Volume 7 Issue 12                            INTERNET EDITION                      December  2002.


We trust that this issue of the Internet Edition will continue to provide interesting reading. The name of this Internet based newsletter is in keeping with the content so, bearing in mind our disclaimers, the Internet links selected are usually complimentary to the featured article in regard to: (1) illustrations and, (2) additional important information. Please also bear in mind that some Internet links are of a temporary nature.

 

TASMANIAN NUMISMATIC SOCIETY.

Anyone who wishes to apply for membership to the non-profit making organization, and who is prepared to abide by the rules of the Society and its aim of promoting the study and enjoyment of the hobby of numismatics, should contact the following address for an application form and details of subscriptions: 

THE SECRETARY.

Tasmanian Numismatic Society.

G. P. O. Box 884J

Hobart. 7001.

Tasmania.

 

***************

SOCIETY SNIPPETS

The venue for our next BBQ-Meeting will be at the residence of T.N.S. President Chris Heath on Sunday 15th December, 2002. 

This meeting is to be last of the year and, as several very important new developments and announcements are on the agenda, it is suggested that ALL financial members take this opportunity to attend if at all possible.

As usual, it will be a BYO food and beverages event starting at 11.00 a.m. and all members and their guests are welcome to attend.  

As this will be the last Internet Edition issue for 2002 it is a very appropriate opportunity to wish all our Tasmanian Numismatic Society members and other readers our sincerest

SEASON’S GREETINGS

A MERRY CHRISTMAS

AND A SAFE,

HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!

In our October 2002 newsletter, we featured the story 'Token Tales' by T.N.S. member, Jerry Adams, and included a small segment about a brass reeded-edge 'Camp Supply, Indian Territory' token issued by 'Lee and Reynolds'

Those particular tokens, and others like it, were issued by hide-buyer/store-owners often as a negotiated payment for buffalo hides or other Indian produced artefacts that were used by local Indians to barter for merchandise at the frontier store during the 1800's. Once a deal was struck, a number of tokens were supplied to the seller and they facilitated 'across the counter' dealings for items that the Indians could not easily obtain from their own resources.

 

Piles of Buffalo Hides

The historical stories about the physical and cultural extermination of many tribes of Plains Indians and the near demise of the Buffalo as well as the long list of other greed-oriented events implemented by the white man in America makes pitifully sad reading. Of course, events like these occurred world-wide and, whilst they cannot be condoned, they were part of the way of life of those times - unfortunately, it also seems we cannot ever learn from these mistakes.

However, in regard to the American Indians and Buffalo, their memories have been maintained in one way, at least, by the official U.S. Five cent coin first minted in 1913 that featured both American icons. 

Jerry Adams has again supplied us with a reminder of that connection with days gone by - and also with another sad time in recent U.S. history - the Great Depression. During this time it is estimated that over 250,000 teenagers were living on the roads.

This article contains several highly recommended Internet sites. 

 

THE BISON  & THE INDIAN

By Jerry Adams  - T.N.S. Member # 363

I still call them “Buffalo nickels” as most people of my generation do in the U.S.A. although, in reality, they are not “nickels” nor is it a “buffalo.”  In proper terminology the coin should be called an “Indian Head Five Cent piece”.   

In this brief work, I will use the terms buffalo and bison interchangeably.

 

  HISTORY of BUFFALO NICKELS

The buffalo nickel was first issued in 1913 and was produced each year until the last year of issue in 1938. The coin was minted at three mints, Denver, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Therefore the mint marks are D for Denver, S for San Francisco, and none for Philadelphia. The designer of the coin was James E. Fraser, and he was supposed to have used several American Indians as models for his design of the Indian head profile.  

Evidently, the composite portrait was made up from personal studies and photographs of three Indians, although the identities of these models have been often questioned. However, according to the artist's own records, the native Americans are Iron Tail, a Sioux; Big Tree, a Kiowa; and Two Moons, a Cheyenne. 

The bison on the reverse of the coin was modelled after a specific animal, named “Black Diamond” who resided in the New York Zoological Gardens. Fraser’s initial F is located beneath the date on the obverse.  

The weight of the coin is 5 grams, composition is .750 copper and .250 nickel and the diameter is 21.2mm.  The edge is plain. 

Buffalo nickels many times are found weakly struck, especially the early years of 1913 through 1927. 

Grading is normally done by the amount of horn still visible on the bison. 

The ultimate fate of 'Black Diamond' the native American animal icon is rather sad; for those who wish to know more: http://www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/4044/a4.html

THE BISON or BUFFALO

It was only fitting that the Buffalo and the American Indian be represented on the same coin, as the Plains Indian life was so tied to the Buffalo. The buffalo provided many of the Plains Indian tribes with meat for food, and many other necessities of life.  Buffalo hides were made into robes for clothing and beds which kept them warm during harsh winters on the great plains. Smoothed buffalo hides sewn together into “teepees”  for shelter and the bones were made into tools, ornaments and toys. 

No one really knows how many buffalo existed on the North American continent before the white man came, but the most careful estimates of the numbers in the primitive times run from sixty to seventy-five million head.  

