I spent the last week in Chicago at the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money. It was a show full of controversy, difficult hunts for coins, but it had its rewards as well.
Got back on Sunday from Chicago, which hosted the ANA’s “World’s Fair of Money”
History was almost made in the exhibiting arena. A first time exhibitor, Charmy Harker (a/k/a the Penny Lady) won Best First Time Exhibitor, People’s Choice and almost took Best of Show, coming in as the first runner up. I can assure you that was one excellent exhibit! (She took a ton of photographs and posted them here.) Ms. Harker took the class on exhibiting at the ANA summer seminar, taught by Larry Sekulich, who had won a Best of Show and (if I am not mistaken) at least two first runner up awards.
You’ll note that I said he “had won” a Best of Show award. He won this year as well. Two years ago, I was the only living multiple Howland Wood (Best of Show) recipient. Now there are three of us!
On the down side we had a blatant instance of plagiarism as an exhibitor copied the NGC website wholesale for the text to his exhibit. He did not credit NGC in his bibliography nor, apparently, did he make it clear he was quoting them at length. He was last heard blaming the fact that he put the coins up on glass above mirrors for his third place (out of one exhibit) finish for his class.
The new board was inaugurated at the Friday night banquet, and there was an open session the next day. The incoming ANA President, Walter Ostromecki, appointed Halbert Carmichael to be the head of the Exhibits committee, and has moved me over to being one of the assistant treasurers. I get to handle money! A coin collector’s dream, no? Well… I get to sign checks and watch the money leave. Well hell’s bells, why didn’t anyone tell me this beforehand?
The most significant action at the new BOG meeting was when Governor Sperber claimed the attendance was awful, and then went on to complain about one of my pet peeves: the gigantic front and center floor space given over to the auction houses, who are selling nothing the general public could afford, and then abandon their tables Friday, leaving a “Mongol Horde Came Through Here” scene of devastation (and I brought that very image up in the meeting myself when they asked for audience commentary). Now the general public comes in on Saturday (it’s their day off, more than likely) and they see several empty islands first thing through the door.
Jeff Garrett pointed out that there was a “well established” “Stars” system for allocating tables. In other words, we can’t change it because we’ve always done it this way. Well, maybe you should un-establish it. Or at the very least require the auction houses to hold one session Saturday night, so they don’t leave a huge gaping desert at the front of the bourse floor when they skedaddle.
This Russian piece is one of the coins in the banner at the top of this site, hiding a bit left of the center on the bottom. You’ll note it’s in pretty decent shape, a prooflike AU. (Full disclosure, I no longer own this coin.)
This is a silver half-ruble, or poltina (from the prefix pol- or half-) of 1826. It’s the first year this particular “wings down” design was used, and it only ran to 1831.
The top reads “Poltina Coin,” the bottom is the date. НГ is the initials of the mintmaster, Nikolai Grachev. The eagle itself bears a shield with St. George on it, the traditional symbol of Muscovy.
The inscription reads, “Of pure silver, 2 Zolotniks, 10 1/2 Dolei” (which works out to almost precisely nine grams of pure silver), and the mintmark for St. Petersburg.
R. W. Julian (yes, that R. W. Julian) has done a lot of work on Russian coinage and has written a book covering silver coinage for the period from 1797-1917. There is a short section near the front of this book where he lists ten particularly tough types for a collector to find (if they are assembling a type set, which I was), and this coin, plus the wings down 25 kopeks (quarter ruble) were among them. Which is why I jumped on this coin when it showed up; it’s not only one of the toughies, it’s in fantastic condition.
Apparently a very small number of these were struck in platinum in 1826, and exactly one in 1827) as a test run for the later platinum coinage. I am certain this coin wasn’t one of those, because a platinum piece would be twice as heavy as it “should” be. (Also the platinum pieces have no edge lettering.)
This coin came in handy for another reason. When building my Russian Coins Of Conquest exhibit, I needed a warlike graphic, as a sort of “logo” to tie the exhibit together and add visual interest. Quick searches of the internet turned up nothing that wasn’t cheesy or just not what I had in mind. Then it dawned on my that I had literally hundreds of scanned in images of Russian Imperial Eagles, and I settled on this particular coin because of its superior condition. I chose the wings down eagle because it’s the only style the Russians used where the eagle is clutching arrows and a wreath, indicating war and peace–surely appropriate for an exhibit about occupation and regional coinage.
So first I had to laboriously mask out everything that wasn’t eagle; this took quite a bit of time because I didn’t want the edges of the eagle to look jagged. I used Picture Publisher 7.0, an obsolete bit of software much easier to use than Photoshop. (Today it has to be run on an XP virtual machine, which is a pain–but back in 2007 this was not much of a problem.)
I could almost imagine a stamped metal eagle like this gracing the cap of an officer in the Russian Army or police in the 1820s or 1830s. (Would he be a full bird colonel?) I’ve seen this eagle motif on at least some of the shoulder patches of today’s Russian military (with the crown, even though it’s a republic today).
But for an exhibit color is needed, so I started by making the eagle gilt:
Of course the shield ought to be red, as indicated by the vertical lines (that’s the convention for indicating “red” on uncolored sculpture, or relief, or engraving). So I masked the shield and changed it to red:
And St. George should be white or silver, so some more masking:
Voila, one graphic suitable for use in an exhibit.
Few who have seen this exhibit (and I still have the coins for it and will often display it non-competitively) realize that the decorative eagle graphic was really a picture of a coin! But if you go to an ANA show, there’s a good chance you will see this exhibit, and you will know.