster model appeared in newspapers, along with written descriptions of the designs. The Treasury at that time took the position that it was illegal for photographs of a United States coin to be printed in a newspaper. The first strike of the new coins was scheduled for December 29.

The new design was widely reported in newspapers, and was the source of intense public attention. A Mint press release described the reverse as “a large figure of an eagle perched on a broken sword, and clutching an olive branch bearing the word, ‘peace”. On December 21, the New York Herald ran a harsh editorial against the new design,

If the artist had sheathed the blade or blunted it there could be no objection. Sheathing is symbolic of peace, of course; the blunted sword implies mercy. But a broken sword carries with it only unpleasant associations.

A sword is broken when its owner has disgraced himself. It is broken when a battle is lost and breaking is the alternative to surrendering. A sword is broken when the man who wears it can no longer render allegiance to his sovereign. But America has not broken its sword. It has not been cashiered or beaten; it has not lost allegiance to itself. The blade is bright and keen and wholly dependable. It is regrettable that the artist should have made such an error in symbolism. The sword is emblematic of Justice as well as of Strength. Let not the world be deceived by this new dollar. The American effort to limit armament and to prevent war or at least reduce its horror does not mean that our sword is broken.

Given the traumas of the Great War, many Americans were highly sensitive about their national symbols, and unwilling to allow artists any leeway in interpretation. The Mint, the Treasury, and the Fine Arts Commission began to receive large numbers of letters from the public objecting to the design. De Francisci attempted to defend his design, stating: “with the sword there is the olive branch of peace and the combination of the two renders it impossible to conceive of the sword as a symbolization of defeat“.

Acting Mint Director Mary Margaret O’Reilly urgently sought approval to remove the sword from the reverse, as had been recommended by Moore and Fraser at a meeting the previous afternoon. A press release was issued late on December 24, stating that the broken sword would not appear on the issued coin. In its December 25 edition, the Herald newspaper took full credit for the removal of the broken sword from the coin’s design.

Painstaking work by Chief Engraver Morgan was done to remove of the sword from the coinage hub, which had already been produced by reduction from the plaster models. Morgan did the work on December 23 in the presence of de Francisci, summoned to the Philadelphia Mint to ensure the work met with his approval. It was insufficient to simply remove the sword, as the rest of the design had to be adjusted. Morgan had to extend the olive branch, previously half-hidden by the sword, but also had to remove a small length of stem that showed to the left of the eagle’s talons. Morgan also strengthened the rays, and sharpened the appearance of the eagle’s leg. The chief engraver did his work with such excellence that the work on the dollar was not known for over 85 years.

On January 3, 1922, the Peace dollar was released into circulation. Similar to other silver and copper-nickel dollar coins struck from 1840 to 1978, the Peace dollar had a diameter of 1.5 inches. Long lines formed at the Sub-Treasury Building in New York the following day when that city’s Federal Reserve Bank received a shipment; the 75,000 coins initially sent by the Mint were “practically exhausted” by the end of the day. Rumors that the coins did not stack well were contradicted by bank cashiers, who demonstrated for The New York Times that the coins stacked about as well as the Morgan dollars. De Francisci had paid Morgan for 50 of the new dollars; on January 3, Morgan sent him the pieces. According to his wife, de Francisci had bet several people that he would lose the design competition; he used the pieces to pay off the bets and did not keep any.

1280px-NNC-US-1921-1$-Peace_dollar
According to one Philadelphia newspaper:

Liberty is getting younger. Take it from the new ‘Peace Dollar,’ put in circulation yesterday, the young woman who has been adorning silver currency for many years, never looked better than in the ‘cart wheel’ that the Philadelphia Mint has just started to turn out. The young lady, moreover, has lost her Greek profile. Helenic beauty seems to have been superseded by the newer ‘flapper’ type.

