Amelia Dowler, Curator of Greek and Roman Provincial Coins, British Museum
In 1908 workmen excavating foundations for a house in Fetter Lane (City of London) found 46 coins in a pot. The Rev’d FD Ringrose purchased the hoard and published an account in 1911 but focussed on describing the coins rather than the circumstances of the find. By the time the coins were bequeathed to the British Museum in 1914, there was no trace of the pot and no description of it either. There is no full account of exactly how the hoard was found and whilst Roman hoards are often uncovered in Britain (for example the Didcot, Hoxne and Beau Street hoards), the Fetter Lane hoard remains something of a mystery.
Extract from Pocket Atlas and Guide to London 1900 showing the British Museum and Fetter Lane (bottom right)
The Fetter Lane coins were all minted in Alexandria, in Egypt, between AD 58 and AD 284. At this period in the Roman Empire, official coins were produced at centrally controlled mints for use across the empire. However, many other mints also produced civic coins, usually in copper alloys, to be used in the local area. Coins had first been minted in Alexandria under the Ptolemaic dynasty (c.312–30 BC), which continued after Egypt became a Roman province in 30 BC. Unlike in most other provinces, Alexandria was a centrally controlled mint and the coins were initially made of debased silver before declining into a mainly copper alloy coinage. They circulated locally in the eastern Mediterranean and did not form part of the official Roman denomination system.
The earliest dated coin in the hoard (Year 5: 58/59 AD), depicting Nero. British Museum 1914,0403.2
Coins used in the Roman province of Britannia were from official Roman mints and we know this both from coin finds and from references to coins at the time, such as at Vindolanda. Why then would these Alexandrian coins be brought to Britain where they formed no part of the currency system?
Over the past 200 years or so when unusual coins like these have been found in Britain they have often been dismissed as modern imports, perhaps brought back to the country as souvenirs from the Grand Tour, or by soldiers returning from service. There is a long history of these finds being dismissed, particularly by coin experts in museums and universities. I am compiling a catalogue of this material to look into this question further: are coins from the Mediterranean world (and sometimes further afield) modern losses or did they arrive in Iron Age or Roman times? These are coins – minted between the 5th century BC up to the end of the 3rd century AD – which would not have been part of a currency system in Britain.
The latest dated coin in the hoard (Year 2: 283/4 AD), depicting Carinus. British Museum 1914,0403.46
This is a particularly relevant question today when the Portable Antiquities Scheme is regularly listing coins with similar origins to the database. The steadily increasing number of ‘foreign’ coins means that it is important to readdress this question rather than dismissing it out of hand. There are examples both of coins being found in known contexts, such as in the Sacred Spring in Bath, and also where we know that coins were modern imports, such as the Alexandrian coins found on the wreck of the HMS Pomone. For the majority of coins however we have no clear information about their findspots.
Where does this leave the Fetter Lane hoard? The fact that the coins were found together is also unusual: when ‘foreign’ coins like these are found they are usually single finds or are a rare foreign inclusion in a group of imperial Roman coins. The coins look in similar condition so it is quite likely that they were a group for some time despite the date range of the coins from AD 58 (during the reign of Nero) to AD 284 (during the reign of Carinus). It is unfortunate that the pot they were found in has been lost, as that might have supplied more information about what period they were deposited. There are a few plausible options to consider.
The coins could have been brought back as a souvenir group from Egypt by a Grand Tourist or by someone, perhaps a soldier, transiting through the Suez Canal. Souvenirs of this sort were fairly common and would have been reasonably cheap to buy locally in Egypt. After this they may have been put into a pot as a foundation deposit for a house in Fetter Lane at some point in the 1800s and were then found in 1908 during further works.
The coins could have been collected together in antiquity and deposited together during the Roman occupation of London (Londinium) after AD 50. From the dates of the coins themselves, this would have to have been after AD 284 when Londinium was a thriving Roman city. But why would this have happened? It is possible that these coins were collected together by a traveller or trader coming to London at this period. We know that the population of Londinium contained many foreigners who arrived during this time so the city was quite well connected to the rest of the Roman world. Perhaps these were kept as a memento of home or travels, or deposited for safe-keeping or as an offering for a safe journey to London.
