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A Hard Year, A Great Year

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No, I'm not talking about this year which I can only call another strange year, but rather, the year 1860.  In trying to broaden my Silver Dollars of '60 custom set, I researched the silver dollar-like coins issued from European nations in 1860 and I believe there are only two.  By this time, thalers had shrunk to 33mm and 18.52g so they no longer fit my definition of silver dollar size!  Having already acquired a nice 20 reales of Spain (38mm, 26.291g), I was stuck with finding the 5 lire of the Kingdom of Sardinia (37mm, 25g), a coin with a mintage of only 5,044.  That is one hard year!
But, why such a small mintage?  In 1859 the Kingdom of Sardinia, also known as Piedmont-Sardinia had launched an effort to reunify the Italian states and successfully concluded several military campaigns with their French ally against Austria.  In 1860 the Kingdom proceeded to gain support from other Northern Italian States through plebiscite and achieved decisive military victories against the papal army and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  Warfare is expensive so my guess is that silver stocks were depleted leading to the low mintage of coins for general circulation.
The political and military successes of 1860 led to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy with the King of Sardinia, Vittorio Emanuele II, it's first ruler of a united Italy since the 6th century.  Clearly, for those that benefited from a unified Italy, 1860 was a great year.
I finally tracked down an example of the silver dollar-like coin from the Kingdom of Sardinia, dated 1860.  This coin was minted in the principle city of Piedmont, Turin, as denoted by the eagle head mintmark.  Turin was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy until 1865.


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The world seems so "small" and interconnected now, but it's funny to think about how, in the 19th century, you had such different things going on in different parts of the world that influenced why some countries did or didn't get involved in other world events. Reading this makes me think of a YouTube Video I saw a while back that ran through the real, more practical, reasons why most of the European powers ultimately chose not to become involved in the US Civil War in the 1860s. Stuff like this makes me wish that we (I) got more World History in school and less US History and Texas History.

Edited by Revenant
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Congratulations on finding an example, Italian coins, over many periods, seem to very difficult if you are trying to complete a date set and top quality examples of anything are scare with prices to match!

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Thank you all for your comments :)

One of the great things that I love about coins is the history you learn when you take the time to research the places and times.  In this case, I came across a nice article at the US State Department website on Italian reunification.  One paragraph was very enlightening in describing the political and social aftereffects of the conquests across Europe of Napoleon I.

"The period of French invasion and occupation was important in many ways. It introduced revolutionary ideas about government and society, resulting in an overthrow of the old established ruling orders and the destruction of the last vestiges of feudalism. The ideals of freedom and equality were very influential. Also of consequence, the concept of nationalism was introduced, thus sowing the seeds of Italian nationalism throughout most parts of the northern and central Italian peninsula. "

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Hi Jack!!

Another great entry.......and a great coin, as well!!! The 1860's certainly were an interesting and dynamic time in world history.....so much was changing so rapidly!!! It was probably quite an experience to live in those times.  I think about where my ancestors were then and most of them were in political entities that no longer exist.  Many of my paternal ancestors were in Bosnia, which was part of the Ottoman Empire in 1860.  My mom's people were still in eastern Prussia then.  Some of my paternal ancestors were also Welsh, and they were all still there, too.  But that one still exists.  And nationalism certainly impacted those ancestors of mine......11 years from the date of your coin, Germany unified, making my ancestors "Germans" in national identity and in ethnicity.  18 years from that date, the Ottoman Empire lost Bosnia to Austria-Hungary, so my ancestors there actually left to territories still held by the Ottomans to the south.  It's interesting to think about.

Edited by Mohawk
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On 11/24/2021 at 1:40 PM, jgenn said:


One of the great things that I love about coins is the history you learn when you take the time to research the places and times.

I couldn't agree more!  I enjoy the quality and designs of the pieces I collect, but it is more often the social and historical factors surrounding their existence that hold my attention. My obsession with the Soho Mint started when I looked into the circumstances giving rise to Matthew Boulton's involvement in solving the small change crisis that plagued England for centuries. I have since abandoned all other projects and now solely focus on this niche area. Perhaps the best part of it all is that there is always something new to learn! 

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