Congress passed legislation providing for the striking of 45,000,000 silver dollars on August 3, 1964. Silver coins, including the Peace dollar, had become scarce due to hoarding as the price of silver rose past the point at which a silver dollar was worth more as bullion than as currency. The new coins were intended to be used at Nevada casinos and elsewhere in the West where “hard money” was popular. Many in the numismatic press complained that the new silver dollars would only satisfy a small special interest, and would do nothing to alleviate the general coin shortage.

Senate Majority Leader, Mike Mansfield, who represented a state that heavily used silver dollars put much pressure into the decision for the coins to be struck.. Preparations for the striking proceeded at a reluctant Mint Bureau. Mint officials considered using the Morgan Dollar design; this idea was dropped and Gasparro replicated the Peace dollar dies. The reverse dies all bore Denver mintmarks; as the coins were slated for circulation in the West, it was deemed logical to strike them nearby.

1964_Peace_dollar.jpeg

An unofficially produced 1964-D Peace dollar

On May 12, 1965, the Denver Mint began trial strikes of the 1964-D Peace dollar—the Mint had obtained congressional authorization to continue striking 1964-dated coins into 1965. The new pieces were publicly announced on May 15, 1965, and coin dealers immediately offered $7.50 each for them, ensuring that they would not circulate. The public announcement prompted a storm of objections. Both the public and many congressmen saw the issue as a poor use of Mint resources during a severe coin shortage. On May 24, one day before a hastily called congressional hearing, Adams announced that the pieces were deemed trial strikes, never intended for circulation. The Mint later stated that 316,076 dollars had been struck. All 316,076 were reported melted amid heavy security. To ensure that there would be no repetition, Congress inserted a provision in the Coinage Act of 1965 forbidding the coinage of silver dollars for five years.

No 1964-D Peace dollars are known to exist in either public or private hands. Two specimens were discovered in a Treasury vault in 1970 and were destroyed, but rumors and speculation about others in illegal private possession continue to appear from time to time.

For collectors, the Peace dollar is popular not only because of its limited mintage but also due to its historical significance and simple beauty. Because this coin was emblematic of peace following World War I, collectors view it as a true piece of American history.

 

How Mexico’s Remarkable Peso Revolutionized the World

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

In honor of the holiday, let’s take a moment to learn about and celebrate Mexican coins.

 

Both pesos and dollars originated in the Spanish dollar of the 15th-19th centuries. The word “peso” was originally used to refer to pesos oro and pesos plata (gold and silver weights, respectively.) In fact, the literal translation of peso is “weight.”

 

Peso was the original name of the legendary Spanish “pieces of eight” coins issued in Mexico, sometimes called Spanish dollars. Each peso was valued at 8 reales; the escudo coin was worth 16 reales. These coins were widely circulated in the Americas through the mid 1800’s; America accepted them as legal tender prior to the Coinage Act in 1857, and Canada did the same until 1854. The first American dollar coins were not minted until 1792, and their value was set to approximately match the Spanish dollar.

 

The first decimation of the peso occurred in 1863, with the issue of centavo coins, each valued at one hundredth of a peso. The first peso denomination coins were issued in 1866, though reales denominated coins were still issued until 1897.

Peso_Mexicano_1921

 

The gold content of the peso was cut nearly in half in 1905, but the silver content was unchanged until 1918, while other coins were debased. Silver coins, except for the 1 peso, were limited to token issues, and several varieties of centavos were issued in bronze, nickel, and other metals.

 

CaballitoOne of the most striking of Mexican coins was created during this period: the Caballito. It bore the Mexican coat of arms on the obverse with its now-familiar eagle and snake motif, with the legends, “Un Peso” and “Estados Unidos Mexicanos.” The reverse showed a woman on horseback reaching out a hand as if in proclamation, and the date. These stunning coins, minted in .903 silver, were minted from 1910 through 1914. After 1918, all silver coins declined in both weight and fineness, culminating in the last minting of silver 100-peso coins in 1977.

