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  1. Whenever I visit a foreign country, I make it my practice to cherry-pick examples of that country’s coins from circulation. For an expensive visit to a foreign country, coins make an inexpensive souvenir that only costs you the exchange rate of your dollars. They also make a memorable keepsake of your visit and interesting conversation pieces with your numismatic buddies back home! Sometimes I save examples of the circulating paper money when I travel. However, paper money is convertible back to dollars, and coins generally are not. A few weeks ago, I found myself in Iceland for my daughter’s destination wedding to the man I now proudly call my son-in-law. At first, I thought the idea of a destination wedding was crazy, and I had to warm up to it. However, not attending this wedding was never an option. With that, my wife and I boarded an IcelandAir Boeing 737 in Chicago for Reykjavik. Today, this happy event is in my rearview mirror, and I would not have wanted it any other way. Iceland is a spectacularly scenic, volcanically formed island. For those who love hiking and outdoor activities visiting Iceland should be on your bucket list. While here, we also witnessed the northern lights. If you see them in the continental US, you don’t see them like you do here. The island is literally dotted with volcanoes, waterfalls, and glaciers. If you think you might like to take a dip in 40-degree weather, there are geothermally warmed pools like the Blue Lagoon. Before flying back to the states, my wife and I had a relaxing dip in what seemed like 80-90 degrees silica mineral water. Add the phenomenal wedding, and Iceland is like a romantic fairy tale. I am posting with the coins a picture of the black wedding chapel, the northern lights, and li’l-old-me in front of an inactive volcano! (Black is practical color as it absorbs the heat from what little winter sun there is). The coins of Iceland come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 Kroner coins. They are simple in design, and except for the 1 Krona (Bergrisi the rock giant), they feature the four mythological guardian spirits of Iceland (Landvættir) on the coin’s obverse. They were first written about in AD 1220 in the Heimskringla (Old Norse kings’ sagas). Written in the pages of this book is the tale of a would-be invader of Iceland, devious King Bluetooth. King Bluetooth had a sorcerer turn himself into a whale to spy out the vulnerabilities of the island. At every corner of the island, the whale was confronted by a fiercely protective Land Wight. On the Eastern side of Iceland, the wizard whale was turned back by Dreki the dragon. On the North, there was Gammur the griffin. On the West, Griðungur the bull, and on the South, Bergrisi the rock giant. Needless to say, the wizard whale returned to King Bluetooth with an unfavorable report, and Iceland was saved from an imminent invasion. Today these four landvættir grace the Iceland coat of arms around a shield displaying the flag of Iceland. As an island, Iceland’s economy is partially dependant on the sea. Featured on the reverse of the 1 Krona is a cod, the 5 Kronur, two dolphins, the 10 Kronur, four capelin, the 50 Kronur, a shore crab, and the 100 Kronur, a lumpfish. I am also including a link to a silver 500 Kronur coin commemorating 100 years of banknotes in Iceland. The obverse features Fjallkonan, “The Lady of the Mountain.” I have had this coin for many years in my seated imagery collection. In the photograph of the coins, I have included the diameter, metallic composition, and the exchange rate of the Iceland Kronur. Below are the references I used to research the coins I brought home from Iceland. Gary. https://www.cb.is/financial-stability/oversight-of-financial-market-infrastructures/banknotes-and-coin/valid-coins-in-circulation/ https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/folklore-in-iceland#ghosts-in-iceland https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/wcm/coinview.aspx?sc=232749