By the 1830’s, even after gunpowder had started taking it’s toll, there were still an estimated forty million head left.

 

Early French explorers called the animals les boeufs, which means oxen or beeves.  Later the English called the animals buffle, then buffelo, and then buffalo.  The scientific name for the animal is Bison bison Linnaeus. 

Perhaps you have seen a live buffalo in a zoo, perhaps not, but most of us have seen them on TV. 

The size of the animals is larger than one might imagine from old television westerns and movies. The head and body length ranges from seven to eleven and one half feet, tail length from twenty to twenty-six inches, and shoulder height of five to six feet. All buffalo have black horns with a bony core that are retained from year to year.  

Their natural habitat ranged from prairies to open woodlands. Buffalo calves follow their mothers closely for two to three weeks after birth, and then often stay together in small nursery groups. Bison have been known to produce calves at 30 years of age.  The natural range of buffalo, extended from Alaska, to central Texas. 

 

      

 

Being somewhat of an amateur archaeologist myself, I have excavated American Indian stone hearths on the Trinity River here in Fort Worth, and recovered from them large buffalo bones, and buffalo teeth that were so large they filled the palm of a man’s hand.  I have been told that as late as the 1930s and 40s, it was not unusual to find full buffalo skulls on the river banks here.

 

NEAR EXTINCTION OF THE BUFFALO

The hunting of the buffalo was to lead to the near extinction of the species.

Among the earliest white men to arrive on the scene were trappers and traders who made their living selling meat and hides. By the early 1870s, they were already  shipping hundreds of thousands of buffalo hides back east each year to cater for the growing demand. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million were sent in the winter of 1872-73.

As an incentive, train companies offered tourists the chance to shoot buffalo from the windows as the train drove past a herd. 

It is recorded, in one killing contest that a Kansan set a record by killing 120 bison in just 40 minutes. In his younger days as an Army scout and hunter, well-known Western entrepreneur, Buffalo Bill Cody, killed more than 4,000 buffalo in just two years.

 

Buffalo Bill Cody

The government encouraged the hunt, as a way to force the American Indian onto the reservations, and curtail the fight against western settlement. Due to the slaughter of the buffalo, by 1926 there were 4,376 buffaloes in the United States, and 11,957 in Canada. By then all hunting them had ceased, and the gene pool of the future herds would come from those surviving animals.

 

The history and the future of the Buffalo - Highly Recommended sites: 

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/buffalo/

http://www.montana.edu/~wwwcbs/      (Montana State University - Bozeman.) 

 

RECOLLECTIONS of BUFFALO NICKELS

When I was a young boy in the 1950’s, one could still find buffalo nickels in change. As a young boy scout, I was able to acquire a number of these coins from circulation at face value, thanks to our  Scoutmaster allowing us to pick them from the contribution box during the public distribution of the Polio vaccine. At the time the coins had not been minted in about 17 years, but still there were few in circulation, and to acquire one was a big thrill even then. 

 

  INDIANS TRANSFORMED INTO HOBOS

One interesting phenomena that only occurred with buffalo nickels was the transformation of certain of these coins into “Hobo nickels”. Highly recommended site:  http://www.pcgs.com/articles/article2766.chtml

A hobo nickel is a buffalo nickel that has the Indian portrait carved by hand into the likeness of someone else, usually a hobo wearing a derby hat. Sometimes the character depicted was a soldier, clown, a bald man (my favourite), or a jockey.

This is considered folk art, and is a specialty collection of exonumia that crosses over into numismatics, showing the fuzzy demarcation line between the two.

Occasionally the buffalo on the reverse was also carved into a likeness of some other item, such as Santa Claus, or a man with a backpack. Since “hobo nickels” are still made today, a differentiation should be made here between “original” and new hobo nickels. Modern made hobo nickels are generally made with a vibrator tool, and the engraving is considered inferior by hobo nickel collectors. The ability to determine which hobo nickel is an original and which is a new creation is a difficult task. 

Actual hobos made most of these original pieces from 1913 until the 1930s. 

They were made and sold by the hobos to earn money. Actual time that was required to make an original hobo nickel was from four to ten hours or more. New hobo nickels made with engraving tools require from five minutes to an hour each.

To see a part of the great variety that is available in Hobo nickels - Recommended site: http://www.geocities.com/RodeoDrive/4044/hobo.html

 

BUFFS - COIN AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD

If there is one coin that I would like to see represent the United States throughout the world, it would be the buffalo nickel. 

Yes, the lowly five cent coin from over 60 years ago, to me represents those things unique about our land, both the American Indian and the buffalo. It is a beautifully designed coin, most of them are not expensive, and they are fairly easy to acquire.  

Your choice may be another coin, but mine will always be the buffalo nickel!

 

References:

Tokens and Medals - by Stephen Alpert, 1992;

A Guidebook of United States Coins - by R. S. Yeoman, 54th edition, 2001; 

The Great Buffalo Hunt  - by Wayne Gard, 1960;

North American Wildlife - by Readers Digest, 1982.

 

 

BEACONSFIELD GOLD.