 

In 1993, a new currency was introduced: the nuevo peso. The new peso, written as N$ and designated MXN, equaled 1000 of the original MXP pesos. The Bank of Mexico began introducing bimetallic coins in 2003. There are 32 coins in this series: one for each Mexican state, and one for the Federal District. Each coin bears Mexico’s coat of arms on the obverse, with the state’s coat of arms on the reverse. They are rare in circulation, but remain a popular novelty coin. Collectors have been encouraged to acquire full sets, but as the coins are high in price, this has not been as successful as hoped. The coins also have a bullion version, with a gold outer ring instead of the aluminium bronze of the standard coins.

 

AUPeso.jpgMexican bullion coins are available in several weights, in both .999 fine silver and fine gold. On one side, a winged Victoria strides across a landscape, with the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl in the background. The coat of arms of Mexico is shown on the other side. Newer versions show Victoria at a different angle, and the Mexican coat of arms on the reverse is surrounded by other coats of arms from Mexican history.

 

Today, the peso is third most-traded currency from the Americas, the most traded Latin American currency, and the eighth most traded currency in the world. It served as the model for multiple world currencies, including the Straits dollar, Hong Kong dollar, Japanese yen, and Chinese yuan, largely due to the trade and influence of the Spanish empire. 19th century Siam briefly used the Mexican peso as legal tender, when an unexpected flood of foreign trade caught the government mints by surprise.

 

According to Collectors Weekly, “Of the coins from the early days of the Republica Mexicana, escudos and reales minted in the 1820s are in particularly high demand. […] Other Mexican coins of note include round lead centavos issued by the state of Durango in 1914 and rectangular copper Oaxacan centavos from 1915.”

 

Mexican coins are among the most popular in the world, and are an excellent starting point for beginners, as well as a good investment for more experienced collectors.

 

Image and share your Mexican coins with us through the Lookzee app to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with us! Now available on Google Play Store and App Store.

The Fate of the Guggenheim Treasure

 

One of the most legendary families of early 20th century America left behind a treasure worth millions of dollars, and no one has found it…yet.

 

architecture-1941610_960_720.jpg

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggeinheim family came to America in the mid-1800s, and the family rapidly became one of the wealthiest in the world. Involved in the mining and smelting industries, they were also known as philanthropists and patrons of the arts. Today, the family interest, Guggeinheim Partners, oversees $200 billion in assets.

 

In September of 1903, a tugboat pushed the barge Harold past the Statue of Liberty; the barge was loaded down with nearly 8,000 silver-and-lead bars. The metal was bound for the Guggenheims’ smelters in New Jersey. But during the passage of the Arthur Kill strait, the Harold tipped, sending most of the metal bars tumbling into the murky waters. Somehow, the deckhands aboard the barge never noticed the missing cargo; the loss wasn’t uncovered until the ship docked the next morning. A salvage mission recovered most of the cargo, though the salvage company director called the deckhands the “dumbest skunks I ever had to do with.” Around 1400 bars are still unaccounted for, and could be worth up to $20 million today.

 

1024px-Pilot_Boat_NYC_Harbor.jpg

Arthur Kill Strait

Rumors of the treasure have surfaced from time to time. A story goes that a local Native American was fishing in the strait when his eel trident snagged on one of the lost ingots. More recently, Ken Hayes of Aqua Survey tried to locate the treasure. An early sweep of the area revealed 255 possible targets, but no guarantees that any of them were the missing silver. Hayes’ attempts to find the treasure have been met with discouragement from locals (who believe a local should be the one to find it) as well as fellow treasure hunters looking for an easy tip off to the location of the silver.

 

To date, neither Hayes nor anyone else has found a single silver bar, much less all $20 million worth. But it may be only a matter of time until the Guggenheim Treasure resurfaces.

 

New Study Reveals How Spanish Silver Funded Rome

 

 

The Roman Republic was known for its wealth even before it became an Empire. The Punic Wars, though costly, gave Rome a new source of riches: Spanish silver mines.