Another intriguing proposition is that during the 3rd century AD there was a monetary crisis across the Roman Empire and at the turn of the century Roman coinage was reformed. At this point, local coinages ceased, leaving only the official Roman imperial mints producing coins. In Alexandria minting ceased in AD 297, shortly before the official reforms. It is possible that the coins were gathered together and brought westwards to fill gaps in the available currency, officially or unofficially. Or simply that when these coins became defunct they were gathered together to be used as a source of metal or kept by people thinking that one day they could use them again. However, there is no contemporary, corroborating evidence for these proposals other than the fact that there was a monetary crisis and a coinage reform.
Without any further context for the Fetter Lane hoard it is, for the moment at least, likely to remain an intriguing puzzle. By collecting together further evidence across the country, I hope to build up a picture of what kinds of coins arrived in ancient times and which arrived more recently.
Image of the Fetter Lane hoard at the British Museum. (Photo: Ben Alsop)
The Fetter Lane hoard is currently on display in the Citi Money Gallery.
The Citi Money Gallery is supported by Citi.
FD Ringrose (1911) ‘Finds of Alexandrian Coins in London’ The Numismatic Chronicle (4th series) vol. 11, pp. 357–8
In "Money Gallery"
United States Seated Liberty coinage
The Seated Liberty portrait designs appeared on most regular-issue silverUnited States coinage during the mid- and late-nineteenth century, from 1836 through 1891. The denominations which featured the Goddess of Liberty in a Seated Liberty design included the half dime, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and until 1873 the silver dollar. Another coin that appeared exclusively in the Seated Liberty design was the twenty cent piece. This coin was produced from 1875 to 1878, and was discontinued because it looked very similar to the quarter. Seated Liberty coinage was minted at the main United States Mint in Philadelphia, as well as the branch mints in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City.
Obverse of 1857 Seated Liberty Half Dime
The basic obverse design of the Seated Liberty coinage consisted of the figure of the goddess Liberty clad in a flowing dress and seated upon a rock. In her left hand, she holds a Liberty polesurmounted by a Phrygian cap, which had been a pre-eminent symbol of freedom during the movement of Neoclassicism (and in fact traces its roots back to Ancient Greece and Rome). Although it had fallen out of favor in Europe by 1830, Neoclassicism remained in vogue in the United Statesuntil after the American Civil War. Liberty's right hand rested on the top corner of a striped shield with a diagonal banner inscribed with the word "LIBERTY." The shield represented preparedness in the defense of freedom. The date of the coin appeared on the bottom below Liberty.
Reverse of 1857 Seated Liberty Half Dime
The basic reverse design of Seated Liberty coins depended on the denomination. The size of half dimes and dimes necessitated a smaller array of elements. On these coins, the reverse consistently featured a wreath around the words "HALF DIME" or "ONE DIME". Before 1860, this wreath consisted of laurel leaves, a traditional Neoclassical image, but beginning that year, the wreath was enlarged and was filled not only with leaves, but also traditional American agriculturalproducts, such as corn and wheat. On quarter, half dollars, and silver dollar coins, the reverse featured a central eagle about to take flight, with a striped shield upon its breast. The eagle clutched an olive branch of peace in its right talons and a group of arrows in its left talons. Above the eagle around the rim were the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and below the eagle around the rim lay the coin denomination. Beginning in 1866 the coins featured a ribbon with the motto "In God We Trust" above the eagle.