As mentioned in our November newsletter, 'OZMINT' (the token issuing division of 'TasMedals' of Hobart) are the producers of the sought after Tasmanian Tourist Trail Souvenir Tokens and were due to put at least two new items into the system before the New Year. One of the new attractive designs was released in early November and it can now be obtained from the Grubb Shaft Gold Mine, Beaconsfield, Tasmania. Individually packaged, in the new format plastic hanger with a brief historical explanation, it is another nice economical piece for collectors to strive for. 

The 30 mm Bright Brass finish token has a highly polished 5 mm wide rim with the incused lettering GRUBB SHAFT GOLD - & HERITAGE MUSEUM on the obverse and BEACONSFIELD - TASMANIA on the reverse.  Both sets of wording are centrally divided by two old style miner's lamps. The central field on the obverse contains a polished crossed Pick and Shovel above a small pile of ore on a matte finish. The reverse also has a matte finish field with a line depiction of the Grubb Shaft Museum with some polished areas at door and windows.

The following extract is from the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' of May 1997 and concerns the Beaconsfield gold mine.

 

BLASTS FROM THE PAST.

It is always intriguing to read old newspapers and see what made the headlines over a hundred years ago, and the manner in which it was reported!  In May 1997, developments were starting to take place at, and under, the township of Beaconsfield, site of one of Tasmania's premier goldmines of a century ago!

The new venturers, Beaconsfield Gold N.L., after spending $39 million and investing nine years of time in exploration, were confident that there was still a fortune of attainable gold in the old mining site and that, with modern equipment, they could overcome the water problems that had been noted in the 'Launceston Examiner' (February 20th.1879) and which had caused many of the smaller mining companies in the area to sell out because they couldn't cope with the cost of pumping out the thousands of gallons that were inundating their shafts every hour of the day.

The following extracts from the 'Mining Intelligence' section of the 1879 newspaper, highlighted the difficulties being experienced by the miners of yesteryear :-

'Ophir Mine - 'Water making at the rate of 2000 gallons an hour.'

'Our Native Land Mine - 'Flooded out; extra men put on, but could not keep the water under.'

'Florence Nightingale Mine - '....water still heavy.'

'Tasmania Mine - 'The water in the underground gushed out from the face in a foaming cataract.......... .....the water spouted from a crevice in the hanging wall in a jet the size of a man's leg.'

 

The problem at Beaconsfield worsened and, in time, even caused the surviving major gold producer, Tasmania Gold Mine Ltd., which had started life as the Tasmanian Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company on October 26th. 1877, to finally close on November 21st. 1914, even though they had been using the biggest and most efficient steam-driven pumping systems in the world from 1906 onwards.

The enormous costs involved in pumping out 8 - 9 million gallons of water per day, from over a 1000 feet below the surface, had been outweighing the profit of the ore mined and, with increasing labour costs and union agitation for safer conditions, the major English shareholders demanded that management take the necessary steps to cut losses even though evidence of another lode, running parallel to the main lode, was given to them at the time.

The original 5 Pound share price in the mine had increased to 82 Pounds by 1881, and the Company had paid excellent dividends for some years, but these had gradually been eroded by the increases in costs, and suggestions of poor management, down to 4 Shillings and sixpence by 1909 with no relief in sight - and, after hearing the report of an expert engineer, Arthur Llewellyn, who had stated that :- 'for every foot of shaft sunk there would be 21 million gallons of water to be pumped' - the hard commercial decision to close the mine was taken- much to the disquiet of the residents of the town and the Tasmanian Government which had offered some financial support.

Several 'stop-gap' measures were taken by local groups of 'tributers' (who worked on a commission basis) to prolong the life of the mine, but all was eventually in vain when the Company persisted with their decision and quickly removed, or closed down, all the essential equipment including the massive pumping system and air compressors.

The low recovery rate of gold from the ore that was brought up by the tributers, and processed for them by the Company at their crusher - then the apparent sabotage of the machinery at that plant, and major breakdowns elsewhere- sealed the end of the salvage efforts.

(Chairman W. H. Allison's report to the Tributers, a few years later, highlighted several instances of suspicious dealings in regard to the low amount of gold recovered at the crusher, and the malicious damage to essential gear, by 'someone with connections to the Company' who apparently didn't want to see the tributers make a profit!)

 

The town of Beaconsfield slowly faded away to become a shadow of its former glory, which, in its heyday, had included 7 hotels, 8 boarding houses, 5 bakers, 4 blacksmiths, 6 boot-makers, 5 barbers, 2 doctors, 2 watchmakers, a solicitor and a tailor, 15 general stores, 6 greengrocers, 5 drapers, 4 private schools as well as a state school, and a population of nearly 3000 permanent residents.

As the experienced miners and their families made their exodus away to employment on the more stable Victorian gold-fields, the commercial interests also closed shops and re-located to the mainland, or the major cities, and Beaconsfield only survived, as a semi-rural township, by catering for the growing agricultural and orchard interests of the district and its proximity to the port of Beauty Point.