 

 

218BCMAPMEDITERRANEANThe Punic Wars take their name from the Latin “Punicus” or “Poenicus,” a reference to the Phoenician ancestry of the Carthaginians. In the third century BCE, Carthage and Rome were both major forces in the Mediterranean, and it was inevitable that the two would clash. Rome had the better military, but Carthage had the dominant navy. The conflict began small: a local war between Syracuse and Messina. Messina called the navy of Carthage to help, but betrayed them and summoned Rome to fight Carthage, resulting in the First Punic War. (This backfired somewhat, as the local fight soon escalated into all-out war that resulted in the Roman Republic controlling the Mediterranean and subsuming most smaller nations in the area.)

 

 

Rome defeated Carthage in a significant battle at Agrigentum in 262 BCE, and the Carthaginian leaders changed tactics to avoid land battles, trusting that they would be able to retain their naval domination. Rome built a hundred warships in two months, and developed the corvus, a spiked bridge that could be swung down onto the enemy’s deck, allowing the Roman soldiers to board. Although the corvus was eventually phased out as the Romans began to become better seaman, it was a brilliant tactic to leverage Rome’s infantry. In 241 BCE, Carthage admitted defeat and signed a peace treaty, agreeing to pay a significant indemnity. After the war, Carthage had a massive liquidity problem, and had difficulty paying their debts. Between the first and second Punic Wars, Carthage acquired land in Spain, which included some very productive silver mines.

 

 

800px-Schlacht_bei_Zama_Gemälde_H_P_MotteDuring the interval between the First and Second Punic Wars, Carthage began to build alliances with the Celts in the Po river in Northern Italy. To forestall Carthage building strength in the area, Rome attacked the Po valley and annexed it, renaming it Gallia Cisalpina. The Carthaginian conqueror of Hispania, Hasdrubal, was assassinated around this time, and his brother Hannibal took charge. Rome seems to have believed that their actions in the Po Valley had eliminated any real risk from Carthage and were caught by surprise when Hannibal attacked Saguntum (near modern Valencia in southern Spain) and moved across the Alps. Hannibal scored many victories against Roman forces, but could not take the city itself. Most of his siege engines and elephants were lost in the alpine crossing, and Rome was able to quickly replace any forces lost.

 

 

800px-Scipio_Africanus_the_Elder

Bust of Scipio Africanus. Photo credit Massimo Finizio. Used under CC by SA 2.0.

Scipio Africanus, in the meantime, was almost a mirror image of Hannibal; he could not defeat the Carthaginian in any decisive way, but was able to take control of the Iberian peninsula.This had a two-fold effect, economically: Rome now had access to the extensive silver mines of Hispania, and Carthage’s main source of silver (and therefore cash flow) was cut off. The fighting eventually moved to Carthage’s home ground of northern Africa; eventually, Carthage was able to control only the city itself, its once-great empire falling to the Roman Republic. Scipio Africanus finally defeated Hannibal at the battle of Zama in 202 BCE, ending the Second Punic War.

 

 

analysisfind.jpg

Photo credit Phys.org. Used under fair use.

Recently, a study was made of 70 Roman coins from 310 to 101 BCE; scientists drilled into the rims of the coins to access unweathered heart metal. Isotopic analysis confirms that the lead isotopes in the coins are a match to Spain after 209 BCE. Before that, metal for Roman coins was mined from old Greek sources in the Aegean. Scipio’s advances in Hispania flooded the Roman world with new sources of metal for coins. (Hints of this can be seen in the movie Gladiator: Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, is a Spaniard in the Roman military, and his breastplate is ornately decorated with silver. In fact, during the movie, Maximus tells a young boy that the name of one of the silver horses on his breastplate is Argento, “silver,” though this is more a reference to the Lone Ranger than to the Spanish silver mines.)

