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One thin trime

No, really. It’s called a trime. It’s an 1852 US silver threepenny piece. There’s also a larger version in nickel (I got one of those, too).

I had a wander through a flea market near work today and found ten little coins they were selling as a busted bracelet: three bunhead Victorias, two bedhead George IVs, two trimes, and three other. “Bunhead” is what they call early coins with Victoria on them (you can probably guess why) and “bedhead” is what I call George IVs coins, because he always looks tousled.

They all have holes bored in them, so they have next to no value to collectors. I paid £2 for the lot, and that isn’t far wrong. Collectors are silly people.

April 26, 2018 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 10

The Goths love ’em


Our newest £2 coins. The text around the edge reads “What a piece of work is a man!” I’m not sure I’m down with scary skellingtons on my money.

In March, they’re scrapping the old £1 coin design, which was round, in favor of an octagonal one. It’s to cut down on fraud.

The Royal Mint regularly conducts surveys to estimate the level of counterfeit £1 coins in the UK. A survey undertaken in May 2015 found that the rate of counterfeit UK £1 coins in circulation at the time was 2.55%, compared to 3.03% in May 2014.

Not sure if new coins mean all the coin machines will have to be scrapped.

Oh, changing the subject, I had a conversation with a tourist today. She heard my accent and asked where I was from and I told her. I asked her where she was from and she said, “Oregon. We’re very liberal and I guess we’re going to be punished for it now.” Right off the bat, first thing.

I never liked Limbaugh’s construction that liberalism is a mental disease, but it sure do seem like it sometimes.

January 3, 2017 — 10:29 pm
Comments: 24



Lookee what I found on eBay. It’s a…well, look at it. It’s kind of a…hm. It’s a…SWEET FANCY MOSES, WHAT IS THAT THING?

It’s a coin, issued by a real government. Or, at any rate, the government of New Zealand. It has Liz on the other side and everything. It’s a proof coin, so it was only ever intended for collectors. But I have to ask myself…collectors of what?

I’ve been watching the quality of coin designs slide for years but — in all seriousness — there is no excuse for modeling this shitty ever to escape into the wild. Even for the notoriously unfussy collectors’ market. Certainly not with the imprimatur of a real government mint.

Dude’s face fails even the basic properties of bilateral symmetry common to all terrestrial mammals. I wouldn’t accept this level of drawing from a middle school student, not without some pretty stern critique.

Oh, it’s a 2003 proof coin celebrating the coronation of Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings flicks. See the whole thing.

September 30, 2015 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 18

Always, some new geekery


You know how you’re playing a Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons kind of computer game, and you buy some food, and it’s, like, five gold pieces? Congratulations! You’ve just paid seven million bucks for a turnip!

Making currency denominations match real life experience was a recurring problem since the Middle Ages, at least. A gold piece was more than a peasant was likely to earn in a lifetime. A copper piece more than a week’s wages. So how the hell was the poor bastard supposed to buy a bowl of soup?

The value of a coin was wedded to the value of the metal it was made from until — well, until we were kids. Remember getting a silver dime or quarter in your change? Early coins were often scored with a cross, so they could be cut into quarters and the quarters spent separately. Copper coins were of the least value, and still people shaved lumps off them and melted them down to make counterfeits.

And still official government coins were in very short supply. Lack of coins in the lowest denominations became an acute problem in the middle 18th C, when more and more people were leaving the land to work in town and couldn’t be paid their wages in pig faces and corn shucks. By 1786, two-thirds of the coins in circulation were fake, and the Royal Mint responded by…wait, shutting itself down? The government refused to strike any copper coins at all in their own right for 48 years, from 1773 until 1821.

But capitalism finds a way. In 1768, one of the largest veins of copper in the world was found in Parys Mountain, Wales. Within twenty years — having failed to sell their anti-counterfeit coin ideas to the government — the Parys Mine Company was making and minting their own copper half pennies to pay their workers. These weren’t regarded as fake anything, as they didn’t pretend to be government issued and were valued based on the weight of the metal. Within a few years, thousands of such half pennies were designed and circulated by individuals, companies, towns, organizations, taking the heat off government.

