Today the coins you find in your change are all produced by the Royal Mint. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if coins, and the metal to make them, disappeared.
When people have had to go to extreme lengths in the face of emergency, it has produced some of the most intriguing and interesting currencies around. And here are six of the most unusual currencies ever issued, and what drove people to create them.
The coins made from a drinking cup
In 1646 in a town under siege, with no incoming money, the people of Newark needed to find a way to pay soldiers for protection. So they reached for whatever metal they had available to make coins – and that meant their cutlery! Silver cups and plates were surrendered, cut up into small diamond shaped pieces, and had a denomination stamped onto them.
Because of the way these coins were made, you could sometimes see the pattern of the cup or plate from which the coins were made. Understandably these coins, which surely belong in a museum, are hugely desirable among collectors and are rarely available.
The notes that were issued to be devalued
It seems odd that a government would issue money just for it to be devalued. But during WWII when the American army was based in North Africa this is exactly what happened. The American government was concerned that if the Germans were to mount a successful attack, they could take over the currency. Therefore, all notes used to pay soldiers based in North Africa had a yellow seal added to them. This meant that should the Germans take over, the notes could be easily identified by their yellow seal and instantly devalued.
The Russian stamps used as German propaganda
During WW1 the Russian government found it increasingly difficult to issue coins. Instead, they turned to ‘currency stamps’ printed on thin cardboard instead of normal stamp paper. Using stamps instead of coins was a way of saving precious metal for the war effort.
Several denominations of ‘currency’ were issued, with a statement on the reverse stating that each stamp had the circulating equivalent of Silver coins. However some of these stamps soon landed in the hands of Germans who counterfeited them but with one clever detail – the statement on the reverse was changed to an anti-Russian message. The idea was to destroy confidence in the Russian government and devalue the currency.
An unusual English denomination
George III’s reign is known for the vast number of interesting numismatic pieces issued, and the Bank of England emergency tokens are no different. Conflict in George III’s reign had caused financial panic, and thousands of people hoarded silver coins out of fear.
The Royal Mint’s limited ability to issue coins posed a problem as they could not make enough coins for the demand, so eyes turned to the Bank of England. An agreement was made that allowed the Bank to issue emergency currency. However technically speaking these were tokens and not coins, which is why they appear in the unusual denominations such as 1s 6d or 1 Dollar.
Why money was burnt in revolutionary France
In revolutionary France in the early 1790s, the government issued paper money, known as Assignats, backed by the value of clergy property. The government continued to print money, and faced with an influx of counterfeits from Britain, the value of these Assignats soon reached a massive 45 Billion Livres, despite the value of clergy property only being 3 Billion Livres.
In 1796, the notes had lost all of their value and were publicly burned, to be replaced with a new paper money. Any of these surviving notes are incredibly rare as most of them were destroyed, making them very desirable among collectors.
How a Civil War turned a stamp into currency
It’s hard to imagine a small paper stamp, issued over 80 years ago, being used to pay for goods and services. But in Spain in 1938 that’s exactly what happened.
The Civil War caused the public to hoard coins out of fear, and so they all but disappeared from circulation. Because metal was in limited supply, the government turned readily available stamps into ‘coins’. Unlike Russian emergency stamp currency, these stamps were welded onto a special board with the coat of arms printed onto the reverse. The stamp value gave these new ‘coins’ a denomination, and they were released into circulation to help towns and cities trade.
With such a delicate nature and small number, it’s no wonder that these coins are scarce and difficult to track down today.
Nowadays the Royal Mint is well suited to meeting our coin demands so it’s unlikely we’ll ever need to use stamps or cutlery in place of coins! Emergency currency is always a fascinating area for collectors, with some of the rarest and most unique issues having appeared out of difficult and troubled times. It’s not often that these emergency issues appear on the market – but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for them!
If you’re interested…
Today you can own one of these unusual and fascinating numismatic issues – a Spanish 15 Centimos ‘Coin’. There are only an extremely limited number of these issues available worldwide, and considering the fascinating story behind these issues, our stock is likely to be snapped up fast.
Introducing the brand new British Isles Gold Proof Sovereign released to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day!
Over the years, the popularity of various coins have come and gone. But none have stayed as unrivalled as the Gold Sovereign.
Quite simply, the Sovereign is without a doubt the world’s premier Gold Coin. Struck from 22 Carat Gold to the exact same specification since 1817, it epitomises all that is British.
Traded across the world during the 19th Century and early 20th Century, it became known as “The Chief Coin of the World”, whilst today’s modern Proof Sovereigns show consistent collector interest and regular sell-outs.
Most importantly for the thousands of Sovereign collectors around the world, it’s a coin that demands attention and the intricate detail and sell-out status remains unrivalled.
FIFTEEN TIMES more limited than the UK’s most recent Proof Sovereign
Serious collectors tend to look at three key things when choosing a coin to add to their collection.
When all three elements are right, you can’t go wrong. And that’s definitely the case with the BRAND NEW British Isles Gold Proof Sovereign that has just been issued by the Isle of Man for 2020.
