Jul 312012

In many ways Franz Liszt was the Justin Bieber of his day.

It’s been said that Liszt generated such excitement that women would literally attack him: tear bits of his clothing, fight over broken piano strings and locks of his shoulder-length hair.

Born in Hungary in 1811, Liszt stood over six feet tall and had flashing brown eyes. He was portrayed in paintings and photographs as the ultimate romantic hero.

But Liszt was also a virtuoso pianist, an intellectual, and a dedicated teacher. Above all, he composed incessantly and performed an enormous amount of music on tours in Europe.

Praised for the brilliance, strength and precision in his playing, his used dramatic facial expression and gestures during emotionally-charged performances.

Of all the classical composers, Franz Liszt was the most colourful. His audiences had never experienced anything like the phenomenon that he was responsible for: Lisztomania!

Franz Liszt died on this day, 31 July 1886. Anyone celebrating his extraordinary contribution to classical music may be interested to know that this superb 2011 silver proof commemorative coin can still be acquired from The Perth Mint.

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Jul 302012

Sometimes known as ‘poor man’s gold’, silver nevertheless has an equally fascinating history. Like its illustrious partner, silver has been associated with wealth and power for thousands of years. Its special properties also made it ideal for coins – hence its use in the oldest mass produced form of coinage.

Following up from 12 astonishing things about gold, here are eight fascinating facts about silver and its long association with money.

  • The chemical symbol for silver is Ag, from the Latin word argentum, comprising the root arg-, meaning ‘white, to shine’; and the suffix -ent, meaning ‘made of’.
  • In several languages, the words for silver and money are the same, for example l’argent (French); plata (Spanish).
  • The ancient Greeks began the custom of portraying an effigy or bust on the obverse and an important symbolic motif on the reverse of a coin.

The Greek tetradrachm silver coin portrayed the goddess Athena and Athena’s owl. (image courtesy of www.cngcoins.com)

  • The name silver originates from the Old English word ‘seolfor’.
  • In 12th century England, a sterling was a silver penny decorated with stars (hence sterre meaning star + ling). One pound sterling was originally the weight of 1lb of silver sterlings, or about 240 of them.
  • Silver is around 17.5 times more abundant than gold in the earth’s crust, which is interesting because in Roman times the gold/silver price ratio was 12:1 and was officially set in the U.S. at  15:1 in 1792. The average ratio throughout history is nearer 20:1 (although we’re currently at an extreme closer to 60:1).
  • Silver was at its peak value in the late 15th century. In 1477, silver was worth approximately 100 times more than it is today.
  • A rare 1794 US silver dollar became the world’s most expensive coin when it sold for US$7,850,000 in 2010.

With all this talk of silver, what would you be worth if you were made of solid silver? Find out here.

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Jul 262012

It’s an amazing fact that Australian mints in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth churned out more than 400,000,000 official gold sovereigns between 1855 and 1931.

The various combinations of years, reverses, monarchs and mints means that collectors must find almost 200 different coins to complete a set.

While many of these Australian-made sovereigns are readily available, rarer types spark huge interest whenever they appear on the market.

If you’ve accumulated, found or inherited some old coins, bear in mind that they may include some potentially very valuable Australian gold sovereigns. The question is, how do you know whether you’re lucky enough to have hit the jackpot?

This table reveals the rarest dates of nine different types of Australian sovereign. Any of these years could generate a reward considerably higher than the coin’s bullion value, particularly if it’s in top condition.

Table of rare Australian gold sovereigns

So what are they worth?

Andrew Crellin’s Layman’s Guide to Australian Coin Values provides useful guidance. Unlike other publications, Andrew focusses on what dealers are paying for these and other Australian coins and banknotes, giving sellers a great idea of the prices they’ll be able to achieve via a quick and convenient sale through a reputable dealer.

Jul 252012

The most famous example of Australia’s first coin is known as the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar.

It was created in New South Wales in 1813 from a Spanish silver dollar, one of 40,000 such coins procured by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to help alleviate the young colony’s lack of coinage.

Macquarie directed convicted forger William Henshell to remove the centre of the coins that arrived in Sydney in November 1812. The two ‘new’ coins created from each dollar were overstamped – in the case of the outer ring with the words NEW SOUTH WALES 1813 (obverse) and FIVE SHILLINGS (reverse).

Image courtesy ‘The Holey Dollars of NSW’ by WJD Mira and WJ Noble.

According to rare coin dealer Coinworks, the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar was originally “minted in 1810 at the Lima Mint in Peru with a portrait design that protested Joseph Bonaparte’s ascension to the Spanish throne.” Joseph was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who appointed him King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and later King of Spain (1808–1813).

Coinworks is offering one of only two known examples of the ‘Hannibal Head’ at the forthcoming Eminent Colonials Auction in Melbourne. Discovered in Tasmania in 1881 near Hobart in what could have been a bushrangers hoard, the coin was presented to Sir John Henry Lefroy, Governor of Tasmania at that time, and has subsequently been held by just two private collectors since 1988.

More details at Coinworks.

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Jul 242012

The following coin releases are sold out at The Perth Mint.

Australian Map Shaped Series – Kookaburra 2012 1oz Silver Coin
Full mintage: 6,000 sold out


Brisbane ANDA Coin Show Special
2012 Year of the Dragon 1oz Silver Coin
Full mintage: 5,000 sold out

Selling Fast

Emperor Penguin 2012 1oz Silver Proof Coin
The ninth release from the Australian Antarctic Territory series celebrates Emperor Penguins. Less than a month after release, sales have topped 5,000 out of a maximum mintage of 7,500 coins.