Formerly published as the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' - Internet Edition' (Est. 1996) and 'Numisnet World' (Est. 2007).

       Volume 22                                               Issue 3                                                      2017





Compiled and Edited


Graeme Petterwood.

Even though the title implies that this News Sheet will be mainly about numismatic items that interest our international readers - I encourage discussions about virtually anything decent and reasonable - particularly, in any closely associated hobby or trivia-type areas that are of mutual interest. Storylines will be interesting, hopefully, and I may even encourage a bit of gossip at times!  (Illustrations are not to scale.)

This 'Numisnet World (N.S.)' news-sheet may be linked to other forums - and it will be uploaded whenever it is convenient, and when, the subject matter is of interest and sufficient in quantity to attract and entertain new readers  - but, hopefully,  not bore - old friends.


A friend and I were recently watching a Western movie made in the dim, distant past - and one of the characters mentioned 'two bits' as an amount of money needed for the purchase of something .... I am old enough to know that 2 bits was equivalent to 25 US Cents - but my friend wasn't. I thought it was a little knowledge worth sharing.



The Official definition from the 'World Coin Almanac' (1st. Edition) reads:-

BIT - A popular term for the Spanish-American One-Real piece (also Danish West Indies and other neighbouring islands) which formerly circulated in the United States.


Once upon an historical time, the habit of chopping up foreign silver coins into little 'bits' was rather common when coinage was scarce. In particular, the Spanish Dollar - or as it is more properly known - the .903 Silver 8 Reales of 27.07 grams -  had become widespread as a universal form of exchange by the early 1800's, and ....it was an ideal coin of choice if small change was needed. The 8 Reales coin (shown below) was actually minted at a Spanish Mint branch located in Mexico and has an 'Mo' mintmark.


How the popular Spanish Dollar may have be divided.


The centrepiece rounds (in various-sized cut or punched 'Dumps') were valued by weight as a rule and given a local name as a new coin. However, the outer ring usually retained the full value of the original coin. It did mean 'instant inflation' - but - an additional coin had been created as a way of addressing the small change crisis, particularly, in remote areas that had no minting facilities.

The mutilation extended to further segmenting the large silver coins - before or after the Dumps were removed -  and the pieces were also given values and appropriate names or common descriptions;-

e.g. A Spanish 8 Real Coin cut into 8 equal pieces, with each bit worth the equivalent of One Real, became a Piece of Eight or a 'bit'  - and, '2 Bits', the equivalent of 2 Reales were a Quarter of the 8 Reales.

These 'bit' terms - mainly 2 or 4 bits (25 and 50 Cents)  - became the common usage names of the fractional Silver coinage of Quarter and Half Dollars in the U.S. for an era. 


These large colonial coins were often interchangeable with other similar large Silver coins, by weight of metal - even though the silver purity content may have varied.  Most stayed in the areas where they had been mutilated.

The .900 Silver U.S. Dollar coin (26.73 grams) - for instance - was not equivalent but it also did get cut occasionally..

The pieces were sometimes counter-stamped as well as given a local value and names - and the large coins were often divided into 'bits' (usually 8) thus, for instance, 2 bits x 1/8 = 1/4 value of the original coin - in bullion..

The U.S. term '2 or 4 bits'' was common in the mid 1800's. - even though the practice of cutting the coins had diminished by then - it was still possible to find these pieces of silver in circulation as trade pieces in remote areas where official cash money was scarce.



Another universal coin in use at that time in history was the .833 Silver Thaler from Austria - (the Danish Daler also had popularity for some time as well). The names had soon morphed into the common usage word 'Dollar' - a term adopted by the newly established United States of America.  However, these heavier-weight, high-relief, ornately-edged coins did not lend themselves to division as easily as the Spanish Dollar of 8 Reales..

The 1780 Maria Theresa Thaler (shown)  did, however continue to be minted under licence - at various Mints (a partial list with mintages is shown below) without obvious alteration - and were still being used in Asian and Middle Eastern areas until mid last century as bullion trade coinage.. A specialized catalogue is needed for full details.


1920 - 1937    Vienna           52,069,465

1935 - 1939    Rome            19,496,729

1935 - 1957    Paris             11,809,956

1936 - 1961    London           20,159,070

1937 - 1957    Brussels          10,995,024

1940 - 1941    Bombay           18,864,576

1949 - 1955    Birmingham        3,428,500

1956 - 1975    Vienna             9,924,151






The recent discovery of a 51mm. commemorative Bronze medallion, issued in February 2006, prompted a reader to ask the question -

"Who was 'Mad Harry'?!


The 51mm Bronze medallion (shown below) was produced by Hafner Mint in Melbourne for the Murray Memorial Committee of Evandale, Tasmania. It was one of the features that the Memorial Committee organised to celebrate the exploits of a real hero.

His full story of Henry 'Harry' William Murray, has already been recorded in other publications, including the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' Internet Edition, (extracts below) and in the biographical books titled ‘Mad Harry’ and 'Murray VC'., but, it is an inspirational one that bears repeating from time to time!