They were instant collectibles — which explains why there are still so many to be had today in excellent condition. Because they were privately made, the designs range from beautiful to political to goofy. One of the very first collectors and cataloguers was a man named James Conder (1761–1823), hence halfpenny tokens are called Conder Tokens (often misspelled “Condor” on eBay, be advised). By the early 19th C, the government got back in the coin business and outlawed private tokens. The vast majority of private halfpennies bear a date in the 1790s.

Do I collect Conder Tokens? Um, kind of. I collect pictures of the ones I like from eBay. The one at top was designed by the Oddfellows (and it can be yours for a newly discounted price of £42.49!). Many can be had for much less, though, and I’m sorely tempted when local coins come up for sale.

Whenever I think I have discovered all the geekery there is…

September 10, 2015 — 9:44 pm
Comments: 10

And a czar, too!

Yeah. Somehow, this was funnier in my head. Oh, well.

You can go back to talking coins. I’ve been trying to disentangle copyright issues surrounding currency all day. You’d think I’d be safe putting hundred year old coins on junk, but Zazzle is an absolute pain in the ass on intellectual property issues, so I’m not using anything until I find official statements from the relevant mint first.

Anyhow, in the course of that, I found this interesting article. It claims that, per US case law, you don’t hold copyright on your photo of a coin or painting, provided it’s simply a faithful copy of the original. Huh. I did not know that.

I guess it means when I run out of coins, I can go around the internet pinching other people’s junk.

Pinching people’s junk. That did not come out right.

June 16, 2010 — 10:50 pm
Comments: 16

Nice thrup’nies

Shit. I was going to post about the “Mercury” dime tonight, but I see I’ve already done that. So how about a threepence?

It’s not as interesting, although it is Cockney rhyming slang for tits (thrup’ny bit = tit).

Thruppences were minted irregularly between about 1540 and decimalisation in 1971, in a number of metals and designs. Three pence equals a third of a shilling or an eightieth of a pound. The old British currency was sort of base twelve. Which is cool because twelve is divisible by two, three, four and six, giving lots and lots of different possible coin denominations.

This particular reverse was designed for Edward VIII before he abdicated, and was used throughout the reign of his brother, George VI. It’s nickel-brass and was produced simultaneously with the silver theepence for a while.

The flowers are thrift, also known as sea thrift or sea pinks. Thrift? Money? Get it? The designer was Frances Madge Kitchener.

Boring. Told you. So what’s with all this? I finally got around to putting some of my coin collection on merchandise today.

No, no…I’m not trying to sell more of my shit to you longsuffering bastards. Blog links make Google think my merchandise is swell (in fact, I really ought to be linking much more often to suck up to the search engines). And, frankly, I’ve been looking this stuff up all day and I’m WAY too lazy to come up with something else to blog about.

June 15, 2010 — 10:09 pm
Comments: 47

Play money…

The long, slow process of replacing my professional artard gear continues — my new scanner arrived this afternoon. First task is digitizing bits of my worthless coin collection.

No, seriously — I collect what real collectors call “lunch money” — heavily circulated world coins that are worth, at most, the value written on the front. Bought them in ten pound lots on eBay (my dealer doesn’t seem to be in business any more). Ten pounds, let me tell you, is a buttload of small change. Took weeks and weeks to go through them all, and every one of them guaranteed to be worth jack shit.

There would always be lots of fascinating and beautiful stuff, though. Mid-19th to the mid-20th Centuries and every continent on the globe.

You could tell a lot about a place from its money. Like, money with pictures of food on it comes from places where people are starving. Money with food and industrial equipment comes from Communist places where people are starving. In the immediate post-war era, the smallest coins in Europe were sometimes made of horrible cheap and nasty aluminum. Oh, and I’ll never forget the first time I turned over a coin and spotted a swastika on it. Brrrrrr — Nazi lunch money!

I thought some coins would make interesting merchandise. You would think that coins, being as public and emblematic as national flags, governments wouldn’t be all anal-retentive about copyrighting their images. You’d be wrong. This’ll be fun to figure out.

