Blind Coin Collector

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Book review – Money Talks : British Monarchs and History in Coins

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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.

money Talks cover

Talking about the British monarchs and coins is an impressive endeavor, however, the first surprise is that Bob goes much further, and discusses coinage of the British Isles from the very beginning, 2500 years ago, when Celtic coins were used. The entire first chapter is devoted to the iron age.

The book truly covers history, starting 2500 years ago, until today. The last references are from 2016, and the book was published in 2017.

I was delighted to find that it is not just a story the author perceives it, but he also uses over a hundred references throughout the book, which makes it not only a well-researched book, but provides the reader with a wealth of related resources to browse.

It is the kind of history book I wish I had at school when I started collecting coins. Primarily, it is not a story of coins. Rather, a history of the British Isles as reflected on coins. This makes history so much more interesting for the collector. Well, it is for the collector.

It is hard not to give away some of the facts from the book to show how interesting it is, but without any facts, I feel I couldn’t do justice to the book.

I knew coins talk about history, but not to an extent that I learned from Bob’s book. Maybe it is obvious, but I never thought about it this way, some of the first writings of the area is found on coins. Or, we can find out how coins carry evidence that Iberians have gone as far as Caledonia.

I also found it interesting how many hoards of coins were discovered recently, preserving numismatic history.

There are some amazing facts from the era of the early kings. Edgar I. introduced the first national currency, which was the start of the establishment of 40 mints which were producing the same types of penny coins. A few years later, under Henry I. we can learn where the expression of “keeping tally” came from, and how it can be considered as an early form of the credit card. In the meantime, I learned that this expression has been known to originate from other sources as well, nevertheless, this story is interesting.

Often blood sticks to money, and under Henry I., some moneyers were even castrated. Not the kind of punishment one would imagine for creating underweight coins.

Did you know that King John didn’t actually sign the Magna Carta as represented on the 2 Pound coin? But nobody did. Or not the way you think. After reading the explanation, it is one of the “of course” moments. Makes sense, but I wouldn’t have thought about it this way.

These days, it takes a few months from the time a coin design is made until the actual coins come out of the mint. But under the 86 days of reign of Edward V, England issued coins in his name. It should be noted though that there were also coins issued in the name of a deceased monarch. Two of the longest reigning monarchs, Victoria and Elizabeth Ii had to change their portraits on coins several times.

I tried to pick out some of the interesting points, but there is much more throughout the 160 pages of the book. It is definitely a book of history, and numismatics at the same time. If you are not intimately familiar with British history, there is a lot to learn regardless of the coinage. For the more serious collectors, it is a great companion to place their coins into historical context.

And just a word about the publisher: Whittles Publishing offered the book to me in an electronic format, so I could immediately start reading so I didn’t have to scan it page by page. I was truly impressed.

You can order the book from Amazon, Nbn Books, Barns and Nobles, etc.

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