  2. Lately, there has been much criticism and suspicion about the length of time it takes to get your coins graded. And my recent submission is no different. Like me, at the end of the day, when all your coins have been returned, you will probably ask yourself if it has been worth it? In the end, I weighed my worth against the grades I got, the price I paid, and the wait I had to endure. On April 22, 2021, I mailed a 13-coin submission to NGC. On August 10, I received the last of my coins back in the mail. In that one mailing, I had four separate submissions graded in the following order. The first two were Christa McAuliffe commemorative coins graded under the US-modern tier. The next was a silver 5-ounce Tuskegee Airmen Quarter in an oversize holder. The largest was an 8-coin submission under the world-economy tier. Finally, the last two coins I received back were two coins under the world-modern tier. In the end, the cost was never going to be an issue because of last year’s award as one of three awarded journalists. This only left me with two considerations which were in a manner of speaking linked together. The wait was worth it if I liked the grades, and if I didn’t like them, it wasn’t. Most of the coins were related to my 1868-70 Spanish Provisional Government set and my 1933-38 Second Spanish Republic set. The others were new purchases and a few that had been lying around in flips. Having all those grading credits tempted me to send in coins that I otherwise might not of. However, I had a duplicate raw coin that I considered sending in with the submission to sell. In the end, I determined not to send it because I thought it might get a details grade. Why waste the credit if I didn’t need to? Instead, I’ll save it for my 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollar. This turned out to be a good decision because, in 13 coins, I had no detailed grades and three top-pops, of which two were 70’s. Most of the other grades were reasonably expected, with only a few exceptions. The following is a chart detailing my hope, my expectation, and the final grade: Coin Hope Expected Final Grade 2021 UNC Christa McAuliffe 70 69 69 2021 PRF Christa McAuliffe 70 69 69 2021 SP Oversize Tuskegee Airmen 70 69 70 1947-S Philippine MacArthur Peso 65 64 63 1870(70) SNM Spanish Provisional 50C 20 15 12 1870(70) SNM Spanish Provisional Peseta VF VF 25 1870(73) DEM Spanish Provisional Peseta 58 AU 55 (Top-Pop) 1934 2nd Spanish Republic 25C 65 64 64 1937 2nd Spanish Republic 5c 65 64 63 1937 Menorca 25C (Spanish Civil War) 64 63 63 1938 2nd Spanish Republic 25C 67 66 63 2019PM B.V. Islands Silver $1 Una and the Lion 69 69 68 (rev proof) 2020 France 2E Proof Medical Research 70 69 70 Overall, my expectations were met with a minimum of disappointments and three top-pops! Was this worth the wait? Determine for yourselves, but as for me, I think this was worth the wait. Gary.
  3. Over the last few weeks, I haven’t had much time to write blogs. This is because I’ve been working on my photography skills and, in particular, axial photography. I have learned a lot, and now I have several excellent examples of coins photographed using axial photography. The first thing I did was to craft a holder for my glass reflector. Then I reinforced the edges of the glass with electrical tape to prevent the glass from accidentally shattering. For the holder, I used a cardboard box top sliced at 45 degrees towards the light source to hold the glass pane. The holder cost me nothing to make. However, it did cost my wife a glass pane from one of her pictures. Next, I made a diffuser for my light source cut from the side of a plastic milk jug. To prevent side light from illuminating the coin, I used a single-use pair of sunglasses from my eye doctor when she opened my iris. Conveniently, the sunglasses roll up like a tube. Finally, I used a lens hood I already owned to prevent side lighting from interfering with the camera lens. Folks, this is an excellent example of professional photography on the cheap! My set-up picture shows a portion of the light shine through the glass onto the back of the holder. The images of the camera’s viewfinder show the reflected light from the glass illuminating the surface of the coins. Since there is less light to work with, the film speed is ISO 400. The aperture is f4, and the shutter speed is 1/125. If this is done correctly, the area of the picture around the coin will be mostly dark. All you want to see in the viewfinder is the coin! Since plastic holders have reflective properties of their own, they can be challenging to work with. Therefore, axial photography works best on raw coins. Notice the haze and a hot spot in the viewfinder picture showing a 2011 French proof coin mounted in an NGC holder. This is light reflected from the surface of the holder interfering with light reflected from the coin. The 2004 and 2017 raw quarters only show light reflected from the quarters. Incidentally, the quarters are from my change dish. I have spent a lot of time learning to edit the photographs of certified coins to remove the interference