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The History of Money


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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York became the first stop on my itinerary last Friday in New York. The subway quickly took me to downtown and in a few moments the bank building came into view. After a quick security check through an X-ray machine the ANS sponsored exhibit “Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars: The History of Money” lay before me. Opting to follow the chronological outline I was quickly wowed by the quality of some of the coins on display. An Orescii tribe nymph tetradrachmon with exquisite detail quickly burned itself into my memory. Another piece that struck me was the gold daric of pharaoh Nectanebo II. Not only was the coin quite pleasing but I had been unaware that the Egyptians had minted coins prior to the Persian and Macedonian conquests. The early Roman coins also showcased several examples of outstanding quality including Etruscan gold, a very detailed Aes Grave cast, and the infamous Eid Mar denarius. The early part of the exhibit made me think about the relationship between coins and trade as well as trade and growth. A very well done section, my only complaint was the omission of a nice Sasanian section.

The more modern sections were also nicely done though from the Renaissance onward I am at the moment less interested in the developments. I did enjoy the Islamic display. Especially interesting were the Islamic coins with figural representations from both the Artuqid and Seljuk Turks as well a Mugal coin. The quality of the Fatamid dinar deserves special mention.

Some of the latter exhibits managed to penetrate my veil of ignorance slightly. I learned more about Norman Sicily, Bractetates, and the Bohemian silver mines that would create the Thaler. The set of scales by Guilliam de Neve fascinated me as well. The educational video went through modern die making. The most astounding fact from that presentation was that it takes three days to create a die from the model.

The last display contains the big money items. The only legal 1933 Double Eagle, and 1804 Silver Dollar novodel, and a Brasher doubloon. Coins that are rare just because of the date really don’t do much to excite me. The doubloon was cool, but the best coin in that case was an Ultra High relief Saint Gaudens. Wow!

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I went to an exhibition like that in London, with coins right through the ages. I'd be lying if i didn't say i was a little disappointed by what was on offer. I don't even think a 1933 penny was on show! Grr.


Although there was some nice hammered stuff, including an Henry III gold penny! Yay!

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