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Déjà vu – A recent purchase brings back fond memories

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coinsandmedals

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I think I have officially hit the point where I can no longer justify the expense of new additions. There have been some stellar coins offered for sale already this year, but more often than not, these pieces realize prices that are just a bit out of my comfort zone. Consequently, I have only added four new noteworthy pieces to my collection, which pales compared to last year. On any note, I am delighted with my latest purchase which brings back memories of a much simpler time. A time before COVID, before insane auctions prices, and before I was thoroughly infected with the bug of collecting Soho pieces.

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We can probably all think back to the first piece that eventually became the foundation of a new collecting pursuit. For me, this took the form of a 1788 Great Britain pattern Halfpenny (P-945) struck at the Soho Mint (pictured above). I remember being sucked into the history and immense conflict between Jean Pierre Droz (the engraver of this coin) and the founder of the Soho Mint, Matthew Boulton. Fast forward several years and that research has dramatically expanded and now represents almost all of my numismatic pursuits. There is just so much fascinating history left to be discovered! The original piece holds a special place in my collection, and I am ecstatic to add a second similar example alongside it.

My newest purchase is the “1788” Great Britain pattern Halfpenny (P-1003) pictured below. Although this piece is dated 1788, it was likely struck nearly a century later. Peck classifies this variety as a restrike, meaning that it was struck using Soho dies sometime after the demise of the Soho Mint. I provide more detail about restrikes in the introduction of my registry set, so if you are looking for more information about restrikes, it can be found there. On any note, this piece was likely struck in the 1880s by Taylor after he acquired the dies from Matthew Pier Watt Boulton, the grandson of Matthew Boulton. Often dubbed “Taylor restrikes”, these pieces make the proper attribution of English coinage struck at the Soho Mint far more complicated, as he often intentionally created new varieties to sell to unsuspecting collectors. When considering the sheer number of restrike varieties paired with the frequency with which some of these come up for sale, it appears that this was a relatively successful operation. For instance, we know that 10 of these pieces, along with 794 other restrikes of different varieties and types, were part of a consignment from W. J. Taylor’s workshop on June 29th, 1880 (Peck, 1964). This was a single consignment, and it stands to reason that multiple of this caliber were likely placed over the careers of Taylor and his two sons. As such, it would be nearly impossible to ascertain how many of each variety were produced. Peck (1964) specifically notes that this variety (i.e., P-1003) was created with the sole intent of creating something new to trick unsuspecting collectors.

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Although Peck (1964) notes this coin as rare, it appears to be much more common than other similarly rated varieties, with nearly 60 examples coming up for sale over the last five decades. This estimate only includes the examples attributed by TPGs and numerous auction houses. It makes no effort to include those not directly attributed, so the actual number of market appearances is likely higher. However, this example is somewhat more unique because both the obverse and reverse are double struck, the reverse being far more dramatic than the obverse. From my estimates, it appears the obverse is double struck with about a 3-degree rotation between strikes. The reverse, however, is double struck with about 21 degrees of rotation between strikes. The result is a coin that looks as though it has been circulated, but the flat areas are where the strikes overlapped. This is abundantly apparent when examining the bust of King George III and the outer portion of Britannia’s shield. In contrast, examining the inner portion of the shield demonstrates the conflicting design details. It will be interesting to see how NGC grades this piece, given its odd nature.

So what got you started in your current collecting pursuits? Has it come full circle as it has for me? 

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That is a very nice addition, and some great information and background to the piece.   As to your thoughts on prices I too have seen the rapid rise of prices both at the auction blocks and for the retail prices.  It is becoming very difficult for me to want to spend too much more money as I'm worried that this could just be a bubble and I don't want to be caught if the air in this market reduces rapidly.   I bought more this year than I had planned, partly as there were more really nice coins that were brought out as a result of the higher prices, and my desire to finish a couple of sets.   I think that next year will see far less spending on coins and more time enjoying the coins I have.

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I see you're still bringing the awesome with your journal, Don!!! What a fascinating read!!! And, like Coinbuf, I've seen the price increases on things, too, but it really hasn't affected what I collect yet.......Faustina the Younger coinage is almost like the 1980's baseball cards of ancients.....her coins are very common, even after over 1,800 years (at least her lifetime issues.  Her posthumous series can be a bit of a different story), so I'm not anticipating much of the craziness impacting me much.  But like Coinbuf said.....I've wondered if some of this has been a bubble, too.  If I didn't collect what I do and for the reasons I do, I'd probably be thinking about backing off more, too.  