from unwanted light. To reduce the effect of unwanted light, I have found the milk jug diffuser to be helpful. However, the quarters needed very few edits because of limited or no interference from unwanted light. I am also posting a raw 1856 Belgian 5 centime coin commemorating the 25th-anniversary reign of Leopold I, King of the Belgians. The coin is struck in bronze to illustrate the use of axial photography on heavily toned bronze coins. I hope this blog sheds a little light on axial photography. I always say that the proof is in the pudding. For your viewing pleasure, I am posting several pictures using axial photography. The 2011 French 10 euro proof coin commemorates the author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. The reverse inscription is roughly translated, “Cossette looked up, she saw the man coming to her with this doll as she saw the sun coming.” The reverse of this coin was incredibly hard to photograph because of its surface characteristics. The obverse, however, makes for a pleasing picture. Notice the mirror fields on axial photographs resemble the in-the-hand look of proof coins. Photos of proof mirrors typically show black when taken by direct light. The reverse of this coin has a frosty flat field showing black contrasted by the mirror of Victor Hugo’s image etched into the design. Other pieces for your viewing pleasure are a 1937 Spanish peseta and a 2019 Great Britain five-pound coin featuring Una and the Lion. Enjoy, Gary.
  4. It’s been a while since I posted about a submission I dreaded to send but finally mailed to NGC in June. As of August, NGC posted the grades of the last two coins of a nine-coin submission. This submission may have been the best I have ever sent. I divided the submission into four parts. The first is the WORLD-MODERN tier with three coins, followed by the WORLD-ECONOMY tier with two coins. Next is a single medal under the TOKEN-WORLD-VALUE tier, and finally, a three medal TOKEN-EARLY-BIRD tier to round out the submission. There was a twist in the WORLD-ECONOMY tier that I had not anticipated. The coin in question is a 1937 Spanish Second Republic peseta that I hoped would grade MS-63. Before NGC finalized the grade, they recommended that NCS should conserve the coin. The invoice they sent me was puzzling because they listed the grade of the coin at MS-64. However, because of my grading credits, I agreed to have this coin conserved that I originally purchased for only $8.00. Now, I would not have usually sent such an inexpensive coin in for grading, let alone conservation. However, this coin fits nicely into my Spanish peseta custom set. After conservation, the 1937 peseta received a final grade of MS-64+. The top-pop coin in the NGC census is MS-65. Considering the before and after pictures, I’m glad I gave my approval for NGC to conserve it. Now, an otherwise dull coin has come back to me, revealing spectacular luster. The other coin in my two-coin WORLD-ECONOMY tier is an 1869 Spanish 50-centime coin for my Spanish Provisional Government registry set. This coin is next to impossible to acquire in mint state condition. Good examples of raw circulated coins are also hard to come by on E-Bay. My hope for this coin was to have it graded VF-20. However, I knew this coin could go either way between F-15 and VF-20. I was thrilled when NGC graded the coin VF-20. I had been eyeing an MS-64 German medal for my seated imagery custom set on E-Bay for several years. However, in all those years, the seller never came down on his high asking price. Later, I bought a raw medal for approximately 40% less than the E-Bay medal in my watch list. After holding this piece for a couple of years, I finally sent it in to have it graded under the TOKEN-WORLD-VALUE tier. This medal came back to me graded at MS-65. My WORLD-MODERN submission features two coins for my Inspirational Ladies custom set and one for my Spanish peseta custom set. I had hoped for the 2001 Spanish 2000 peseta coin that I purchased to grade MS-65. Instead, I was delighted to get a top-pop grade of MS-68 for this beautifully toned coin. Late last year, I purchased a 2019 Great Britain “Una and the Lion” silver five-pound coin. Since I purchased this coin, the value of the coin has skyrocketed. Naturally, I had hoped for a PF-70 grade but realistically expected a PF-69. Unfortunately, I ended up with the expected PF-69 grade. Notwithstanding, this coin today is worth at least twice as much as what I paid for it. The last coin in this tier is a 1998 German 10-mark coin that received an expected grade of