I was fortunate to get back to Columbus one more time, and while there, I visited the CONA club again. Interestingly, I haven’t been to Columbus before this year, and now twice in two months. These trips just pop up in my life. Once I was in Tennessee twice within two weeks, never before or after. Anyway, Gerry Tebben was nice to offer me a ride to the club’s meeting again. Thank you, Gerry!
About ten years ago, when I got back to collecting more seriously, I met Ole Sjoelund, who is an expert of coin variants. Ole is originally from Denmark, but now lives in France, but has traveled extensively. It’s been ten years now that we are exchanging emails, though we never met. Our conversations often exceeded coin collecting, However, I got quite a bit of help and inspiration from Ole over the years, not only in numismatics. If I just mention that currently he has over 38000 coins, it is quite likely that if I have a question about something, he has it. I really enjoy that we tend to collect similarly, except that he is approximately a life-time ahead of me, which is certainly to my benefit… During our conversations, I learned about some of his work regarding coin variants. The topic fascinates me, because it is not anything I could easily understand. Variants in general are such that one cannot really distinguish by touch only. I thought this would be interesting for anybody, who wants to learn about coin variants, so I asked Ole to talk about it. However, where this post is going to be unique is that I asked him to address the topic so that it makes sense for blind readers and without pictures. I had a few questions after I got the first draft, and since Ole is a good writer, I didn’t want to change his writing just to make it fit the original style. So, though it is originally not an interview, you will find a few questions I had.
I Was very much looking forward to going back to Slovakia, for the second time this year. Not only because of the numismatic plans I had for which I didn’t have time when I was there in March, but also some of my childhood memories bring me back to this country. For those of you who are looking for some museum descriptions, I have to say, nothing happened. Those, who would like to understand the not always successful aspects of numismatic tourism, I’d like to tell you about the not so good as well, just so you get a more complete picture of what it takes, and the mistakes you can make. Fortunately, not harmful, only annoying ones.
Sitting in a hotel room in Bucharest, with so much information in my head after the visit to the Museum of the National Bank of Romania. It is too late now to do anything, late even for a meal or a drink, but I definitely want to dump my brain hoping to capture as much as possible from what I heard today.
It started as always, when I found out I would be working in Romania, I wrote to the museum of the National Bank, and Oana Sticlaru immediately got back to me and scheduled a meeting for me.
I was a bit late, as it was quite difficult to find a taxi which would be willing to take me and Baldwin, so finally a gentleman who worked at the Avis desk at the hotel gave me a ride. Yes, this is an advertisement, of course, they deserve it. Without Avis, I wouldn’t have made it to the museum.
Mihai Vasile met me at the entrance and led me to a large hall where some of his colleagues met me from the museum. This hall earlier was used for bank transactions before. The room on purpose was designed to have bad acoustics in order for people not to be heard easily. Mihai had a number of things lined up to show me. Here I also met Oana Sticlaru who organized my visit.
It was evident immediately that Mihai really cares for the collection, he showed everything to me with so much enthusiasm. I don’t even know how they can work with a coin collection, when for employees of the museum a private collection is not allowed. This is not the first place I have heard this. But I guess, the advantage is that they can work with a collection larger than one person could ever put together.
Once again, it was a great idea to ask about local coins. Sure, somebody who cares about numismatics can give you a good overview of anything, but there is just something special about people telling me about their own coins, their own history and culture. It was just an icing on the cake that Mihai speaks English exceptionally well. It really impressed me that I didn’t have to learn how to say “I don’t understand” in Romanian. Throughout my stay, I could always find a language to communicate with all people.
So, we started at the very beginning of money in the region of today’s Romania. Over 2000 years ago arrow heads, and small metal bows with arrows were used as currency.
The next object he showed me was the first coin made on the grounds of Romania from about 200 BC. We looked at a couple of coins of Trajan which showed evidence of Trajan as an emperor of Germania and Romania, the script of the coin says: “Germanicus Dacicus”.
After a few more Roman coins, he showed me the first Romanian coin, minted by Vladislav I from approximately 1365.
I learned that the name of Leu, and also of Leva originates from the Dutch Loewenthaler, the meaning is lion, which can be seen on the Loewenthaler as well.
Finally, we went through the history of Leu, starting with an old Bani from the 1860’s minted by Carol I who also minted the first 20 Lei gold coins, but the first mintage was discontinued as he printed King of the Romanians which was opposed by the Habsburgs, so later this 20 Lei piece was circulated with the script “King of Romania”.
It was also interesting to see how coins evolved over the years of Kingdom and later communism.
We finished with three 50 Bani coins, one original, and two commemoratives, which are the most recent coins and I received them as a gift, together with a plastic sheet showing the denominations of currencies with braille written on it that can be used to measure paper bills.
I also learned some about contemporary bills that they are made of plastic, which makes them about 8 times as durable as other paper notes. The technique was first used in Australia and later transferred to Romania by employees of the Australian mint.
After the introduction to Romanian coins, Mihai told me some about the building where the bank is Located, which is inside two palaces built together, one is an older, and the other is a newer one.
I was glad to hear that the museum also created a section for kids, hoping that when numismatists come to visit, it would give some entertainment for their kids. Great idea, I wish more places had the same.
Speaking of numismatists, there are a few hundred serious ones in Romania, they also have a periodical. There are also other numismatic collections, at the Romanian National Academy and at the History Museum, but the National Bank has the largest collection, counting about 30000 pieces.
Before this trip, I spent some time to read about Romanian money. I have to admit, I didn’t become an expert, but I put more effort into it than usual, as I wrote about it, many times I felt sorry I didn’t spend much time before the trip to learn enough about the history of local currency. However, I did learn many things which I would not be able to find anywhere else other than in the museum. In a way Romanian coins are very special to me, as a 5 Lei con was the first in my collection. At that time when I had this coin from my uncle’s trip, I didn’t know I was collecting. But when I started collecting a couple of years later, I remembered this coin and added it to my collection.