An attempt was made, in 1938, to raise capital to re-open the mine, but the twin spectres of drowned mineshafts and the tales of the horrendous costs of the failed pumping operations, were too much for the potential investors and the venture proved to be a non-starter. Many of the old-timers often said that there was more gold still under their feet than was ever pulled out - and perhaps they just might be proved right!

The old Tasmania Gold Mine, with all its problems, had produced over 836,556 of the 854,600 ounces of gold to come out of the area during its 37 years of operation, and now, with modern technology, the new developers hoped to add considerably to that total!

The new company began preparing to re-open the old Hart Shaft of the Tasmania Mine, and the massive job of pumping the shafts in 1987, and were astounded to find that, as the water receded, the old tunnels were still perfectly preserved to at least the 160 metre level. They then drained down to the 375 metre level and will start excavating a decline down to the ore body as soon as preparations are completed.

 

Actual mining operations re-commenced in mid 1999 - and the production estimate at that time was for at least 100,000 ounces of gold a year over the ten year life-span of the existing vein. Even though there have been several changes of management and additional technical problems with the method of gold extraction from the ore, the mine is now operating again. 

 

Hart and Grubb Shaft buildings incorporating the Gold Museum, 

and the new working shaft 'A' Frame

(Photo - Courtesy Gerry Duke ©Touring Tasmania)

 

Major Reference/Recommended Reading.

Touring Tasmania: http://www.touringtasmania.info/index.htm

'Beaconsfield Gold.' - by Janet Kerrison B.A.(Hons.) 1963. (4th.Reprint 1981.)

(This small, but extremely informative, illustrated booklet is available from the Grubb Shaft Gold Mine & Heritage Museum and was prepared, by the author, with the assistance of the Rotary Club of Beaconsfield, as a community project.)

Beaconsfield Gold N.L. Information Sheet.(18/1/1997.)

'Launceston Examiner' (February 20th.1879) 

 

COINS OF COMMODUS

A year or so ago, I sat down to watch a group of fine actors portray, on film, a story set in the times of the Roman Emperor Commodus. The film was, of course, 'Gladiator' starring Russell Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius, the late Richard Harris as Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Joaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus, Connie Nielsen as Lucilla and the late Robert Oliver Reed - who died during production on 2nd may, 1999 - as Antoninius Proximo the gladiator trainer.

 

Russell Crowe       (late) R. Oliver Reed      (late) Richard Harris            Joaquin Phoenix          Connie Nielsen

 

The roles of the Gladiator General Maximus and his mentor Proximo, however, are totally fictitious or, at best, composites of other people of this era. The blend of fact and fiction was so well presented that many people who viewed the movie were convinced that most of the characterisations were historically accurate. As with any movie made to entertain, a certain amount of artistic licence is expected  and although some of the events portrayed in the movie did actually take place - many did not, and the fates of the major historical characters as depicted in the movie all varied from the actual facts.

An interest in the coins and the times of Commodus has provided me with an opportunity to bring a few compiled facts to our Internet Edition readers.

 

As history has shown, the Emperors of Rome were a fairly homicidal collection of rulers to be in charge of such a powerful and far-reaching Empire, and, if ever there was a nastier and madder piece of work than Emperor Caligula (A.D. 12 - 41) it would have to be the blonde-haired tyrant, Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (A.D. 161 - 192)

The story started in A.D. 145 when the 24 year old future emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninius married Faustina Junior. Commodus, and his twin brother Antoninus, were born at Lanuviam on 31st August A.D. 161 and they were the tenth and eleventh children of the fourteen sired by Marcus Aurelius Antoninius, and Faustina Junior. 

In that era, the Roman child mortality rate was over 60% and Antoninus, died in A.D. 165 aged 4 years old.

The other known siblings were Domitia Faustina b. November 30th A.D. 147 who also died young - probably before A.D. 151, twin boys Titus Aurelius Antoninus and Titus Aelius Aurelius b. A.D. 149 who died later in that same year, Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla b. A.D. 150 - 182, Titus Aelius Antoninus b. A.D. 152, Annius Verus A.D. 162 - 169, Sabina A.D. c 170.

Many of the names used by the Romans are combinations of traditional family names, so it is not unusual for similar groupings of names to appear more than once, particularly if a previous child bearing these family names has died.

 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninius

 

After the death of Faustina - who died in A.D. 175 - it is known that Marcus Aurelius took as a mistress the daughter of one of Faustina's retinue, and it is believed an illegitimate son was born from the union. The boy, named Junius Maximus, was sent into the army at an appropriate age and records show that he was a very competent leader and, after winning  important battles in Parthia (modern Iran, Iraq), he was rewarded with lavish military decorations and a special cash bounty. Little other is known about him except that a statue in Ephesus (Asian Turkey) gives some details of his military accomplishments. 

His distance from the intrigues of Rome may have saved his life as a young man.

Roman Map: http://www.dalton.org/groups/Rome/RMap.html

 

Commodus had held the position of Caesar (junior emperor) since AD 166 and at the age of 16, he accompanied his illustrious father to the 2nd Germanic War. As the only surviving legitimate son in the family to reach manhood, Commodus' appointment as co-emperor in mid December A.D. 176 - was an honour that signified his ultimate succession to the throne of Rome - and in A.D. 177 the Emperor officially declared him Augustus. At this point in time, Commodus legally changed his name to Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus.

