‘Coins can inspire people to look into the past’on February 22, 2021 at 12:19 am

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BBC News website readers share their old coin collections and the stories behind them.

Piotr Smolenski's coin collection

image copyrightPiotr Smolenski

Old coins are dug up in gardens, bought in auctions, and passed down the generations.

Following our piece on recent coins of interest to collectors and enthusiasts, BBC News asked our readers to share some of their collections with us.

Collectors young and old, experienced and amateur, got in touch. It seems that some coin collections are worth much more than just their financial value to their owners.

I suppose you could say that I started coin collecting before I could walk, as I was lucky to inherit my late uncle’s collection. There are hundreds of coins, which I have yet to finish cataloguing.

Renata Rybczyk-Savage

image copyrightRenata Rybczyk-Savage

Within the collection there are coins from all over the world, and from different periods in history. Some examples would be kopeks and roubles from Russia from the early 20th Century (before the revolution), various coins from the 1940s, coins from East Africa, and British coins from the Victorian era to our present queen.

One of my particular favourites is a Polish 20 zloty coin from 1978 (incidentally my year of birth), commemorating the first and only Polish cosmonaut Miroslaw Hermaszewski. This is something that I never knew about until I started going through the collection, so I think that coins are a great way of educating and inspiring people to look into the past.

Renata's Polish 20 zloty coin featuring Polish cosmonaut Miroslaw Hermaszewski

image copyrightRenata Rybczyk-Savage

Expanding the collection would be something that I’d like to do, and I’d really love to add medieval coins.

My grandparents were “Eastenders” made good, who had a passion for curious objects, which my grandfather would pick up cheaply on his travels around London as a representative for Mann, Crossman and Paulin brewery. Perhaps this is how they got this coin (a 1696 William III coin), or maybe it’s been in my family since that year! I know they thought enough of it to take it to Australia when they emigrated in the late 1950s.

Moya O'Shea

image copyrightMoya O’Shea

I was always fascinated by its age and grand portrait of William III, who, if I’m honest, I thought was a woman when I was a kid – it’s the wig! A few years ago my mother gave me the coin knowing how much I loved it. It’s now back in the country of its minting, and is the oldest thing I own and will probably ever own.

Michael says: Santa bought me a “Change Checker” coin folder for Christmas 2018. I’ve been looking for coins ever since.

Michael and some of his coins

image copyrightMichael and Sarah

Before Covid, we used to go to the Post Office every Friday on the way home from school, and get a bag of 50ps or £2s to hunt through. I have swapped with people as well.

There’s a shop in our local market where you can buy 1kg of old foreign coins for £10. I’m trying to get at least one coin from every country in the world.

The oldest coin I’ve got is a French Double Tournois from the 1600s, Louis XIII. It’s really worn out so it’s not worth anything, but I like it. My oldest English coin is a George III penny from 1806. My gran’s cousin sent that for me.

My other favourite is a bit rude! It’s a one dollar coin from the Cook Islands. (You’ll have to look it up yourself.)

My grandparents found coins whilst digging in their garden in the late 1960s. They were living in Newington at the time, which is a small village in Kent.

Jenny Hill's coins

image copyrightJenny Hill

I can remember them giving me the coins in the early 70s. At the time they were excited that they had uncovered the “treasure”, and as such I have kept the coins because it reminds me of them and my childhood days with my grandparents.

I do have a collection of pre-decimal coins from childhood, but over the last five years or so I started to collect 50p coins. There are so many different designs it just fascinates me. When you look at a coin that went into circulation in 1891 you wonder what journey that coin has been on, who has held the coin and what they purchased with it.

I started collecting coins when I worked in Epsom and kept receiving unusual £1 coins in my change from my work’s tuck shop. Unbeknown to me there was a forger in the area and it seems most of the coins were circulating from there! Plus, at the time there was the possibility of us adopting the euro as currency so I wanted to have an assortment of our lovely coins.

I don’t know how many coins I have, approximately 100, nearly all £1, £2 and 50p pieces. Here is a picture of my collection stored in its highly jumbled way.

Piotr Smolenski's coin collection

image copyrightPiotr Smolenski

My two favourites are my mobile phone £1 Isle of Man coin, which started me off collecting, and my 1931 Florin as that’s the year my dad was born.

The only real coins I’d like to add are the Olympic 50p Offside Rule and of course the 2009 Kew Gardens Pagoda 50p – fat chance there!

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