Guide to Coin Collecting

( 2 )


From America's leading experts, your ultimate Guide to Coin Collecting

From the change in your pocket to the history of famous silver dollars, from understanding mintmarks and pedigree to assessing condition and grade, this is the only book you'll need to become a first-class coin collector. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand your current collection, you ...

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From America's leading experts, your ultimate Guide to Coin Collecting

From the change in your pocket to the history of famous silver dollars, from understanding mintmarks and pedigree to assessing condition and grade, this is the only book you'll need to become a first-class coin collector. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand your current collection, you will receive priceless practical knowledge and expert advice on:

  • Finding and identifying coins
  • Caring for and exhibiting your collection
  • Understanding collecting terms
  • Verifying authenticity
  • Using internet resources

And much more!

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Editorial Reviews

Newark Star Ledger
“[A] book that should be in the library of every numismatist...beautifully illustrated with color photos and graphics, that should appeal to veteran collectors as well as newcomers.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061341403
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Series: Collector's Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 407,645
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David L. Ganz, the "father of the state quarter program," is a nationally recognized numismatics expert. He is a life fellow of the American Numismatic Society and has long been involved with the American Numismatic Association, of which he was the 48th president, as well as the Annual Assay Commission, and the Citizens Commemorative Coin Advisory Committee. Ganz is also the author of many books on collecting and numismatics, including World of Coins & Coin Collecting, The Official Guide to America’s State Quarters, and The Official Guide to Commemorative Coins.

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First Chapter

Guide to Coin Collecting

Chapter One

The History of Coinage

Coinage: A Quick World Tour

Before coins were invented, various items were used as currency: wampum, cowrie shells, cat-eye peas, arrowheads. Five thousand years ago in Babylonia and Sumeria, clay tablets were even employed as a kind of IOU.

Coinage began some 2,800 years ago in the kingdom of Lydia, located in modern-day Turkey. In Lydia, coins were made of electrum, a natural gold-and-silver alloy, whose composition was between 40 and 55 percent gold and the rest silver, usually with trace elements of copper. Electrum was melted, shaped, and punched with primitive die markings.

From the electrum coins used in Lydia in 750 B.C., to spade money used in China as early as 600 B.C., to silver ingots and measures of gold—all are part of the history of money. Other units of exchange included the livestock standard of ancient Persia and the Mongols; the cattle standard of Colombia; the cocoa bean of Mexico; and "knife money" used in many countries. Traditionally, numismatists have referred to these rare (and therefore collectible) surviving examples of early currency as "primitive" or "odd and curious" money.

"Primitive" money was odd in the sense that it was not legal tender, but was widely used at more-or-less agreed-upon values. Each item was unique, which adds to the collectible attraction; for example, polished wampum was beautiful, colorful and distinctive, and no two pieces were quite the same.

Economic functionality was the basis of primitive money, which is why livestock standards were so successful. In Kenya, for example, goatsand cattle were still widely used on the eve of World War II. Paul Einzig, in the book Primitive Money, describes goats as "small change," while cattle were worth more; a longer explanation appeared in Facing Mount Kenya, written in 1938 by a graduate student of the London School of Economics named Jomo Kenyatta—who later went on to lead Kenya to independence and modernity. (Interestingly, even this primitive system suffered from inflation: During the First World War, the dowry bride price was 70 goats. By 1935, Einzig quotes a price of 90 goats!)

China was the first to experiment with paper money around the beginning of the ninth century A.D.; its silk notes circulated as far away as Europe. Coins of the ancient Greeks also circulated widely. But even as the Chinese were casting their knife empire had established branch mints throughout and spade monies and the Lydians were producing the first die-struck coins, the rest of the world used more primitive forms of money. During the time of the Romans, salt remained a major method of payment to the legions (soldiers), even though the the provinces. Barter was also widely used.

Today, the magnificent Shanghai Museum has an outstanding display of its special permanent coin exhibit. This exhibit traces Chinese money from the Shang dynasty (sixteenth century B.C.) to the Zhou Dynasty (until about 770 B.C.), through the Qin dynasty (circa 221 B.C.) and the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties (A.D. 1279-1911).

On display are real and bronze cowrie shells; metal weights that were smelted (without denomination), including gold plates; numerous cast coins; and molds for making coins. Spade coins—shaped like a shovel, with a hollow handle and pointed tips—abound in the display. There are also sword coins or knife money, with rings at the end of the handle both to string the coins together and for convenience in counting.

There are examples of so-called "key money," coinage from the Xin Mang government (A.D. 9-23), which replaced the five-zhu coin from the Than Dynasty. Cast coins, with round and square holes, complete the offering of ancient Chinese coins. In some cases, the museum has the original coin molds that came from the first casts.

The coinage of the Hellenistic world—the money of ancient Greece—depicted in beautifully engraved die work the buildings of the era and the gods that they honored. The beauty of Greek coins rivals that of ancient Rome and of the Byzantine emperors at Constantinople.

The Smithsonian's National Numismatic Collection (NNC) has an extraordinary sampling of ancient coins. A magnificent group comes from the collection of Josiah K. Lilly, including thirty-eight ancient Greek gold coins, sixty gold aurei of Roman emperors, and seventeen Byzantine gold coins. Eventually, through economic evolution and monetary revolution, coins and currency became the primary instrument of commerce. Of course, by the early twenty-first century, credit and debit cards, checks, and other ways of recording transactions made "hard money" a relative term.

Early Coin Production Methods

Manufacturing of ancient coinage was truly an art. In some respects it was similar to the process still used today, but in other respects much more simplistic. In the twenty-first century, mints strike coins on presses capable of manufacturing 600 coins per minute, producing substantially identical coins from many different dies. More than 100,000 models of a coin are produced from each die before it wears out; at peak production, the die shop of the U.S. Mint of Philadelphia operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By comparison, ancient coins were produced one at a time, in a labor-intensive minting process.

In ancient times, even more important than the artistry of the design was the coin-manufacturing method, from which today's production techniques derive. The process of using a die was pretty much the same for Greek coinage of 600 B.C. as for its descendants 2,600 years later: an engraver takes a flat piece of metal and cuts, in reverse, the image that will rise from the planchet, or flan, as the blank metal is called. The heated planchet is pressed between the top and bottom parts of the die; pressure on the mold (usually struck upon an anvil) causes the compressed metal to flow into the mold and form the design. Today, mechanical devices replace handwork, but the production process remains the same.

Guide to Coin Collecting. Copyright © by David Ganz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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