"As a member of the Royal Australian Artillery Association of Tasmania - Historical Wing, and an ex-gunner with the 6th Field Regiment R.A.A., based in Launceston, Tasmania, I had certainly heard of Harry Murray VC and his early Launceston Volunteer Artillery connections, but it was only just the ‘bare bones’ of the man - it was time for me to give him some more substance.

The idea was initiated after a visit to Evandale’s Local History Centre some years ago  - mainly to check details of one of my own great-uncles, also from Evandale, who had also followed in Harry's footsteps - albeit less prominently. 

(My Great-Uncle Fred R. Fox won the Military Medal (MM)  in 1918. and suffered wounds in several battles.)


A very pleasant ‘phone conversation with very obliging local historian, former Lt. Colonel  C. David von Steiglitz - OAM, RFD, ED  of Evandale, who was Chairman of the Harry Murray Memorial Committee, made me realise that we were beholding before us a man who deserved all the military honours that had been bestowed on him.



2006 Hafner Mint 51mm Bronze Medallion (pic. enlarged for clarity)

Celebrating the military exploits of Lt. Colonel Henry 'Harry' William Murray (1880 - 1966)


On 24th February, a larger-than-life bronze statue of Lt. Colonel Henry 'Harry' William Murray – a man larger-than-life - was unveiled in Evandale by Major-General Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC, Governor-General of Australia, also a returned soldier and a distinguished man of medals, who stated that he stood in awe at Harry Murray’s exploits, in horrendous conditions, under fire, during WWI.



The steel-helmeted Murray -  with a revolver in his hand  - frozen in the action of throwing a grenade.

This dramatic depiction, was unveiled by the Governor-General of Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery, in Evandale on 24th Feb. 2006.


Harry Murray became the most highly decorated soldier in Australia and the British Commonwealth and is claimed as Evandale's most distinguished son.

His awards consisted of the Victoria Cross (VC), Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG), Distinguished Service Order - and Bar (DSO), Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM),. Mentioned in Despatches 4 times (MID****) and the Croix de Guerre along with his entitlement of campaign medals - the 1914-15 Star, the War Medal, the Victory Medal, the War Medal 1939-45, the Australia Service Medal 1939-45 plus the King George VI Coronation Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.

He was also recommended for the American Distinguished Service Medal for his contribution in training American machine-gunners at the Front, but, the award process was never completed.

It is interesting to note that, technically, Harry Murray is not officially on the Tasmanian list of Victoria Cross winners.


Born on 1st. December 1880, in a cottage at ‘Clareville’, where Launceston Airport now stands, Henry William Murray was the 8th. of nine children born to the wife of a farm labourer, the late Mr. E. K. Murray.

The family eventually moved on to a property, ‘Northcote’, near the village of St. Leonards on the outskirts of Launceston, where Harry grew up and was well known as a young man.

Harry’s grand-father had been a convict, so it is evident he came from relatively humble stock. 

Harry’s mother had been a former Miss Littler, and two of her nephews, Harry’s first cousins, would also distinguish themselves during the ‘War to end all Wars’!



Harry had moved to West Australia and found work in the timber industry as a Bushman, and it was there that he enlisted on 13 October 1914, at age 34 - although he gave his age as 30 on his Attestation form because he thought he might be rejected as being too old for combat.

He started out as a machine-gunner with 16th Infantry Battalion A.I.F. and 20 days after his unscathed Gallipoli landing, he and his best friend Percy Black had already been wounded by the Turks while maintaining their machine-gun under murderous fire - and he had been promoted to Lance Corporal.

Murray rose extremely rapidly through the ranks due to his own personal bravery and dedication to duty.

On August 8, he was wounded again, and, on August 13 1915, he was promoted from Lance Corporal to Sergeant to Second Lieutenant in the one day of bitter fighting - and, by March 1st. 1916 in Palestine, he gained further promotion to Captain.


Along with other A.I.F. forces, he eventually ended up in Europe fighting the Germans under the most terrible of conditions. 

Shortly after his arrival in France, during mid-September 1916, it was reported in the ‘London Gazette’ that Captain Murray was again wounded twice, this time in the thigh and back.

In all, he was wounded 5 times during his great adventure, and on his Casualty Form - Active Service B.103 - a notation is said to have declared - ‘Unfit for further service’ - but it didn’t stop Harry, who just ignored it and went back into action.

He had actually turned 36 years old when he won the Victoria Cross, on 4/5th. February 1917, at Stormy Trench, which was N.E. of the village of Gueudecourt in France, and the following citation gives an insight to this gallant man’s actions that earned him the right to wear the V.C. with pride.

CITATION: For most conspicuous bravery when in command of the right flank company in attack. He led his company to the assault with great skill and courage, and the position was quickly captured. Fighting of a very severe nature followed, and three heavy counter-attacks were beaten back, these successes being due to Captain Murray's wonderful work. Throughout the night his company suffered heavy casualties through concentrated enemy shell fire, and on one occasion gave ground for a short way. This gallant officer rallied his command and saved the situation by sheer valour. He made his presence felt throughout the line, encouraging his men, heading bombing parties, leading bayonet charges, and carrying wounded to places of safety. His magnificent example inspired his men throughout. (London Gazette: 10th March 1917.)

