Spotlight on Royalty
Volume 52, Number 10, October 2015
Going mainstream AS we head into the autumn and the start of the numismatic “season” the subject of “money” is somewhat in vogue at the moment. Don’t believe me? Well, just have a look at some of the stories that have made headlines over the summer. Early on there was the furore over the Bitcoin and the debate over virtual currency versus hard currency. Then came the debacle with Greece and her future in the Euro, indeed the future of the currency itself and the possibility of new drachma coins and notes being issued. Following that was the announcement by ISIS (or Islamic State or whatever!) saying that they wished to strike their own gold, silver and bronze coinage but were eschewing notes as being the work of Satan. Shortly after ISIS announced their currency so did Exeter (no connection I am sure), with the launch of the Exeter pound—a “local” currency for the West Country city harkening back to the provincial banknote days and the latest in a long line of local money, particularly down here in the West (Totnes and Bristol pounds have been around for some time). Then the milestone of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth becoming the longest-ever reigning UK monarch was celebrated in metal and that too has made the papers/websites. We had the story that the Bank of England was searching for the public’s opinion on who should grace the new £20 note (due in 2018) and that it, like the new £5 and £10 notes, would be polymer not paper. There has also been the usual rash of stories regarding hoards, rare coins in attics and other finds, usually concentrating on the price/value of them, but still a story nonetheless. Coins and notes it seems are newsworthy and yet at the same time, on the other side of the (ahem) coin, we’ve had the stories about smartphone payment apps and the increase in the contactless card payment limit followed by the usual round of comment stating that cash was a thing of the past. This apparent paradox has always fascinated me. On the one hand the media is insistent that we will soon live in a world where there is no such thing as a cash transaction and that notes and coins will be consigned to history as technology takes over and yet on the other hand we have story after story saying how important cash is, how relevant it is and how everyone still seems to like it. Now admittedly many of the news pieces that are ostensibly about hard currency are actually about larger issues. The ISIS story is really about the rise of the Islamic state into an organised entity (one of the key things about a sovereign state, or in this case caliphate, is production of its own money). The Drachma/Euro story is about the future of the EU experiment itself, and the papers always like a good Royal story so the “Longest-reigning Monarch” coins were bound to attract attention. The local banknote pieces are about local economics and the £20 note story was used by many to bring up the racism/sexism in the establishment debate once again. However, that all notwithstanding, the fact remains that just about every week somewhere in the newspapers or on the web coins and notes make news. Whilst that news may not directly have an impact on our hobby, it won’t necessarily bring new numismatists into the fold or have a dramatic effect on our own collecting habits, but it does mean that slowly but surely our strange little pastime, something considered by many to be the realm of “insert your own noun here” (and as one of them who has heard every phrase possible I say that lovingly I assure you), is being brought into the public consciousness as being something rather important. It may not be “sexy” yet, but it is certainly becoming more mainstream and I for one am rather pleased about that. I await future stories with interest!
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