Dec 232015
 

Before the invention of coins, people around the world used a diverse range of objects as money.

Different societies invested such objects with fixed values in order to provide a more flexible means of exchange than straightforward barter.

Useful things that acquired monetary value at certain times have included Indian almonds, Scandinavian dried fish, and Mexican cacao beans.

[A throwback to those days of old was the use of rum as a form of currency in early New South Wales where there was very few coins.]

The path to finding the best form of money was long and riddled with trial and error, because as this infographic demonstrates, all these wonderful and sometimes weird objects were ultimately unsuccessful as money.

Look below for this fascinating insight into some of the world’s strangest currencies through time!

Courtesy of: The Money Project

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Dec 232015
 

Congratulations to Jason Penwell, winner of our Christmas Competition Week 9 – Pen a Poem! Jason wins an amazing Sunburnt Country – A land of sweeping plains 2015 1oz Silver Proof Rectangle Coin.

With so many fabulous entries, choosing a winner was a really tough decision for our judging panel. However, they felt Jason (who is from the Northern Hemisphere) beautifully encapsulated the season of goodwill in his poem describing the things he loves most about Christmas.

A quiet foot fall in the snow
A winter wind that gently blows
The warm fire light dancing on the walls
Or the thought of decking the halls
These are all worthy of the reason
But above those there is a magic to this season
It’s the love in one’s heart for their brother
And the peace we pass onto one-another
May your hearts be filled with joy
and your days filled with peace
from my home to yours and the world over.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in our Christmas Competitions over the past nine weeks. We hope you had some fun!

COMING SOON – announcement of the Grand Draw winner!

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Week 9 Winner
Dec 212015
 

Gold and silver play a part in many Christmas traditions. Of course, gold was presented as a gift to the baby Jesus, but have you heard this story about the origins of Christmas stockings?

Christmas Stockings

According to the ancient tale, the Bishop of Myra, in Turkey, was a wealthy man who gave gold coins to the less fortunate. Being a shy person, he wanted to be as discreet as possible, so he threw a purse of gold coins down the chimney of a poor girl, which landed in a pair of stockings that she’d hung out to dry!

The Bishop was none other than Saint Nicholas. As word spread of his generous deed, others started hanging their stockings by the fireplace. Over time, the practice became popular and today children can’t wait to hang their stockings for the coming of Santa Claus – the modern day Saint Nic!

SantaHat-coins

Here are some more delightful Christmas customs in which gold and silver play a role.

Christmas Pudding

Originating in Great Britain, the discovery of a silver coin in a slice of Christmas pudding was said to provide health, wealth and happiness to the finder. The traditional choice was a silver sixpence, or a threepence.

The practice may have originated from the age-old custom of Twelfth Night Cake which was baked with a bean hidden inside and sometimes topped with a golden crown. Whoever found the bean was crowned Lord of Misrule until midnight!

Plum puddings were traditionally made on the Sunday ‘next before Advent’, which is four to five weeks before Christmas. This special Sunday became widely known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’. We now know about the amazing antimicrobial properties of silver, which makes the addition of an old sixpence to the mix a very wise choice!

Tinsel

Tinsel was originally made in Europe from silver that was hammered paper-thin and then sliced into strips. These strips were attached to a thread with the idea that they emulated icicles of the cold northern winter.

The word tinsel probably derives from estincele, the old French word meaning ‘sparkle’. Before the 16th century, it was used to decorate sculptures, but was later added to Christmas trees to enhance the flickering of candles. More’s the pity, but modern tinsel is generally made of plastic.

Boxing Day

During the middle Ages, Advent was a time for churches to display alms boxes into which parishioners could donate silver and other coins. The boxes were opened the day after Christmas – hence the name Boxing Day – when the coins were distributed to the less fortunate.

In Victorian times, servants who were required to work at Christmas took the following day off to visit their families. As they prepared to leave, their employers would present them with Christmas boxes of coins and other gifts.