Bronze Sestertius - A.D. 189 - 181

Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus

 

Even earlier, there were some signs that a sense of alarm was spreading through the influential people in Rome at the thought of Commodus taking full control when the influence of his father would no longer be there to control him.

An attempted coup d'etat by Avidius Cassius which was aborted in late A.D. 175, prior to Commodus' appointment as Augustus, was perhaps the strongest sign that it was more than just a casual concern about the young man's suitability to rule.

Commodus had actually led the troops against the Germans and Samartians from A.D. 178, and when M. Aurelius died on 17th February, A.D. 180 at Vindobona or Sirmium in Pannonia, it was he who was instrumental in concluding a rather inglorious peace with them before returning in haste to Rome to claim his position as Emperor.  

The rumours of plots on his life had made Commodus even more paranoiac than when he first realised he was a target in A.D. 177 and he wanted the security that Rome offered. However, the forlorn hope of a continuance of the fine, traditional stoic philosophy, rule of his father was soon shattered, and he lived up to the expectations of his critics - and proved to be totally unworthy of the position.

 

He appointed a series of toady administrators to the highest positions - and then went out of public life for some years to pursue all sorts of depravities. His harem mainly consisted of hundreds of young women and boys.

During this time, while affairs of government were allowed to languish under the control of corrupt officials who were helping him to feed his excesses and to bleed the Treasury dry, Commodus ordered the withdrawal of Roman troops from areas that his father had conquered in an attempt to save money that he could use for his own means. 

The obvious corruption was bad enough, but this relinquishing of territory was perceived as betrayal of the Roman ideal of conquest and this became the catalyst that was needed to firm the resolve of those who wanted Commodus either removed or dead. 

 

With his mental stability now nearing the full bloom of insanity - and his excesses becoming even greater, another series of plots against his life were attempted - including one by his eldest sister, Lucilla, who had been once married to Marcus Aurelius' co- ruler, Lucius Verus, prior to his death in A.D. 169. 

Aged 14 at the time of the marriage, Lucilla bore Lucius Verus 3 children, but only one girl survived infancy and that child eventually became betrothed to one her step-brothers from Lucilla's second marriage.

Later the same year - soon after Lucius' death, Lucilla remarried the much older former general, Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus of Antioch, and it is known she bore him only one son in A.D. 177, Aurelius Commodus Pompeianus - who would become Consul of Rome in the year A.D. 209. 

 

Gold Aureus 

Lucillae Augusta Antonini Augustus F. (Lucilla Aug. daughter of Antonini Aug.)

struck during the reign of Marcus Aurelius

 

Even though he was of humble birth, Pompeianus was a possible rival to the throne as he had held the office of consul twice, and was probably whom the plotters sought to make emperor.  Lucilla was aided by her cousin, former consul Marcus Ummidius Quadratus and Quintianus, her second husband's nephew . 

Quintianus, who was chosen to be the one who tried to stab Commodus to death in his bed, was caught and overpowered by the guards before achieving the plotters' ends - and both he and Quadratus met horrible deaths. A bloodbath followed as Commodus used the plot as an excuse to murder off those who he feared as conspirators or possible rivals.

Banished to the isle of Capreae (Capri) in A.D. 182, Lucilla was executed - on orders from Commodus - soon afterwards.

Commodus added three more titles to his name at this time - Pius (to signify loyalty to Rome), Felix (to show how lucky he was) and Britannicus - to take the honour of rebuilding the Antonine Wall even though it was done by one of his generals, Ulpius Marcellus, who had been sent to quell an uprising of the Barbarians (Scots) in Britain.

 

Bronze Sestertius - A.D. 186

Marcus Commodus Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus Britannicus

 

Commodus' wife, Bruttia Crispina - the daughter of Lucius Fulvius Bruttius Praesens - whom he had married in A.D. 177, was also banished to Capreae (c. A.D. 187) after she was accused of multiple adultery and the rumours that she may have been involved with plotters. It appeared obvious that the kettle was calling the pot black - but who could argue with a homicidal Emperor who was tying up loose ends to ensure his own safety.

It had earlier been believed that both Crispina and Lucilla were on the island at the same time but later evidence appears to support the theory that Crispina held the Emperor's favour for a little longer. No matter - she soon met the same fate as Lucilla.  

The beautiful isle of Capreae was not a good place to be sent by Commodus.

Bronze Sestertius A.D. 180 - 182

Crispina Augusta

 

Commodus will also always be remembered as the mad Emperor who believed himself to be a reincarnation of Hercules and tried to prove it by entering the amphitheatre in Rome to fight wild beasts and gladiators. 

It didn't worry him that the beasts were tethered for him to spear and the gladiators were only armed with wooden swords. 

He also charged a special huge fee when he appeared and had an orchestrated audience at his disposal to cheer him on.

To save him the worry of government, he had appointed Marcus Aurelius Cleander as his chief administrator - but this worthy then began to establish the biggest graft-ridden and corrupt government in Roman history.  