When the first Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes appeared in 1837, the obverse contained no stars. There are two varieties; the large date and the small date. For the dime, these two types can be distinguished by noting the "3" and the "7" in the date. In the large date variety, the "3" has a pointy serif at top, and the horizontal element of the "7" is straight. In the small date variety, the "3" has a rounded serif, and there is small a knob, or bulge, in the "7" horizontal element. Only the Philadelphia Mint made both varieties. The small date is slightly rarer. The New Orleans Mint made only one variety. For the half dime, the small date can be distinguished by the fact that it is slightly bent in a "smile" orientation, similar to the Bust type of half dime. The large date can be distinguished by the fact that the date is more in a straight line, similar to dates of later years for the Seated Liberty. Only the Philadelphia Mint made half dimes in this year.
The Liberty Seated dime of 1838 minted in New Orleans, was the first U.S. coin struck anywhere outside of Philadelphia. In other words, this is the first branch mint coin.
The next year, the coins featured thirteen six-pointed stars around the rim, commemorating the original thirteen colonies.
The Seated Liberty coins featured a few minor design changes over the years. Around 1840 (the exact date depends upon the denomination), extra drapery was added to Liberty's left elbow.
Arrows and raysEdit
Liberty Seated quarter with arrows and rays.
In 1853 and 1873, the U.S. Mintchanged the weight of each denomination of silver coins. Both times, arrows were added to the coins on each side of the date. These were removed from coins in 1856 and 1875, respectively. In 1853, the mint also placed rays around the eagle on the reverse of half dollars and quarters, a feature which endured for that one year only.
Legend and mintmarksEdit
Liberty Seated half dime with New Orleans mintmark.
In 1860 the U.S. Mint eliminated the stars on the obverse of Seated Liberty half dimes and dimes, replacing them with the legend "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," which had previously appeared around the wreath on the reverse of the coins. Before this time, half dimes and dimes minted in New Orleans and San Francisco had featured their mintmarks inside the wreaths. Afterwards, the "O" and "S" (and, later, the "CC" for Carson City) mintmarks were located below the wreath next to the rim. On quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars, the mintmarks were always placed below the eagle but above the coin currencyon the reverse.
Many people collect seated coinage by variety. This can range from a repunched mintmark to the position of a date on the coin to a die crack at various stages. This type of collecting has been popular with Bust half dollars for well over 100 years. Seated coin collecting by variety has grown over the last 30 years with the formation of Liberty Seated Collectors Club.
What's the most popular coin in America? The Morgan Silver Dollar! Why do collectors love them so much? Well, first of all they're big. And they're silver—nearly an ounce of the precious metal. The classic design of the Morgan Silver Dollar harkens back to the Old West, when silver miners dug deep into mountainsides to get the silver used to make them. The variety of Morgans is impressive as well. They were struck at five different mints, and you can collect them by date, mint or condition - or you can just accumulate them.
The feature list below illustrates all possible criteria that Morgan Silver Dollars may possess. This also allows searches by Issue Date, Mint Marks, or a combination of these two. Get started or add to your Morgan Silver Dollar collection today!
The History of the Morgan Silver Dollar
The Early Years
Morgan Silver Dollar Coin Specifications
Mint Marks and Hoards
TIVOLI, New York – The Dow plummeted 211 points – or 1.2% – yesterday.
The Shanghai Composite was flat. Gold rose $4 in New York… bringing it to $1,107.
Is gold reasonably priced? Too high? Too low?
“A Car for the Great Multitude”
In the museum in the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York is an early automobile.
We didn’t get a chance to study it in detail. But the collection includes a Sears Motor Buggy built in about 1910. It was on sale then for just $395.
It is a simple vehicle – a real “horseless carriage.” It was the new technology of the time, and more promising than probably almost anyone realized. But the motor was finicky. The ride was bumpy. And it was very noisy, more of a novelty than a serious way to get around.
Still, Sears’ technology was “cutting edge.” And he was turning out hundreds of these new cars.
But more edges were being cut in Detroit.
Ransom E. Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile, had already perfected the assembly line. Henry Ford was not far behind him, taking production to a new level of efficiency and output. Ford By 1910, half of the automobiles in the U.S. were Henry Ford’s Model T’s. He priced them low and made his money on volume.
By 1925, his factories were turning out 9,000 to 10,000 cars a day. Two years later, when Model T production ceased, Ford had made 15 million of them.