Besides numismatics, I have to mention that I had a great time in Romania. In some countries, it is very difficult to find local food. It seemed to me that Romanians are proud of their language, culture and food of course, and they want to show it to you. I had some really fine national dishes, drinks and sampler platters. That’s all I can do when time is limited and I want to make the most of it. I spent less than four days in the country, and most of it was work. I hope you see the pattern here, I finished my last trip with food. For that matter, I think my last four posts have a mention of food. I love eating and exploring. And if I really want to connect it to blindness, it is one of the easiest things to organize when going to an unknown place, to find some good food. It doesn’t require vision to plan it out, usually I can get to a restaurant independently, and besides coins, food is one of the best ways of connecting with a new city or a country. Of course, in the context of this blog, I don’t discuss it in greater detail, and it is certainly not interesting enough for anybody else to write about it, but I have great memories related to food during my travel.
So, a big thanks to all who helped me to have such a great time, especially Oana and Mihai, and all my colleagues who helped me navigate the food scene so this time I didn’t need to plan.
I’m off to Slovakia tomorrow, where of course, another museum is lined up. Come back and read about it.
Last year, after I spoke at the Chicago Coin Club, I got an email from Gerry Tebben, from the Central Ohio Numismatic Association asking me to speak at their club as well. It was the middle of winter, and traveling to Columbus is not the easiest thing from here, so we agreed that I’ll try my best to either take a trip when the weather gets warmer, or when work takes me there. Unexpectedly, I got a work assignment in Columbus, so I called Gerry if they were available that week. This is how I got to present at the CONA Coin Club. When I got the original invitation, I had no idea that one of the best clubs was asking me to speak at their meeting.
Gerry Tebben, who invited me, is a columnist at Coin World. So, I was excited when he offered to pick me up from my hotel, so we had some time to talk on the way. I also received an invitation to join some of the club members at their traditional before meeting dinner. I particularly enjoyed that people have such a wide variety of knowledge about different types of coins. The club is 110 years old, amongst other things they have educational presentations. A couple of the members are also writing at Coin World.
My presentation was about enjoying coins by touch, a modified version of what I presented in Chicago. In general, I don’t like to present the same thing, especially when I have a chance to meet the participants of my presentation, because based on the conversation I can get a better sense of what it is they would be interested in.
I don’t want to get into the details of my presentation, people who read this blog have a general idea of what I have to say about collecting by touch, however, I did bring a few coins to show, including the 2017 Hungarian Irinyi commemorative, as well as a 1510 .
I got to touch two very interesting things at the show and tell. One was a small gold nougat, and a fake Morgan Dollar. I have touched interesting gold pieces, but never an original nougat. The fake coin was interesting too, it wasn’t even silver, and the plating was coming off of it. Fortunately there was a real Morgan floating around, so it was interesting to hold them side by side. Dropping both on the table it was obvious which was the fake one, but just by holding them not necessarily. One felt newer and more beaten as well, which was the fake.
After the meeting, we had another nice chat with Gerry on the way home. Before I left Columbus, I got an invitation to get more work done, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to visit the club again, and hear one of the presentations.
On the way home, I couldn’t miss stopping by the German village and have a few sausages. That part of town felt really old; bumpy and narrow roads, as I got out of the Uber, I could hear German music and people waiting at the door to get a table in lunch time. It was definitely worth the 20 minutes wait.
After a short stay in Cambridge, it was time to leave for Dublin for the rest of the week. Things didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but I had a great time. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to London to get to my flight, so I left too early. Fortunately. I looked around at the airport when I got there. You might wonder how. Well, I have an app on my phone which is able to tell me about all places sorted by distance, starting with the nearest one.
The next trip including numismatic interests led to Cambridge, UK. I’m spending a couple of days here and traveling on to Ireland this week. This time, I wanted to check out the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Currently they have a display of Indian coinage extending through the last two millennia. However, this time, I was not able to contact anybody at the museum. I tried through email and Twitter, but I didn’t even get a response. Fortunately, things turned out much better than it looked when I arrived, but more about that later. First, let me start with a few thoughts on travel which maybe interesting, not necessarily numismatic related, but part of the journey of a blind collector.
Recently I read an interesting article on Coinweek, about how difficult it is to win the next generation for the hobby. I just started to write up my thoughts on the subject, not necessarily a response, when I came across another interesting piece, which argues that the best recruit is the middle-aged collector. I don’t want to respond to this one either though it may sound that way, but I would like to add my own $0.02. I believe kids are still good recruits if approached well. I don’t think it is an all or nothing deal, kids can enjoy collecting before they become numismatists.
Over the last months I had a few conversations with Dr. Howard Berlin, the Numismatourist. I think the story around his book is just as interesting as the book. I am happy to announce, he agreed to an interview on this blog. I thought my readers would be interested in the background story as well. So, for a lack of better interviewer, I had the pleasure to ask him a few questions.
It is hard to talk about coin collecting without understanding the history that surrounds coins. Often, the way it happens is that we know about certain facts of history, and when we get a coin from the same age and location, we can put it into perspective. Or, we can take the other approach. Take a random coin, and examine the era and the country the coin is from. They are both interesting, but time consuming approaches. We either have to hunt for particular coins, or read up on the background of a coin.
When it comes to the British Isles, Bob Whittington takes the guessing work out of the process, and helps us obtain the information we are looking for much faster, so we can enjoy the coins and the history together.
His book, Money Talks : British Monarchs and History in Coins, is the perfect companion for a coin collector.