Category Archives: Coin News

The Frome Hoard May Be The Largest Roman Coin Cache Ever Discovered In England

This is what metal detectors dream of – a hobbyist found a massive jug of coins while searching through a farmer’s field outside of Frome.How big was it? Try 25 inches across, with about 350 lbs of coins inside. These 52,503 coins date from 253 to 293 AD and were valued at £320,250 (almost $500,000 at the current conversion rate of 1 pound sterling to 1.55 US$).

Dave Crisp With Coins From The Frome Hoard - courtesy of Somerset Libraries on Flickr

Dave Crisp Shows Off Coins From The Frome Hoard - courtesy of Somerset Libraries on Flickr

England has a clever system that encourages metal detection hobbyists to work with landowners and archaeologists to catalog and preserve their finds. When significant discoveries are made, specialists are called in to evaluate the loot and make a fair market offer for the items which is then split between the finder and the property owner. The Treasure Act 1996 prevents looting, encourages farmers to allow metal detectors on their land, and preserves the context that archaeologists need to understand many discoveries.

If the Art Fund is unable to raise funds to buy the hoard by February, some of these coins may end up on the open market. The coins are certainly affordable: the valuation works out to $9.50 per coin, on average. Most of the coins in the pot were low value bronze radiate or silver washed bronze. Despite their low denomination, many are from small series and all date from a time when the Roman Empire was starting to fall apart. The hoarde includes many scarce coins, including nearly a thousand produced by the little known emperor Carausius (a usurper who set up his own empire in Gaul and Brittain).

The hoard may have been buried as a ritual offering. Due to the location of the burial, the composition of the hoard, and the way that the ground was waterlogged in antiquity, experts do not think that it was meant to be recovered. Unlike other hoards (which are thought to be the buried savings of someone who never came back to recover their money), the Frome hoarde may have been a religious offering to boost fertility in the soil.

Cold and flu season… and coins

As I write this, cold season is in full swing. While shopping at the store, waiting at a bus stop, or sitting in your office, you’ve probably heard people coughing and sneezing all around you. So, how do you stay healthy when everyone else is sick?

If you’re an average person, you probably use hand sanitizer, wash your hands with antibiotic soap and water, and minimize your time around sick people. If you’re a coin collector, you probably get away from the crowds and dig into piles of coins that need sorting and categorizing.

Big mistake. Coins can be a major vector for germs. If you handle coins and currency (especially junk bins full of items from around the world) make sure you wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Tom DeLay isn’t the only one who as to worry about dirty money!

Dirty coins can make you sick

Dirty coins can make you sick!

A recent study by Good Morning America suggests that alcohol based hand sanitizers work best at killing germs, especially when they have a alcohol content greater than 60%. Make sure to use enough sanitizer – if the hand sanitizer takes less than 20 seconds to evaporate then you’re not using enough. You might also try rinsing with soap and water, then using hand gel for even better results.

While researching this, I was really surprised to find out that currency is often dirtier than coins. Paper is very porous, and it can hold lots of germs in those pores. Cotton, linen, and dyes are also very good at protecting bacteria from UV light, so there can be some nasty bugs lurking. Also, since bills are used for snorting drugs, they often come in direct contact with bodily fluids. Yuck, right?

How common are pathogenic bacteria on money? Asst. Prof. Shirley Lowe found “about 18 percent of coins and 7 percent of bills grew disease-causing bacteria”. That study was conducted in the US, where communicable diseases are less common than abroad. For coins that have traveled from exotic countries, the percentages may be higher. And, if foreign coins have germs, the risks are also higher that your body will have no immunity.

So, wash your hands and stay safe.

Pay your taxes in gold and silver?

There are some bizarre pieces of legislation that turn around and affect the coin collecting hobby. Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about how the HCR bill will affect sales of bullion, but a Georgia state representative is really trying to throw a wrench into the works with the “Constitutional Tender Act”.

Gold and silver coins from a shipwreck

Gold and silver coins from a shipwreck, from Flickr

Georgia’s House Bill 430 is seeking to require gold and silver coinage for payment of all state tax bills. The bill’s author, Rep. Bobby Franklin, cites Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution as his justification. A review of the Article seems to vaguely support his claim. It reads:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

It seems like Rep. Franklin is reading the law very narrowly. As I read it, the article forbids states from tendering (ie; paying) debts in non-precious metals. The manner in which the state collects taxes is a separate matter. Granted, I don’t see that any state would want to collect Federal Reserve notes in taxes and then pay debts in gold and silver coins at face value. Does the Constitution really require states to pay their debts in precious metals? What do you think?

Daily Kos hits it pretty much right on:

Engraving Portraits Can Be A Royal Pain

The coin commemorating the royal wedding coin of Kate Middleton and Prince William is stirring up controversy. Some pundits have suggested that the likeness on the coin is unflattering to the bride-to-be. Despite being approved by the Royal Couple, the critics may have a point.

What do you think? Compare the image on the coin to pictures of Kate Middleton:

Kate appears to have gained weight, while William looks older and larger than life.

The coinage of British monarchs often receives colorful nicknames, such as the Large Head George VI 1/4 rupees (minted for India from 1942-1945). Will this coin go down in history as the “Chipmunk Cheeked Kate” variety or the “Al Gore Headed William”?


George Morris – Touchstone

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Did You Know – Only Sweaty Coins Smell

It turns out that the metallic smell people associate with some coins doesn’t come from the coins themselves – it comes from byproducts of human sweat!

Coins Don't Stink - Helga in pigtails with a clothespin on her nose

Coins Don't Stink - courtesy of Helga Weber on Flickr

A study out of the University of Leipzig Germany found that the metallic smell was caused by 1-octen-2-one. This chemical comes from the oxidation of lipids on your skin – in other words, it comes from the evaporation of sweat. When we touch the surface of coins, a little bit of metal dissolves into the sweat on our hands and forms the distinctive “smell of money”.

That, and whatever was spilled/poured/sneezed or otherwise transferred onto the coins before you touched them last…