Ford sold his Model T’s for just $260 – enough to make the Ford family rich and make the Ford Motor Company one of the world’s leading enterprises.
The Golden Ratio
But how much was that in today’s money?
It depends on how you adjust for inflation, which is far from an exact science.
Typically, we see estimates that the dollar has lost 95% to 98% of its purchasing power over the last 100 years. Although there are only three percentage points in the difference between the two numbers, they have a big effect on the calculation.
A loss of 95% implies that today’s dollar only has 5% of the purchasing power it had 100 years ago.
That means the price of a Model T today would be 20 times as much as it was then – or $5,200. And if the loss in the purchasing power of the dollar over that time is 98%, today’s price would be closer to $13,000.
But the price of Ford’s current everyman car, the Fusion S, is about $22,000 today. That’s 85 times more expensive than the Model T was in gold terms.
Meanwhile, in dollar terms, gold is worth 58 times more than what it was in 1915.
If gold prices had risen at the same rate as car prices (i.e., 85 times instead of 58 times), it “should” be at about $1,615 an ounce. And gold bugs would be tickled pink.
A Famous Announcement
Monday was the 101st anniversary of Ford’s famous announcement: He would pay his workers a shocking $5 a day.
With gold then priced at $19 per ounce, that was roughly an ounce of gold for every four days of work.
Today, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union rate is $73 an hour, including health care and pension benefits.
An eight-hour day at this rate would earn you $654, including benefits. Four days at this pace gives the worker $2,616 – more than enough for two ounces of gold today.
So, in gold terms, the autoworker today earns about twice as much as he did 100 years ago, which doesn’t seem like much of an increase for an entire century.
Either the price of gold is too high… or too low. How’s that for a helpful analysis?
But had gold kept up with UAW hourly wages, it would be priced at about $2,485 today.
And at today’s gold price, it takes 20 ounces to buy Ford’s cheapest car.
That is six ounces more than it cost to buy the Model T.
Divide $22,000 (the price of a Fusion S) by 13.7 (the number of ounces of gold it cost to buy a Model T) and you get a gold price of $1,605 an ounce.
Is gold too high? Too low? Who knows? But we wouldn’t worry about it.
Read the original article on Bonner and Partners. Editor's Note: If you enjoyed Bill’s article, sign up for the Diary of a Rogue Economist and get his special report, "The One Secret You Must Know to Be Successful". Copyright 2015. Follow Bonner and Partners on Twitter.
The Birth of the Standing Liberty Quarter:
America was at war: World War I was raging in Europe, and at home industrial technology continued to advance at breakneck pace. A style of artistic construction called Art Nouveau, characterized by elegant, flowing lines, and new freedoms of expression, reached its peak of popularity in America, as the musty old conservative ethic of the long Victorian Era finally breathed its last gasps.
The Standing Liberty Quarter Design:
Of course, Mint officials didn't plot to put bare-breasted ladies on our quarters! A competition was held, and several top sculptors were invited to submit designs to be considered for use on the coinage. The design selected for the quarter dollar was Hermon A. McNeil's, which depicts Miss Liberty standing between two large pedestals, holding an olive branch in her right hand, and a shield in her left. She wears a flowing garment that slips off her right shoulder to expose her breast.
Liberty's Bared Breast - Wartime Propaganda?:
There has been much speculation into why McNeil's design was selected and what the symbolism meant. The olive branch Liberty holds is a universal sign of peacemaking. The shield is clearly a symbol of warfare and defense. And Liberty's exposed breast? Was this wartime propaganda meant to imply, "come get your succor from the breast of the world's mother?" Or was it meant to say, "I come in peace, opening myself to you in earnestness?" History does not record the answer.
Designed and Then Rushed Out the Door:
The dies for the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter were ready for production by July of 1916. But production didn't begin until the last half of December that same year. Why the delay?