He had an ability to bring out the best in troops under his command. and he became (affectionately) nicknamed 'Mad Harry' - it was said that his Company would follow him anywhere and die for him to a man.

Harry enlisted again during WWII and, by putting his age down once more, he was accepted - but he was ruled ‘not suitable for combat’, however, because of his record and his determination to serve, he was given a command in Queensland’s home defence units.

Eventually, he was discharged, on 8 February 1944, after being commanding officer of 26th Infantry Battalion, A.M.F and the 23rd Queensland Regiment, Volunteer Defence Corps, due to ill-health from the results of his WWI wounds.

Time had caught up with Harry, but it didn’t slow him down much, and he continued to contribute much to Australia in his civilian capacity over many years.


On 7th January 1966, in Queensland, Harry was a passenger in a car that was involved in a relatively minor crash.

He was taken to hospital where he suffered a heart attack brought on by the trauma and he died the same night.  He was 86 years old.


Harry was an unassuming and humble man - a genuine hero in the true sense of the word.

He often said that his 6 years of training with the Launceston Volunteer Artillery from 1902 – 8 gave him the discipline and sense of duty that he displayed throughout his military career, and, it is because of this connection - as a fellow Tasmanian ex-gunner - that I salute Lt. Col. Harry Murray as our 'bravest of the brave' - and I was honoured to be invited as a guest to the unveiling of his statue."


The invitation included my wife - unfortunately, she had passed away the preceding August - she would have loved it and the people involved!

Her pioneer family of McKenzie were directly related to a family of Murray - and, I have no doubt, that she could have worked it out if a relationship existed.


Governor-General of Australia's Invitation to attend the unveiling on 24th. February, 2006.



Main References.

The Examiner ‘The Great War. The Anzac Tradition.’ Copy of article dated March 1917, (reprinted April 25th. 1989).

‘Tasmania in Focus.’ Southern Cross Television interview featuring local historian Mr. C. David Von Steiglitz. (1998).

Australian War Memorial. AWM on-line Internet site of V.C. winners. (Details originally extracted Jan.1999)

Mr. C. David von Steiglitz. Personal recollections and documentation. (Jan. 1999)

Various pamphlets - produced by the Murray Memorial Committee, Evandale 2006.



Australian Commemorative coins - still easily obtainable.

Some of the most innocent of questions I am asked about this hobby, often comes from parents.

In fact, they can elicit the most complex of answers.

One regular one is 'how do we get our kids interested in the world's oldest  hobby?' ...and, of course, they mean  - if it is not going to cost an 'arm and a leg'!

Having a hobby is a natural thing - we, humans, have an inbuilt urge to accumulate - once it was satisfied by items like stamps and coloured marbles - however, things have changed with modern technology!


However, most hobbies still entail gathering stuff - and, everyone has to start somewhere when the collecting bug strikes - that also means making choices about what is gathered...and, it is surprising how young some of our fellow coin collectors are!

As they get older, the scope usually widens to encompass other aspects of numismatics.

I commend those collector Mums and Dads who encourage their children into such an historically important hobby such as Numismatics, as this is something that teaches History, Geography, Metallurgy, Art, Printing, Politics ... the list goes on!


However, we must bear in mind that this is usually not a hobby for the littlest of children! 

It is actually better to wait a few years until a bit of maturity sets in - and a sense of achievement starts to develop.

When you start kids on a collecting theme, you seriously need to consider that most will have an initially low interest thresh-hold regarding things that do not move or make a noise!

If you push them, or rush, in an effort to make them inherit your own sense of collecting passion, you may dissuade them - so you will need to carefully plan for any hobby to thrive and  succeed.

Short bursts of information - coupled with something tangible and visual - is the best way of keeping boredom at bay! Even experienced gatherers get tired and 'browned-off' with their hobby on occasion!


Don't overload their capacity to learn at the start.... begin at the beginning and take it slowly..

Simple things like showing how to handle items appropriately - in our own instance - coins and banknote collectibles.

That should be the very  first step.  Have a few 'junk' items to play with.....

Any demonstration should always have an air of importance to it - allow the child to handle a few samples (of minor value) - and point out the things that are right or wrong with the item -  repeat the handling lesson several times during the introduction period. Establish the habit of observation.

Buy suitable catalogues with illustrations - even if they are second-hand. 

Basic information doesn't change - even if market values do!


Kids - as well as more mature beginners - like rapid progress - so it pays to have a range of items on hand for those moments when you sense that boredom is creeping in and the next steps needs to be taken.

A variety of unfamiliar coins - and associated items (exonumia) - will keep the mystery alive.


A variety of older coins and transport tokens.




Access to previous Internet 'NUMISNET WORLD' newsletters, from 2000 - 2016, still can be found on our Archives page. Each newsletter provides a general index of contents.


Refer:- http://www.vision.net.au/~pwood/aprilnews.html




Any literary contributions or relevant and constructive comment regarding numismatics, in particular, will always be welcome for consideration, however, this invitation is not a guarantee of discussion or publication.

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