Other administrators had come and gone to gory fates - but M. Aurelius Cleander was a little more astute. 

When the money started to run low, plots were made to accuse influential people of treason against the emperor and their properties and assets were seized on his behalf. Cleander was cunning enough to share his ill-gotten gains with Commodus to keep his position safe, but eventually he was killed by an angry mob who thought he was working a swindle with Rome's grain and food supplies. It was a scheme devised by a rival - but, if the truth be known, Cleander probably was in it!

 

In A.D. 191, a disastrous fire in the centre of Rome created the need for a re-building programme and, when the plans were announced in November A.D. 192 for it's opening in January of the following year - along with a few other ideas the emperor was also envisaging became known - this was the final straw to a population who had been watching the wealth and prestige of Rome being squandered by a depraved madman. 

Commodus had decided to drop the name of Rome and replace it with something in keeping with his own megalomaniac ideas. Colonia Commodiana was going to be the new city name, the Roman Army was to be known as the Commodian Army and the Senate was also going to bear his name.

The following extracts are from: Illustrated History of THE ROMAN EMPIRE. 

"He even intended to march to the Senate from a gladiatorial school within the city - dressed as a gladiator.

It appears to have been the Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus who decided it was time to act against the madman on the throne. Carefully a plot was crafted against the emperor. 

The court chamberlain Eclectus, and the emperor's favourite concubine Marcia added their support to the undertaking. 

People who supported the plot were quietly placed into key positions. 

Septimius Severus and Clodius Albinus, African allies of Laetus, were given the governorships of Upper Pannonia and Britain. Pescennius Niger, another friend of Laetus, was put in charge of Syria and, as the future emperor, the conspirators agreed on Publius Hevlius Pertinax, the city prefect of Rome. 

The initial plan appeared to be that Marcia should poison Commodus on the evening of 31 December AD 192.

However, Commodus merely became nauseous and vomited, ridding himself unwittingly of the poison - so the plotters used their back-up plan - an athlete called Narcissus.

Narcissus, who was employed as Commodus' wrestling partner, overpowered and strangled Commodus in either his bed or his bath on the same night."

 

Thus ended the era of the 31 year old Emperor Commodus - but the legacy of greed he had established carried on to envelop his successor Pertinax (A.D. 126 - A.D.193) who, it is believed, was not even an active participant in the murder plot. 

Pertinax hesitated from accepting the position when it was first offered on January 1st. A.D. 193 but he relented under pressure from the Praetorians and other influential citizens and, tragically, events would prove him right to have been wary.

His necessarily strict reforms to try and get the shattered economy back on track made him immensely unpopular amongst certain corrupt sections of the Praetorian Guard and he was murdered by them after 86 days in office and his head was carried through the streets on a spear.

 

"The Praetorians then offered the imperial throne to the highest bidder.

Pertinax reign might have been a short one, but it set an enormously important precedent as he was the first 'Soldier Emperor' or 'Praetorian Emperor'. These emperors were raised to the throne by the provincial legions which they commanded and ruled only till ejected and killed by another soldier who seized the succession."

 

Between A.D. 193 - 194 a total of 4 competing emperors held the power in Rome and even when some stability was imposed by the elderly Septimius Severus from A.D.194 - 211 , the inevitable decline of the Roman Empire had commenced.

 

The reign of Commodus is numismatically remarkable in that, for all his own greed and the pilfering of Rome's wealth by his appointed cronies, he still managed to produce quite a reasonable range of bronze coinage in Sestertius, Dupondius and As, as well as debased silver Denarius and Quinarius and a few Gold issues during his own time.  

According to David R. Sear in his book 'Roman Coins and their values', during Commodus' term as Caesar, Emperor Marcus Aurelius had issued on his behalf, at least:- a gold aureus, 4 silver denarius, 3 bronze sestertius, a bronze dupondius and 2 bronze as

After his appointment as Augustus and while still co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius, the coins issued included, at least:- a gold aureus and a quinarius, a silver denarius, 4 bronze sestertius, 3 bronze dupondius and 2 bronze as. 

When he eventually became sole emperor, Commodus issued, on his own behalf, at least another gold aureus and a quinarius, about 20 different silver denarius as well as a silver quinarius, about 18 or so bronze sestertius, 4 bronze dupondius and 5 bronze as.  A few colonial and provincial pieces were also struck mainly in the small 19 - 21 mm. bronze sizes and a series of billon tetradrachm were produced for the Roman colony at Alexandra in Egypt.

At least 2 commemorative silver antoninianus to Commodus' memory were struck during the short two year reign of the Christian persecuting emperor, Trajan Decius (A.D. 201 - 251). The reason why these were struck is a mystery.      

 

Main References/Highly recommended sites:

Illustrated History of THE ROMAN EMPIRE.  http://www.roman-empire.net/index.html

'ROMAN COINS and their values' by David R. Sear - Seaby Publication - 4th. Edition 1988.

A Dictionary of the Roman Empire. by Matthew Bunson, New York: Oxford University Press 1994.

'Marcus Aurelius - A Biography' by Anthony R. Birley, 1966. Republished Routledge 2000.

