So, after many delays prompted by sickness and other things - in the 2nd half of this week is was my “turn” to be sick - and putting these on hold to look at 500 Lire coins, I’m finally starting to look at the Venezuelan coins to maybe pick out some for a submission and building out a registry set.
But the thing that normally makes all the difference for me in building these sets is building a narrative around the set. Building out these descriptions, the research and the writing often consumes more time than anything else and is what has consumed most of my collecting time. With some sets in the past, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on the designs of the coins and the cultural significance of what’s on them. In some sets I’ve put a lot of emphasis on the historical context and what was going on in the country at the time when that coin or bill was introduced. In some sets I’ve emphasized the hunt and the personal journey of building the set - or some mixture of these.
The Zimbabwe note set leans heavily on the historical context with some information on the cultural importance of the things featured - almost no emphasis on the chase because 100 iterations of “I bought this on eBay" seems a bit boring. The Venezuelan note set has a similar approach but there’s a different ratio / more emphasis is put on the cultural significance of the designs and portraits.
The Zimbabwe coin set leans roughly equally on the cultural significance of the designs and on the chase / the journey of building the set.
I’ve been thinking the last few months about what my approach with this set was going to be - how it was going to look, how am I going to present it. I find it’s always best to “Begin with the End in Mind.”
With these coins I feel like it’s going to be very hard to put much emphasis on the designs and the cultural aspect of what’s on it, for one very important reason. I’m going to quote the information card that came with the sets from the Franklin Mint:
“Venezuela may hold the present-day record for the sameness of the designs used on its circulation coins. Not only do all denominations bear a signed portrait of Simon Bolivar by Albert Desire Barre, Chief Engraver of the Paris Mint (1855-1878), it is the same portrait that has been used most years since the 1870s. This likewise holds true for the coat of arms.”
So, from a design standpoint, from coin to coin, there is very little (almost nothing) to talk about here. The dates and the denominations change with the size of the coin but that’s about it. This is actually a pretty stark contrast to what I ran into with the currency side on PMG with the Venezuela set because the bills featured a large number of endangered animals, national parks, and historical figures - until the people designing their bills kind of “gave up” around 2019 and started slapping the same design on everything in different colors.
So I think this set is going to be more focused on the coins, the historical context behind their introduction, and how what was going on in the country / the inflation made it’s impacts on the coinage.
I’ve been starting to research the coins more and I’ve been finding a few very interesting things.
For example, the 1989 coins I got from these Franklin Mint sets I bought were nickel-plated steel coins that were only issued for 2-3 years, and they are almost all using almost exactly the same design or the same design as pure nickel coins that were issued mostly in the 1970s and the earlier 1980s. And these were the last coins issued from the Fourth Republic of Venezuela before the constitutional change in 1999. There were no Venezuelan coins from 1991 to 1999.
This actually heavily mirrors what happened in Zimbabwe with coins being made out of better / more expensive metals in the 1980s, the switch to steel in the 1990s, a brief halt to production of coinage and then a later re-introduction of new, higher coin denominations. - Zimbabwe was just a lot quicker to abandon coins completely than Venezuela.
I’m also learning that some of these coins were struck at several different mints, and that in a couple of cases a coin was struck for 3 years and struck at a different mint every one of those three years. And I’m wondering if I’m going to be able to learn about if there was some other reason for that. But some of these coins, because of this, have different design / die pairings and varieties to look for.
Even more, I’m realizing that I need to take a magnet to some of these early 2000’s coins to figure out what I have - I’m learning that some of these coins were issued in two different compositions in the same years for a couple of years, with Magnetic steel coins and non-magnetic zinc aluminum coins having the same date with weights, diameters, and thicknesses that are also the same.
And so, this continues to become more complicated.
Among other things, I already knew there was a 2016 50 bolivar coin that I don’t have any examples of. But I’m also learning that there was a 2005-dated 1,000 bolivar coin that I hadn’t known about, and that was apparently the country’s first bimetallic, before the introduction of the 1 Bolivar Fuertes coin in 2007.
Shameless plug for the 500L set but remember what I’ve said before about that, in 1982, being the first circulating bi-metallic coin, with the idea being to use this on higher denomination coins to make them harder to counterfeit. So this has Venezuela introducing bimetallics 23 years after Italy pioneered it. Several of the other coins from this period Casa de la Moneda de Venezuela in Maracay, Venezuela (1999-date). This has me wondering if this one was also produced domestically or if they outsourced the production of a more complicated coin to one of the mints in the UK, Canada, and Germany that they’d used previously - or if those mints were even willing to take the order by 2005.