These days, Boxing Day is a public holiday enjoyed by (almost) all. But did you know it’s also St Stephen’s Day. Its charitable roots are reflected in the popular carol Good King Wenceslas, which tells the story of a Czech king going on a journey in harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant “on the feast of Stephen”.

Chocolate Coins

ChocolateCoins

The custom of giving chocolate coins covered in gold foil to children has been intertwined with Christmas traditions for hundreds of years and can be held to symbolise the gift of gold given by the Three Wise Men. Today they are popular stocking fillers and Christmas tree decorations – and, at this time of year, one of the best-selling items in The Perth Mint Shop!

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Dec 182015
 

As the winter of 1915 approached in the Dardanelles, it was clear that Allied troops had set out to achieve the impossible.

Battle-hardened Ottoman troops, desperate to defend their homeland, had fought fiercely from the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign. Under the effective command of Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who later became the first president of Turkey, Ottoman forces defeated all Allied attempts to conquer the peninsula’s high ground.

Dogged determination on both sides resulted in horrific casualties. By the time all Allied forces had withdrawn from Gallipoli in January 1916, 120,000 British, 27,000 French, and 28,000 Australians had died, were wounded, evacuated sick and taken prisoner of war. The New Zealanders lost over 7,000, the Indians 4,000, and the small Newfoundland contingent 142. The Ottomans suffered over 174,000 casualties in just eight months of fighting.

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Lemnos, December 1915: Members of the 1st Australian Divisional Signal Company opening Christmas billies and reading letters from home soon after the evacuation from Gallipoli.

The British War Secretary, Field Marshall Lord Horatio Kitchener, visited the Gallipoli battlefield in mid-November where he witnessed first-hand the wretched conditions. Adding misery upon misery, open trenches left soldiers unprotected from the soaking, freezing weather. One hellish storm resulted in the deaths of some 300 hundred British troops who succumbed to illness and more than 16,000 were said to have suffered frostbite and exposure.

Kitchener endorsed a recommendation that the Allies evacuate the Gallipoli peninsula – a complex operation which would require the evacuation of more than 93,000 troops and 5,000 animals along with vast quantities of artillery, ammunition and stores. Despite these challenges, the evacuation was one of the very few Allied successes of the entire campaign.

Christmas miracle

At Anzac Cove, 40,000 men were evacuated under the cover of darkness over a series of consecutive nights, with the final group departing for their transport ships on the 19/20 December. They did everything possible to deceive the enemy that the front line was still being manned.

Miraculously, not a single soldier was killed. Brigadier General Cyril Brudenell White oversaw the evacuation at Anzac Cove – his brilliant plan ran without incident, thankfully aided by a lull in the weather and relatively calm seas.

Instead of facing the immeasurable menace of rifle and machine-gun fire, a rain of grenades and artillery bombardments, some Australian and New Zealand troops celebrated Christmas on the nearby Aegean island of Lemnos, while others spent Christmas in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Tempered by the sadness of leaving the dead in ground occupied by the enemy, Christmas billies full of gifts and ‘comforts’ from a number of civilian patriotic organisations in Australia went some way to improve their sorrow. “Luxuries” to cheer the men included tobacco, razor blades, socks, writing paper and a pencil, as well as cake, sauces, pickles, tinned fruit, cocoa, coffee and biscuits. These were all fond reminders of home.

The festive respite was short-lived. Many that survived the terrors of Gallipoli spent the following months reorganising and training in Egypt in preparation for their eventual transfer to the Western Front. Having lost 28,000 men in eight months of fighting on Gallipoli, they came close to losing that number in just eight weeks in France.

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Dec 172015
 

Congratulations to Mark McNamara, winner of our Christmas Competition Week 8 – Sweet Coin Surprise! Mark wins an Australian Bush Babies II Possum 2013 1/2oz Silver Proof Coin.

Mark told us a lovely story about how he ate slice after slice of Christmas pudding as a child in the hope of finding a special 1927 commemorative florin – a coin that happens to be available on our website!

A big thanks to everyone else who entered – our judging panel reported some other fantastic answers! Your names have automatically been entered into next week’s Grand Draw for a stunning gold Koala coin.

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Week 8 Winner