Anthony Richard Birley: http://www.routledge.com/rcenters/classics/features/anthonybirley.html

The Roman World 44 BC-AD 180; Martin GOODMAN with Jane Sherwood. Routledge, 1997.

Routledge Books: http://www.routledge.com/default.html

Museum of London.: http://www.museum-london.org.uk/MOLsite/exhibits/coins/emps13.htm

MOVIEPROP.COM'S MOVIE REVIEW PAGES : http://www.movieprop.com/tvandmovie/reviews/gladiator.htm

 

 

READER'S MAILBAG

Readers' Mailbag is a section of our newsletter that will focus on readers' requests for contacts or information as well as any relevant and constructive comments about numismatics or the contents of articles in this newsletter. This section is provided as a service only and our usual disclaimers, regarding dealings between parties, will continue to apply.

 

STILL ON COINS!

ARGENTINA

Sergio Romero of Mendoza, Argentina is interested in swapping world coins. He has supplied a list of his doubles but - as it will be outdated by the time this newsletter is published - we ask that readers who are involved in swapping world coins contact him direct at: sromero@osm.com.ar

 

ITALY

Le monete da uno e due euro coniate in una fabbrica di ferro. Arrestate cinque persone tra cui una donna e un pregiudicato
Zecca clandestina scoperta nel torinese. 
Sequestrati migliaia di tondini, presse e matrici.

TORINO - Tondini pronti per il conio, presse, matrici per creare monete da uno e due euro, naturalmente false. Era tutto assemblato in una fabbrica per la lavorazione del ferro a Villadora, in Val di Susa, provincia di Torino. Una vera e propria zecca clandestina, la prima a livello europeo, scoperta dalla polizia del capoluogo torinese che questa mattina ha condotto a termine l'operazione "Euro conio". Nel capannone dove lavoravano i falsari sono state sequestrate oltre 200 mila monete false e tutte le attrezzature per produrle.

A Rough Translation:

One and Two Euro coins have been made in an iron-works. Five people, including a woman and a preguidicato (?), have been arrested. A clandestine mint is operating in Turin.  

Presses, matrices and many miles of 'rounds' were seized. 

TURIN - 'Rounds' had already been pressed and matrixes were available in order to create false One and two Euro coins that were to be assembled in a iron-works factory in Villadora, in the Susa valley, province of Turin. A very professional clandestine mint up to European standards level was discovered by Turin Police who ended the operation 'Euro Coin' . 

The shed that held all the counterfeiters production equipment also contained over 200,000 false coins ready to be completed.

Complete article (in Italian): http://www.repubblica.it/online/cronaca/eurofalsi/zecca/zecca.html

 

FRANCE

France is currently in an embarrassing situation of having too many Euro coins, particularly in the unpopular smaller denomination Eurocents. In fact it has something close to 10 billion coins to many!

The Government factory in Pessac, near Bordeaux, that is striking the French Euro coins has been ordered to slow down its minting of the eight different value pieces. They will need to bring down production to a minimum of 1.7 million pieces per day from the ten million coins per day that it had been striking until now.

It also appears that the French would prefer a paper note instead of the current One Euro coin. Like the U.S.A., with their Sacawegea and Susan B. Anthony Dollars, the French appear to have rejected the idea of a low value Euro coin.

However, the system doesn't just cater for the wishes of the French - no matter how much that they still want to be 'different'.

The Government must bear the brunt of the blame, as late last year they overestimated the demand and imported a large quantity of Spanish Euros. The Spanish coins currently make up about 20% of the circulating coinage in France.

With such a huge backlog of coins to be absorbed into the public, some of the private sector subcontracting companies who help produce the coins have been told to stop production immediately. 

Many of these organizations are now laying off workers, or are being faced with bankruptcy.

It has also been noted that the German Euros, in particular, are the most noticeable of all the mixed Euro coins now in the pockets of European citizens.

 

U.S.A.

This message from Mike Metras of the Elgin Coin Club of Illinois comes at the right time if any of our readers is thinking about a numismatically related gift for Christmas. Mike produced the two CD's, which have been previously reviewed in this newsletter and are highly commended, after receiving encouragement from fellow numismatists who knew he had a great story to tell.

With the holiday season coming, Mike would like to offer you some choices for yourself or as gifts for friends or relatives who are interested in coins or history. 

If you already have one or more of these, maybe you have a friend or relative who would enjoy one also. 

Ethiopia: Travels of a Youth, a lavishly illustrated memoir and travel narrative, takes you down the highways and byways of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia in the late 1960s.  Over 75,000 words and 440 pictures along with 11 videos and 11 sound tracks on a CD bring the past to life on your Internet browser.  To browse the full text of this book and view some of its pictures, visit: http://www.WorksAndWords.com/ethtrav.htm

Money Meanderings: An Introduction to Numismatics, an electronic book with over 180 pictures, includes more than 85 articles and an extensive bibliography on a wide variety of fascinating topics for the beginning and seasoned collector of U. S., foreign, and ancient coins. To browse the text and view the pictures of this CD, visit: http://www.WorksAndWords.com/moneym.htm

Axum: Coins and Places, a 23-minute VHS video, is an excellent source of general information not only for specialists into Axumite coins but also for historians and teachers wishing to expand their knowledge and the knowledge of their students concerning this hidden corner of African and Arabian history. Axum: Coins and Places takes you over paths merchants walked down 1500 years ago as they visited the ancient city Axum - and along the way it shows you the coins of the time. To learn more about this CD, visit: http://www.WorksAndWords.com/axum.htm

The website, Mike's Works and Words, includes information on how to purchase these books and the Video online or by regular mail.