Could it be that some persons who had seen the coin design had objected, and the delay was the result of discussions and re-thinking things? Perhaps the mint was just really busy producing other coins? Two other new designs were issued that year as well. Again, history doesn't tell; we can only speculate.
The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarters Leave the Mint:
The 1916 production run of Standing Liberty Quarters consisted of 52,000 pieces, all of which were produced at the Philadelphia facility, and all of which left the mint by December 29, 1916. This small mintage made its way through the Treasury distribution system in early January of 1917, and awaited release into circulation. In the meantime, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver began striking the 1917 Standing Liberty Quarters, and sent them out for distribution as well.
A Bare-Breasted Liberty Finally Meets Her Outraged Public:
On January 17 of 1917, the bare-breasted Standing Liberty Quarter finally entered circulation, and the outcry was immediate and loud. Religious leaders used words like "obscene" and "filthy" to describe the visage of our beautiful Miss Liberty with her breast exposed. Citizens' groups rallied their memberships to lobby Congress to have the disgusting coin recalled.
Congress had little choice but to submit to the clamor. The bare-breasted Liberty Quarters began disappearing from circulation.
Liberty Taken to the Opposite Extreme:
McNeil was obliged to modify his design. Miss Liberty would need to be properly covered, according to the citizens of our enlightened nation. It is easy to imagine that McNeil might have been a little resentful about the modification chore he had to undertake. Rather than simply rearrange the drapery on Liberty's shoulder to cover the offending breast, he crafted a suit of armor instead, and chastely clothed Miss Liberty nearly to the neck in chain mail!
The Three Types of Standing Liberty Quarters:
The Standing Liberty Quarter needed a third design change starting in 1925 because the date was wearing off too quickly. The design was re-cut so that the date was recessed, rather than raised. A summary of the Standing Liberty Quarter types:
Medium to high grade bare-breasted (Type I) Standing Liberty Quarters dated 1916 are not as rare as one might expect. First of all, it being the first year of a new coinage type, many people stored them away as a curiosity. Their subsequent recall ensured that even more were stashed away without seeing much circulation. Although many were presumably melted down, the 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter is fairly readily available despite its small mintage.
As an investment, however, it has been a volatile coin. Because many more specimens exist than its low mintage would lead one to expect, the asking price is often inflated over comparably scarce mid-issue, non-controversial types. As a general rule, such coins are not a good candidate for pure investors, but like any other investment decision, you must make your decision based on the price you have to pay versus the likelihood it will increase enough in value to outperform inflation plus the interest you could have earned investing elsewhere. But if you just need a specimen to complete your collection, or want to own one because of its curiosity value, buy the best grade you can afford and make sure it's in a quality slab. Hopefully, it will hold its value!
Judge for yourself whether you feel the Bare-Breasted Standing Liberty Quarter is "obscene" by viewing these enlarged images, then come share your thoughts about it on the comment page for the Bare-Breasted Standing Liberty Quarter.
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Note regarding the spelling of McNeil's name: Although many major numismatic references, including the "Red Book" spell the sculptor's name "MacNeil," a relative of his wrote to me to say that the correct spelling is "McNeil." Research into Hermon A. McNeil's artistic background seems to indicate that both spellings have been used interchangeably for decades, but I have decided to follow the family's choice of spelling.
cent is one of the most enigmatic coins in American numismatics — and reportedly the most valuable Lincoln penny of all. Just 40 of the coins — probably created by accident, on copper-alloy one-cent blanks left in the presses in the wartime years when pennies were converted to steel — are known to exist. The first 1943 copper cent was sold in 1958 for more than $40,000. In 1996, another went for a whopping $82,500. But those sales pale in comparison with the latest: this week, a dealer in New Jersey sold his 1943 penny for a staggering $1.7 million. Their collection value makes 1943 copper pennies a prime target for counterfeiters: fakes are often made by coating steel cents with copper or altering the dates of 1945, 1948 and 1949 cents. How can you tell if your 1943 copper penny is real? Use a magnet. If the penny sticks, it's not copper. Better luck next time.