MS-64. Both these coins are currently residing in my Inspirational Ladies custom set. Rounding out my total submission is a three medal TOKEN-EARLY-BIRD tier. A while back, I lost an E-Bay auction for an “American Bar Association” medal for my Laura Gardin Fraser custom set. The biding had gone over $500 when I gave up. Shortly after that, I found another medal listed on E-Bay for a Buy-It-Now price of less than $100. The only caveat was that the seller thought the medal was a fake. I thought otherwise and quickly snapped it up. I was hoping for an MS-62 grade but figuratively did cartwheels when I got a fully authentic MS-64 grade. The other two medals are the silver “Society of Medalists #1” medal by Laura Gardin Fraser and the “Edmond H. Harriman Memorial Medal” by James Earle Fraser. Both of these medals I would have liked graded MS-67, but the “Society of Medalists” medal returned with a grade of MS-66. Incidentally, the “Society of Medalists” medal is a silver restrike of the bronze medal using the original dies, and it has a reported mintage of 125. Both these medals are now part of my Laura Gardin Fraser custom set. Overall, I couldn’t be happier, especially since there are no “details graded” coins and medals in the entire submission. Gary
  5. opinions on authenticity as it only weighs 24.0 grams , Krause lists it at 27.46-28.25g it is not magnetic, no obvious clipping or filing 1658 German States BESANCON Thaler KM# 48
  6. Let me preface my post by stating that I was not interested in purchasing the recently sold out enhanced reverse proof ASE. That said, I think the finish on the ASE is exquisite. As such it is a remarkably beautiful coin that I would be proud to own. Still, ASE’s are not among the coins I regularly collect. However, there are a few comparisons I’d like to make between the 2019-S enhanced reverse proof ASE and the British 2019 proof 5-pound “Great Engravers” two-ounce silver coin that I now own. But first, a few words concerning my newest acquisition. The first coin in the British “Great Engravers” series is modeled after William Wyon’s 1839 gold 5-pound, “Una and the Lion”. William Wyon is among the most talented engravers ever to live and his 1839 coin is one of the most sought after and beautiful coins in the world. The obverse of the 1839 5-pound gold coin features the 1838 young head bust of Queen Victoria. This bust continued to be featured on British coins until 1887. Queen Victoria herself was so enamored by this portrait that she is quoted as saying to William Wyon, “You always represent me favorably.” With that assessment, I couldn’t agree more. The 2019 coin features a bust of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Jody Clark The allegorical reverse of this coin remastered from an original die features Una representing Queen Victoria and the Lion representing England. With her scepter, Queen Victoria is shown leading her country. The Latin legend reads, “May God Direct My Steps.” Of this design Richard Sainthill (1787-1870), a prominent antiquarian and coin collector says the following: “The design, expressive though simple, and the quietness and effect of the figure of her Majesty, of the lion, and of the draperies, have never, in my opinion, been excelled. The perfect portrait of the Queen in Una and on so reduced a scale, is truly astonishing and captivating.” Again, it is hard to disagree with this assessment. Now for my comparisons between this coin and the 2019-S enhanced reverse proof ASE. The comparison starts with my coin weighing twice as much as the ASE. My coin measures 40mm in diameter and weighs 62.42 grams with a silver content of .999 fine silver. This makes my coin much thicker than a standard ASE which in my opinion allows for a slightly higher relief. My COA has a low serial number of 0158. My coin has a mintage that is 1/10th that of the 2019-S ASE (3000 coins). Most importantly, I purchased my coin for about 1/10th of what I could currently expect to pay if I bought a certified reverse proof 70 ASE. To be completely fair I am a little biased because “Una and the Lion” is one of my favorite coin designs. Still, I hope that those fortunate enough to get the 2019-S ASE are as happy with their purchases as I am with mine. Gary