 

JERRY'S BOOK REVIEWS.

T.N.S. Member # 112 Jerry Remick of Quebec, Canada has sent a brief review of the latest important catalogue presented for world paper money collectors. As an internationally known and respected numismatist and author, Jerry was the first Tasmanian Numismatic Society International Life Member - the honour granted in Sept. 2001. 

Jerry also happens to have been the most regular correspondent to this newsletter, and its predecessors, for over 34 years and was the recipient of the 'Tasmanian Numismatist's inaugural Editor's Award (1998) and several subsequent awards.

 

The 9th Edition of 'STANDARD CATALOG OF WORLD PAPER MONEY, SPECIALIZED ISSUES, VOLUME 1' edited by Neil Shafer and George S. Cuhaj was released in early October by the publisher Krause Publications. The 9th Edition is the first update of this catalogue in nearly five years and for that reason it should be a 'must have' for paper money collectors.

The 1224 page soft-covered (21 x 27.5 cm) book is arranged alphabetically according to the issuing country and this system is carried on when there have been more than one note issuing authority in a particular country. 

As usual the catalogue reference numbers are excellently organised and the 17,500 non-governmental banknotes that had been issued by over 370 authorities are amply illustrated by the 10,000 photographs that accompany the entries.

Since the last issue of this catalogue, the coverage of all Middle eastern, Scandinavian and British countries has been extensively revised. Many other countries including Korea, the Swiss cantons, the German states and Indonesia have had their listings expanded and some additional varieties included.

As expected, the multiple banking authorities and issuing organisations of China and the U.S. are well catered for, however, there is an Australasian section that provides what information is available to international readers.   

The notes, issued by commercial and local banks, early provincial or state governments and regional authorities - and some military administrations - over a period of 300 years sometimes fall outside the mainstream but are an historically important part of numismatics. Each group of entries is accompanied by a regional map, a geographical, historic and political profile wherever necessary to enable the collector to have an overview of the items shown.

This is a necessary companion volume to 'STANDARD CATALOG OF WORLD PAPER MONEY' Volumes 2 and 3 that covers the modern and general note issues.

 

The various Volumes and editions of the 'STANDARD CATALOG OF WORLD PAPER MONEY' and other important catalogues may be obtained through authorised major Australian coin dealers who bulk order, so check around and shop locally to save on freight/postage costs.

 

                                           

Vol. 1 (Specialised Issues)                  Vol. 2 (General Issues)      Vol. 3 (Modern Issues 1961 - 2002)

 

International inquiries about the many other Krause Publications can be directed to:

Krause Publications.

Book Dept. PR02;

P.O. Box 5005,

Iola, Wisconsin. 54945-5009

U.S.A.

Email: http://www.krause.com/

 


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TASMANIAN NUMISMATIST.

The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ newsletter is the only official newsletter of the ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society’ and it is published periodically and distributed by post, or hand delivered, directly to members of the Tasmanian Numismatic Society and selected associates and institutions.

The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ (Internet Edition) has been provided with space on this privately maintained Internet site and is currently presented on a monthly basis by the member-provider with the aim of promoting the hobby of numismatics.  All matters pertaining to the T.N.S. are re-published with the permission of the current Executive Committee of the  ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society and the Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) abides by the same basic guidelines suggested for the official 'Tasmanian Numismatist' newsletter.

Please note that all opinions expressed in material published in the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society or the Editor. 

Any literary contributions or relevant and constructive comments regarding numismatics are always welcome.

The Editor,

Tasmanian Numismatist (Internet Edition). 

P.O. Box 10,

Ravenswood. 7250. Tasmania.

Australia.

Internet Page: http://www.vision.net.au/~pwood/tns.html

Email: pwood@vision.net.au

 

DISCLAIMER: All details of a commercial nature, organisations, items or individual arrangement to buy, sell or trade are provided in good faith as information only, and any consequent dealings are between the parties concerned. 

The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ (Internet Edition) takes no responsibility for disagreements between parties, and also reserves the right to only feature information that it considers suitable in promoting the hobby to our readers Deadline for any literary contributions or amendment to copy is 7 Days prior to the beginning of the month of publication. The contents of this Internet newsletter, and all prior issues, are copyrighted ©, but anything herein can be fairly used to promote the great hobby of numismatics; however, we do like to be asked by commercial interests if they wish to use any of our copy. 

This permission, however, does not extend to any article specifically marked as copyrighted © by the author of the article. Explicit permission from the author or the Editor of the  ‘Tasmanian Numismatist ’(Internet Edition) is required prior to use of that material.  

 

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