Oh, and the coin in the picture was, I thought, the one time I put one over on the bulk coin people. Without the holes (which were used to make it into a button or charm), a George III sovereign like that would be worth upwards of £1,000. But I’ve been digging around, and that there is almost certainly Victorian brass play money, worth nuffink.

So it’s consistent with the general high quality and value of the rest of my collection.

March 9, 2010 — 11:20 pm
Comments: 7

Loot! Plunder! Swag!


This? A British Airways place setting…from the Concorde. This is just the sort of brilliant, clever gift-giving Uncle B excels at and I…do not. I made him circle shit he wanted in a gardening catalogue. I’m pretty darned sure this is the first time in my life I’ve ever bought anyone vermiculite for Christmas.

We’ve just polished off the champagne…the turkey is in the oven…it has been an good Christmas. Hope yours was, too!

See you on Boxing Day! (Don’t ask).

December 25, 2008 — 9:02 pm
Comments: 36



Okay. I confess. The general lateness and lameness of posts lately? I’ve been…


…asleep. And that’s not a metaphor for hot, hot mustelid sex or anything. Uncle B and I have passed out comatose a minimum of ten hours a day since I got here, snoring and farting like livestock.

Seriously, it’s whack. It’s Britain-induced narcolepsy. Turbojetlag. Even the cat can barely lift her head off the pillow to cadge Friskies. I knew I had some catching up to do after a year of low drama and high anxiety, but this is stupid. We haven’t spent eight hours awake in a row since November 26.

Tonight, I struggled awake to the sound of, “oh my god…it’s ten o’clock!”

And I go, “I dreamed I was having lunch with Mrs Rockefeller and Bette Davis.” And I really was.

And he goes, “I dreamed I was watching the Prime Minister put on a conjuring act.” And he really was.

Well. We’re a well-matched pair, I guess.

Surprisingly, that’s not as happy a thought as you might imagine.

December 16, 2008 — 8:30 pm
Comments: 25

Meet my leetle freen’ Johanna

Many activities which appeal to stupid people for stupid reasons appeal to me for good reasons. Really good reasons. Really. It is my curse.

I mean hippies. And recycling (also patchouli, but that doesn’t really figure here). Human beings don’t make enough garbage to spoil the view, let alone wreck the planet (except maybe in China, which is full of diabolically clever and hard-working little people). Upscale Western suburbanites sorting their garbage into colorful plastic bins to be picked up by a fleet of giant belching diesel trucks to Save the Earth is an idea so pointless, loony and mathematically-challenged that even I can work out the formula.

It goes like this: if it is more expensive to recycle a thing than make it from scratch THAT MUST MEAN it requires more energy to do so (in some cases, a lot more energy) and that makes Gaia cry.

Yes. Yes, my hippies. There is recycling that is bad for the planet. Perhaps most of it, as it is practiced today.

And yet…waste is a terrible thing. Maybe because I am sometimes poor…maybe because I was raised by a pack of wild hippies. Whatever. Wasting a thing that can easily be reused offends me right down into my bones. It is an aesthetic judgment, not a scientific one — but I’m an aesthetic sort of a weasel, so bite me.

And zo…meet my new compost bin. Not any compost bin. Oh, no. This is a Green Johanna — a Swedish design that will devour tea bags, coffee grounds, banana peels, meat and fish (including bones!), garden clippings and all that goddamned fruit and veg you buy but don’t eat before it goes off — oh, yes. I’ve seen you do it — and transform them into lovely, glossy black soil. Which, using the magic of whatever the hell it is he does in that greenhouse, Uncle B will transform back into delicious food (if things carry on getting worse, he says, we’re going to grub up the front lawn and plant potatoes).

I love Johanna. I love her better’n that pig we had in the ’70s

And the sweet thing is, the local Council is so chock full of stupid hippies, they’re giving us a Johanna for £19.95, not the £114 list. Hooray for stupid hippies!

December 2, 2008 — 8:20 pm
Comments: 24