 

Researcher Katrin Westner stated, “Before the war, we find that the Roman coins are made of silver from the same sources as the coinage issued by Greek cities in Italy and Sicily. In other words the lead isotope signatures of the coins correspond to those of silver ores and metallurgical products from the Aegean region. But the defeat of Carthage led to huge reparation payments to Rome, as well as Rome gaining large amounts of booty and ownership of the rich Spanish silver mines. From 209 B.C., we see that the majority of Roman coins show geochemical signatures typical for Iberian silver…This massive influx of Iberian silver significantly changed Rome’s economy, allowing it to become the superpower of its day. We know this from the histories of Livy and Polybius and others, but our work gives contemporary scientific proof of the rise of Rome. What our work shows is that the defeat of Hannibal and the rise of Rome is written in the coins of the Roman Empire.”

 

 

[Featured image is credit Flickr user Hans Splinter. Used under CC by ND 2.0.]

The Sun and Its Coins

 

 

The sun has formed human mythology and symbolism since the beginning of history. It’s no surprise that sun symbols and imagery have appeared on our coins for thousands of years.

 

 

I17_1karshapana_Sunga_MACW4325_1ar_(8485402873)

Karshapana coin, credit of Wikipedia user Jean-Michel Moullec. Used under CC by SA 2.0

Karshapana coins from India date back to the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, and take their value from the person authenticating them. These authentications were punched into the coins, which could be made of gold, silver, copper, or an alloy. Sun symbols are common on these early coins.

 

 

 

84891q00

Coin with Helios on obverse, credit of ForumAncientCoins.com, used under fair use.

While the sun was initially associated with the god Helios in the time of Homer, Helios and Apollo merged to become one sun deity, riding the chariot of the sun across the sky each day. Apollo was one of the most beloved and powerful gods, able to provide knowledge and plague, feast and famine.

 

 

 

77248q00.jpg

Apollo with lyre on Greek coin, credit of ForumAncientCoins.com
, used under fair use.

Helios and Apollo are both found on Greek coins. Helios is usually pictured as a bust in profile, with a crown of rays on his head. Coins with Helios on the obverse can be found from the 4th to the 1st centuries BCE. Apollo appears on coins from the same periods, but does not usually have sun imagery on his coins, the artists generally preferring to depict him with his musical attributes, though he is still associated with the sun.

 

 

 

Celtic_gold_stater_Iceni_tribe

Iceni coin with sun symbol, credit of Numismantica, used under CC by SA 3.0

During the first few centuries ACE, the Celtic tribes in Gaul and Britain were minting coins with sun and star symbols. Though initially copies of Greek coins of Alexander, the British coin makers gradually stylized the coins and replaced Greek symbols with their own imagery of horses, wheat, and sun symbols. The Iceni, in particular, were known for their distinctive coinage, and were the only British tribe to use their own name on their coins. While the Iceni were initially aligned with the Romans when they came to Britain, a disagreement and assault lead Iceni queen Boadicea to lead the nation in a revolt against Rome. The revolt failed, and Roman control, including Roman coinage, gained strength in Britain, and the sun symbols of the Iceni fell out of use.

 

 

 

France_1709-A_One_Louis_d'Or

Gold coin of Louis XIV with sun symbol.

Nearly a thousand years later, French king Louis XIV ascended to the throne and reigned for 72 years, the longest reign of any monarch in a sovereign European country. He was known for grandiosity and commissioned many works of art depicting himself as elegantly as possible. He became known as the Sun King, and one of the gold d’or coins from his reign shows a radiating sun on the reverse.

 

 

 

Even today, many countries release commemorative coinage for eclipses or other significant astronomical events. It’s not hard to believe that there will be sun images on coins as long as coins are made.

Game of Thrones and the Coin Technology of Westeros

 

 

Game of Thrones, like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, has a world so dense with detail that it feels real. The world of Westeros even has its own coinage, and those coins can speak volumes about that world. (For the purposes of this post, all references to specific coins are to replica coins based on the TV show.)