1. The edition limit
2. The country of issue
3. The subject and design
Let’s take each of the three key elements in turn…
1. The edition limit
This is simple. The coin is limited to just 495 pieces. This is more than 15 times RARER than the UK’s recent Gold Proof Sovereign.
Let me give you a few comparisons of recently issued Sovereigns:
495 coins is a tiny edition limit for a gold Sovereign-specification coin such as this.
2. The country of issue
Importantly this is a British Isles issue, authorised by the Government of Isle of Man. That means that it benefits from a sterling denomination, as well as the associated interest for British Isles coins within the UK.
3. The subject and design
This is the BIGGEST of all the ticks, especially when combined with the edition limit.
This year we mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. The day which signalled the end of World War II in Europe and brought long-awaited peace to our nation.
Here are just some of the national plans to celebrate:
- The May Bank Holiday has changed from Monday to Friday for the VE Day anniversary.
- Bells in churches and cathedrals across the country will take part in a Ringing out for Peace celebration.
- Street parties and celebrations at pubs, clubs, hotels, village greens and halls have been planned up and down the country.
- A national service of commemoration and celebration.
As I mentioned previously, when all three elements of a coin are right, you just can’t go wrong. And I am certain that demand will exceed availability. Especially when a strike of just 495 coins have been authorised for release.
And that’s before you consider the design…
The reverse is very fitting. The Union Flag fills up the complete surface of the coin while the text ‘VE DAY’ is displayed up large at the centre.
So I am sure you can now understand why serious collectors will want to own the remarkable new VE Day 75th Anniversary Gold Proof Sovereign. It’s the perfect coin to mark 75 years since our country rejoiced as Allied victory swept across Europe and our nation’s soldiers, sailors and airmen began their journey home.
I know it’s easy to sing the praises of every new coin. But, this one REALLY DOES tick all three key collecting boxes. All of the elements of this latest Gold Sovereign lend themselves to a complete sell-out.
Given the symbolic anniversary, the fact it carries a sterling denomination, and a strike of just 495 coins have been authorised, I am certain that demand will exceed availability.
Now home to around 30,500,the picturesque port of Dieppe on the Normandy coast of France was once the site of what’s perhaps the most conflicting military operation of WWII.
Some hail it as an essential lesson, to help future troops and pave the way for victory on D-Day. Whilst others see it as the most ill-fated and disastrous military effort of The War.
A test of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”
The year is 1942, and on the morning of 19th August, alongside 1,000 British troops and 50 American Rangers, 5,000 Canadian troops began their assault on the small French port town of Dieppe. This was Canada’s first army offensive in Europe, and the results left many thinking it could well be their last.
Ultimately, the raid was strategically designed to test the Allies’ ability to launch amphibious assaults against Adolf Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”. This would inform future plans to bring about an end to the conflict.
The co-ordinated air, land and sea assault was codenamed Operation Jubilee. Allied forces landed on the shores of Dieppe with the intention of occupying the town for a brief period of time in which they would gain intelligence and entice the Luftwaffe – German Air Force – in to open battle to wear them down.
But from the beginning, nothing went as planned. Less than six hours in the commanders called a retreat.
The troops arriving via the sea unexpectedly encountered a German fleet, and the ensuing battle at sea robbed the Allies of their element of surprise. This was what they were hoping would give them the upper hand. Out of the four beaches targeted, none of the attacks were classed as successful, resulting in severe loss of life and assets. With the element of surprise lost, the Allies and their armoured support were late to arrive at their designated attack points meaning many were slaughtered with little preparation to defend themselves.
The Calgary Tanks that did make it ashore were poorly equipped for the terrain and struggled to move across the pebbled beaches. Those that did make it across the beach were unable to destroy the enemy’s concrete barriers blocking their path, their guns were not strong enough. Eventually these tanks provided covering fire for the force’s evacuation.
German casualties were light. In comparison the Allies suffered, especially the Canadians: over 900 were killed, 2,400 wounded and a further 1,900 taken prisoner. Fewer than half the Canadians who departed for Dieppe returned.
Allied commanders knew the raid was risky. But none imagined it would be such a terrible failure, with so much loss of life. It was believed the element of surprise would be their greatest weapon, allowing landing troops to overcome German defenders and occupy the town. But little thought was given to the importance of air superiority and the need for overwhelming firepower.
Despite its failure, the raid was a pivotal moment in WWII and provided invaluable lessons for the Allies. It made clear the difficulties of assaulting a well-defended port and the need for better intelligence on conditions and communication amongst the troops – they could not rely solely on the element of surprise.
Two years later, the D-Day landings would be backed up by massive naval artillery support, dominance over the skies, and heavy firepower — three essential factors missing at Dieppe. Finally, following D-Day success, on 1st September 1944, Dieppe was liberated.
If you’re interested…
The Royal Canadian Mint issued a 1oz Silver Proof coin to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. It’s been specially designed as a powerful tribute to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives.
Unsurprisingly this coin is completely sold out at the mint. But we have a limited number available for UK collectors.