  7. A few months ago, I purchased a Spanish Provisional Government 1868 5-peseta copper pattern from an E-Bay seller in Argentina. The listing picture wasn't too good and it seemed like the pattern was a little suspect. Still, this piece is scarce and I have wanted one for quite some time. If I could get it on the cheap, all the better. With what I thought was a fair bid, I won the piece for about half what I could expect to pay for a certified piece. When the pattern arrived, I was very happy with it except that there were areas of the piece with a tarlike sticky residue. The residue was trapped in some of the crevices, lettering, and knife edges of the piece. I knew that I wanted it certified and I decided to submit it to NCS for review, conservation, and grading. I got my 5-peseta pattern back last week, conserved and graded MS-63. According to the population report, there was one MS-62, one MS-63, and two MS-64's. Add mine to it and its two MS-63's! Looking at my pattern in the hand, the overall look didn't show significant change except that it looked a lot sharper. The tar was successfully removed from the legend making the letters look much sharper. The knife-edges of the rim were clean and sharp only leaving a lightly stained surface with no pitting or metal corrosion. The real change was in the mountain area of Hispania's left elbow. Some of the other offensive toning was subdued but not removed. NCS states that they cannot reverse or remove copper toning. I offer this pictorial evidence of before and after conservation. The before photo of the mountains is slightly out of focus but it shows the most significant changes. The mountains and in particular Hispania's fingers are clean and much more detailed. The crevices are all clean and sharp. In the hand it makes a tremendous difference. What detail, like it just came off the dies! There is one more thing that I found quite interesting. Sometimes when digital cameras have either lighting or surface anomalies issues they can't focus correctly on the subject. In this case, if you look closely in the center of the before mountain picture, there is horizontal detail where there should be vertical detail like the mountains of the after picture. I have used NCS on several occasions and in some instances, I have not liked the results. Over time I have become better in selecting candidates for conservation. This piece was a no-brainer for me and I am delighted with the results. Gary
  8. coinsbygary

    The Mighty Peseta

    Here I go again, just as I got started on a new collection with a narrow scope, things began to get out of hand and now I am now faced with a giant. Is there a cure for my collecting obsession? Do I want to be cured? Probably not and hence my dilemma as the scope and of necessity, the expense expands. Oh, how I love it! As I previously wrote I intended to start a new set based on the 1869-70 coins of the Spanish Provisional Government. I thought this would be easy because I already owned most of the coins. As I began researching my new collection it expanded to include the entire history of the peseta as I will summarize towards the end of this post. As of today, I don’t know why this topic captivates me but it does. Perhaps the key to knowing this is in how Spaniards view their own coinage. Consequently, the title of my new set has changed to, “The Birth and Durability of the Spanish Peseta.” I am posting a link to my new set with the coins I currently own plus an upgrade of the 1870(70) 5-Peseta and a new purchase of the 1869(69) 1-Peseta. Incidentally, the 1-Peseta will be the cornerstone coin of my new collection. https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/WCM/CoinCustomSetGallery.aspx?s=28027 The 19th Century saw the decline of Spain as a world power. By the mid 1820’s Puerto Rico and Cuba were all that remained of Spain’s colonies in the America’s. And in Cuba a war for independence from Spain was looming (Ten Years’ War 1868-78). Much of Spain’s Queen Isabella II’s reign (1833-1868) was plagued by politically motivated uprisings and scandals. To make matters worse Queen Isabella II proved to be incompetent as a ruler. This all came to a head in 1868 with, “The Glorious Revolution” ending in the exile of Queen Isabella II to France. Following the revolution, a provisional government was put in place to restore order and form a new government. Many of the political reforms under consideration included financial reform. On October 19, 1868, Minister of Finance, Don Laureano Figuerola modernized Spain’s currency according to the standards set by the Latin Monetary Union. Gone were the escudos, pesos, reales, and maravedi’s of the past and in were the decimalized currency of pesetas and centimos, whereas 100 centimos equal 1 peseta. From 1868-2002 Spain has been governed under two republics, four monarchs, and a dictator as a result of a civil