 

game of thrones star coin

Copper star of Robert Baratheon

There are 8 denominations of Westerosi currency. The halfpenny, penny, halfgroat, groat, and star are all made of copper, while the stag and moon are silver coins. The only Westerosi gold coin (at the time the story is set) is the dragon. There are 2 halfpennies to the penny, 2 pennies to a halfgroat, 2 halfgroats to a groat, and 2 groats to a star.

 

 

gold dragon coin

Reverse of gold dragon of Joffrey Baratheon

The lower denominations are very basic, but the silver and gold coins get more complicated. There are 7 bronze stars to 1 silver stag, and 7 stags to a moon. 30 moons make a gold dragon. (7 is the most significant number in the state religion of Westeros.)

 

 

While most of Westeros uses this system, the “ironborn” under the rule of House Greyjoy, generally do not use currency (though women are sometimes allowed to use coins), preferring instead to “pay the iron price” and take what they need in battle. Their house motto, unsurprisingly, is “We Do Not Sow.” This is somewhat similar to the non-Westerosi Dothraki, who do not use coins or currency of any kind, but instead have an economy based on raiding and gift-giving. (There is a replica Dothraki coin with the imprint of Khal Drogo, but this seems inaccurate with regards to the description of the Dothraki culture in the books.) Also, while the denominations remain consistent, some houses do strike their own versions of these coins, though the vast majority from the ruling House Baratheon in King’s Landing.

 

 

Coins of House Stark

Coins of House Stark

House Stark in the North produces their own currency, including a halfpenny and silver stag, with the imprint of Eddard Stark. It is not surprising that the line of the old King in the North would have a mint, though no information is given as to where the Stark mint might be. It is never mentioned in any of the scenes at Winterfell, and it seems that a mint would be a good place for any of House Stark’s enemies to attack first. An army cannot march far without money for food and supplies. (More interestingly, there are some replica coins with the imprint of Robb Stark, though it is unclear when he would have had time to have new coins minted while building and leading his army.) These coins look more crude in design than other Westerosi coins, though they are contemporaneous with the bronze star of Robert Baratheon; however, House Stark is known for valuing its long history, and it might be expected that they would not keep up with the minting technology in use in King’s Landing.

 

 

Game of Thrones Silver stag coin

Obverse of silver stag of Aerys II Targaryen

Many Westerosi coins are beautifully crafted, but the silver stag of Aerys II Targaryen, known as the Mad King, is simple and somewhat crude, especially compared with the coins of King Robert Baratheon, produced some 20 years later. Aerys II let Westeros fall into chaos, consumed with his own paranoia and greed.

 

 

Game of Thrones silver stag coin

Reverse of silver stag of Aerys II Targaryen

It’s certainly possible that minting technology declined during his reign; given that the Targaryen dynasty had been considered to be in decline for several generations, it could be reflective of a gradual loss of technical skill, which is reinvigorated with the Targaryen’s defeat and the rise of House Baratheon.

 

 

Game of Thrones Daenerys coin

Reverse of mark of Meeren of Daenerys Targaryen

Perhaps most unusual of all are the replica coins for Daenerys Targaryen. Exiled beyond Westeros when the rest of her family was killed during Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, Daenerys hatches dragon eggs and takes control of armies and entire cities as she prepares to retake the Iron Throne of Westeros. Her coins have some real-world counterparts, in that several of them appear to have been struck to commemorate a specific conquest or victory (see this coin of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.) However, the coins do seem a little unusual in that they each celebrate a different title, such as “Queen of Meereen” and “Breaker of Chains.”

 

 

Game of Thrones Daenerys coin

Obverse of mark of Meeren of Daenerys Targaryen

The most used image on her coins is, unsurprisingly, a dragon. The dragons have always been the symbol of House Targaryen, and Daenerys uses it both to establish herself as a ruler in the Targaryen line, and to remind all who see the coin that she controls the power of literal dragons. Coins have always been one of the most effective ways to make a political statement, especially in the days before reliable mail systems and phone lines. Coins can travel great distances in trade; a coin that commemorates a victory can spread the word of a triumphant ruler very quickly indeed.

