Join in the fun
Volume 37, Number 9, September 2000
THE past year has been an eventful one for everyone and numismatists in particular as virtually every country, company, organisation and club has "jumped on the bandwagon" to celebrate the Millennium. There are literally dozens of coins, scores of medals and even an amazing number of banknotes specially struck, overstruck, overprinted or customised in some way to give them a Millennium twist. The collector who decided from the outset to collect the complete range must, by now be questioning-the wisdom of such a rash move. Thankfully most of the numismatic items have been in the best possible taste and there have been many collectors items besides coins - well worth keeping and even one or two suitable for the investment portfolio. But, oh dear, haven't there been a vast quantity of horrors? Some of the less endearing have had difficulty in claiming their Millennium souvenir status whilst others have been so blatantly crude that they don't deserve a second look let alone a place in any collection. And of course there are many more still to come as the marketing bandwagon realise and admit the awful truth - that the real Millennium starts on January 1st next year. It will be most interesting to witness just what the souvenir market will do to milk the "collector". The latest, and in our opinion probably the most endearing theme to have graced currency for some time is that commemorating the 100th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. This most gracious lady has enriched all our lives in one way or another at some time during her incredibly long life and it is not really surprising that she is responsible for a numismatic legacy surpassing in kind anything ever done before. The mints have put on their thinking caps and have come up with some truly amazing products that, although maybe not to everyone's tastes, can only be applauded for their ingenuity and expertise. For the first time ever the Royal Mint have produced the now well-known £5 Centenary crown in a proof piedfort version - surely a work of art in its own right? They have also helped create the "Commonwealth Collection" - a set of crowns from almost every country of the Commonwealth, each celebrating the birthday of this remarkable lady. The innovative Pobjoy Mint have actually inserted a real pearl in one of their Centenary coins from the Isle of Man! From Zambia we have seen oval-shaped coins with colour portraits of Her Majesty, and who knows what is still to come? It can be great fun collecting a theme and some themes, such as the latest Battle of Britain anniversary with its wonderful series of coins portraying the famous Spitfire are simply too good to miss. Just as we thought that it was all over along came the Olympics and, guess what? Even countries that don't have representatives at the Games are taking full advantage of the occasion and issuing coins and medals for the collector and the bank manager can sometimes get a little agitated at the amount it can cost. In many cases very few, if any, of the issues ever find their way to the country whose name they bear. This raises the evergreen question - what does "legal tender' really mean? We had always understood the term to mean that the coin in question could be exchanged at any shop in the country of origin for goods to the value thereof. But it seems we are mistaken. Legal tender simply means that the coin or note is negotiable for the amount stated thereon and in many cases only the national bank of the issuing country will be prepared to exchange for circulating currency at, and sometimes even below, face value. But who wants to cash in their collection anyway? John Mussell .
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