war. Through all this turmoil the peseta has survived for 134 years until 2002 when Spain adopted the euro as their national currency. Perhaps with all this history in mind is why the Royal Mint in Madrid, Spain posted the following concerning the sunsetting of the peseta in 2002 on their website. “The currency is a faithful reflection of history. Within its small dimensions all the coordinates of the moment in which it was coined are enclosed and is always an inexhaustible source of information. The aesthetic, political, religious conceptions and the economic situation of the people are indelibly reflected in these small metal discs. Therefore, the 134 years in which the peseta has spent in the economy of Spain have seen transcendental events happen in the conformation of what is now the life of the Spaniards. Kings, artists and conquerors have passed through the hands of the citizens; The peseta has become a key piece of popular iconography: longed for, hated, idolized ... in short, the history of the peseta is, in large part, the history of Spanish men and women entering the modern world.” With my post are some of the pictures of my most recent purchases. The first is a commemorative set issued at the sunsetting of the peseta featuring the original 1869-70 design. The other is an NGC MS-65 1869 one peseta coin. Gary.
  9. coinsbygary

    Happy Mothers Day!

    Happy Mothers Day to all the Collectors Society Mothers. Some years ago I may have posted this coin but I don't remember. That said the message of this coin is always appropriate and I dedicate it to mothers everywhere. Therefore, I am posting this coin and its story now. The 2008 Latvian 20-Lats gold coin commemorates the 15th anniversary of the renewal of the Lats currency following Latvian independence from the old Soviet Union. Though this coin commemorates Latvian Independence, it also celebrates motherhood by utilizing a 1922 design conceived by sculptor Teodors Zalkalns, but never used. Additionally, this coin has the distinction of being named the Coin of the Year in 2010 by Krause Publications. Krause Publications is a leading publisher of several numismatic books and periodicals. This NGC MS-67, 2008 Latvian 20-Lats coin minted by the Austrian Mint has a mintage of only 5000. The diameter of the coin is 22mm and weighs 10 grams. This coin has a gold fineness 0.999 and has an actual gold weight of 0.352739 Oz. The gold "Coin of Latvia" shines with the promise of a good fortune and happiness in the future. It is also a special sign of recognition of an outstanding Latvian sculptor, since it carries out the project conceived by Teodors Zalkalns (Grinbergs until 1930; 1876-1972) in 1922 to create a 20-lats gold coin. The plaster model of the coin preserved in the archives of the Latvian National Museum of History contains symbols that are of great significance to Latvia. Zalkalns' images of mother belong to the classical treasures of Latvian sculpture. The sculptures created during World War I and modeled after a refugee from Courland are a potent symbol of the nation's suffering and transcending that suffering. The obverse of the coin also features a woman in a headscarf, which to any Latvian signifies motherhood: when a baby was born, the husband presented the wife with a headscarf. A woman used it to cover her head whenever she ventured out in the world. Folk tradition has it that a person who is lost can find the right way if she turns the headscarf inside out and ties it anew; that a knot in one of the loose ends can help one remember, and if such a knot is tied when a star is falling, one's wish will come true. All these good things are tied to the mother image. Mother is the symbol of never-ending cycle of life, linking the past, present and future generations. The feminine principle gives life to an individual and likewise is at the core of the family and state. The feminine principle unites the spiritual with the material; the symbols on the reverse of the coin, bread, apple, vessel with a curdled milk beverage and a jug of milk also signify fertility and plenitude. A knife, symbolizing masculine action, is placed next to the feminine images. Finally, I want to thank all the mothers out there for the selfless sacrifices they make on behalf of their children. I also want to thank my wife for her unconditional love for my children. I also want to thank my mother for putting up with me and instilling Christian values in my life that have allowed me to be successful and joyful in spite of the hardships. I love you Mom, I love you Linda. Gary