As far as full circle for me, it'll likely never happen.  I started with U.S. and Canadian coins when I was 8 and I've bounced around a lot from that time, taking on many different coins and coin series.  But once Faustina came into my life, she was it and will remain so.  Collecting her coins, along with the occasional ancient of someone else, is all I actively pursue now.  When I lost my mom and stepmom in 2020, I was knocked around a lot by that and I stopped collecting for quite a while.....but when I came back to coins (and to the boards), it was Faustina I came back to.  She's the other lady in my life, though Candice is okay sharing me with her xD.  But it was really cool to read about your full circle experience!! Thank you for sharing that and your newest addition with us as always!!

~Tom

Edited by Mohawk
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First what has always fascinated me about this hobby are the people that have found a somewhat-affordable niche in a specific area of numismatics to create world class sets such as yours based on the Soho Mint. I have found my niche in Laura Gardin Fraser designed coins and medals. This began with my admiration for Mrs. Fraser and her pioneering spirit as the first women medalist to design a US coin. Forever she has paved the way for other female medalists. Just 60 years after the Alabama centennial half-dollar, Elizabeth Jones became the chief engraver of the United States mint. Just a collector of ordinary means, I have acquired several scarce pieces including two pieces with a documented provenance of once belonging to the Frasers.

Finally, no one assembles a world class set without help. A close friend of mine in the hobby has been there for me every step of the way. He has sent me tips on auctions, helped me with my research, proof-read many of my write-ups, and finally sent me all the research he assembled on Laura Gardin Fraser. Incidentally, he also acted as an agent to secure the two Fraser studio pieces that I own. When I gave a Money Talks presentation on LGF at the 2019 ANA Worlds fair of money show he reviewed my presentation and suggested a few good tips to make it better. Truth be told, it's the relationships with other collectors that attract me to this hobby more than anything.    

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I'm still trying to wrap my head around how this was done. I thought I had it all figured out last night, but then I realized It could not have happened the way I thought. 

I think I have finally figured out one way it could have happened:

Assuming the reverse (Britannia) die was the lower (anvil?) die, and using your estimates of the degree of rotation, it appears that it (the reverse die) rotated clockwise 18 degrees (viewed from the top), and the coin rotated counterclockwise 3 degrees. That would give the second strike the 21 degree counterclockwise rotation of the reverse, and 3 degree clockwise rotation of the obverse. This assumes that the obverse die did not rotate.

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@Coinbuf Some of the prices realized in the recent Stacks Bowers auction were ridiculous. If these high prices become the new normal, I may be forced to reevaluate my approach. My current budget can not support these prices without sacrificing quality, which I am unwilling to do. That said, I get just as much if not even more enjoyment from researching the items, which is often far cheaper than obtaining them. 

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@MohawkThanks, Tom! You may be the only person I’ve talked to recently that has not been impacted by the recent craziness. In full disclosure, I’m a bit jealous! I’ve come full circle in so far as my Soho adventures, but like you, I’ll never come full circle in the grand scheme of things. I don’t foresee myself re-entering the U.S. coin arena anytime soon. I’m far too spoiled by my current collecting pursuits even to consider paying a multitude of the price for a fraction of the quality. If I had an unlimited budget, this might be different.

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@coinsbygaryGary, your kind words are much appreciated! I can’t say that I consider my collection a world-class set, but I certainly aspire to that level of achievement. In my opinion, although our sets differ in that regard, they are similar in terms of what motivated them. It is clear from the introduction of your Fraser set and the accompanying descriptions of the pieces within it that you are captivated by the relevant historical, artistic, and social circumstances that gave rise to their existence. I echo these same sentiments in my set detailing the Soho Mint.

Like you, I have also been helped along the way by several good friends. Unfortunately, many have since passed away, but they certainly left a mark. My most recent project, “The Medals of Soho near Birmingham”, is a tribute to one of those friends. As soon as my most recent submission comes back from NGC, I hope to make that new registry set available. We are merely temporary curators of history, but our connections with fellow collectors are likely something to last a lifetime. I have come to form some truly amazing friendships with people whom I otherwise would not have likely encountered. I find it amazing how easily numismatics can bring people together!

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@Just BobBob, admittedly you’ve given this way more thought than I have. That said, your description seems to be the most plausible that I can come up with. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain the obverse rotation paired with the relatively severe reverse rotation. I assume that this was done on purpose by Taylor as he could often charge more for “collector” pieces.

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