 

 

Though the world of Game of Thrones is fictional, much of it was based on real world history, especially the Wars of the Roses and other long-standing feuds. It’s no surprise that the fictional currency of this world tells us so much about its history.

 

 

[All photos credit of Shire Post Mint, used under Fair Use.]

How Coins Preserved the Memories of an Empire

 

 

TenCommand_055Pyxurz.jpgFans of classic films may remember the dramatic moment in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” when the old pharaoh, Sethi, exiles Moses and commands that his name be stricken from all monuments across the kingdom. “Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.” While this kind of extreme erasure was rare, it was practiced by many ancient cultures. Modern historians have termed the practice “damnatio memoriae.” While statues and memorials were the usual targets for defacement, the practice sometimes extended even to coins bearing the name or image of the person to be removed from memory.

 

In ancient Egypt, several controversial rulers, including religious reformer Akhenaten and female pharaoh Hatshepsut, were removed from memorials and sculptures after their deaths. The practice reached a peak in Roman culture, especially during the Imperial era.

 

 

It’s difficult to know who actually carried out the defacements; officially, the Roman Senate would make a pronouncement condemning an emperor or other individual. However, these actions were usually undertaken when a new emperor arose by acclamation or military support. Outside of the main areas of Roman culture, such defacement may have been carried out by soldiers or other officials. In a few reported instances, crowds of civilians swarmed the street to tear down statues of particularly despised rulers.

 

Fig.-2-1024x496.jpg

Defaced coin of Nero. Photo copyright Trustees of the British Museum

The size of the Empire, in fact, is why few coins suffered such treatment, though they were one of the primary symbols of any given emperor. One of the things that binds a nation and culture together is a common currency that can be relied upon across the nation. Defacing coins could lead to questions about their legitimacy as currency, causing coin shortages and economic crises. The simplest answer was for the new emperor to issue new coins with his image as quickly as possible, and put them into circulation across the empire, primarily via payments to the Roman legions.

 

In the rare cases when coins were defaced, it was usually on the obverse of the coin, where the portrait and name of the emperor were found. However, in a few extraordinary cases, the damage was done to the reverse of the coin.
Project Curator of Roman Provincial Coins at The British Museum’s Department of Coins and Medals, Dario Calomino, states, “Some coins struck in Emesa in Syria (modern Homs […] had the image of the altar of the local sun-god Elagabal defaced with an X. We do not know who did this and for what reason. This may have been a way in which opposition to this cult was expressed. But sometimes coins were also mutilated for ritual purposes; they were offered as a gift to a divinity in a sanctuary, and in order to do this they were previously de-monetised, i.e. marked and mutilated to signify that they were no longer official currency, but tokens of devotion.”

 

Defacement of coins did not always originate from Roman decree, though. In some Iron Age coin hoards from what is now Bulgaria, new Celtic designs have been minted over Hellenistic and Roman coins. These Celtic designs were produced in a time of intense battle between Roman and Celtic forces; the effort of minting over coins indicates a strong rejection of Roman culture in its entirety.

 

 

(ac)-Caligula_sester_10It’s impossible to know just how successful any efforts at damnatio memoriae were; completely successful erasure would be undetectable by historians. It’s likely that none were completely successful, given the difficulty of such an endeavor. Many contemporary historians wrote about the emperors who ruled during their time, and coins in particular give us long-lasting records. Even the despised Caligula, whose records underwent the most extensive erasure known, remains one of the best-known Roman emperors in history. Several Caligulan coins have had his name filed down or hammered out, yet remain recognizable.

 

Even the smallest and most ordinary coin can bear a historical record that thousands of intervening years cannot erase.