Coin News

Volume 53, Number 10, October 2016

Woman of Note

Volume 53, Number 10, October 2016

Symbolic of something One of the big stories in the numismatic world at the end of the Summer Silly Season was the decision by an on-line auction house to ban the listing of a coin on its German site because it was deemed “hateful or discriminatory”. The reason? Said coin clearly depicted a swastika. Now, of course the Germans are more than a little sensitive about that particular symbol but it was a Munich based auctioneer, Numismatik Lanz, that listed it and they surely must know the rules regarding the glorification or trivialisation of National Socialism (Nazism to you and me) and are hardly likely to have flouted such rules on purpose. So what possessed them to put such a thing up on-line for the world to see? The answer is simple; the vendors realised, as indeed any sensible person with half a brain would, that the coin, having been minted in the city of Apolinia Pontica no later than the 5th century AD, probably had nothing to do with Hitler and his vile henchmen but was instead depicting the swastika as a religious symbol, one sacred to Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions for over 2,000 years as a “lucky or auspicious object”. Now, of course, the symbol has a different meaning and nobody in their right mind would strike a coin with it on today, but this coin isn’t from the 20th or 21st centuries, it isn’t from an era where the swastika symbolised death camps and burning books—it is from an era where the Roman Empire was crumbling, runes were first introduced into Anglo-Saxon England and metal horseshoes were becoming popular! Those behind the minting of such a coin can hardly be held accountable for the SS, the Gestapo, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. What the on-line auctioneers did was nonsensical and whilst they did, apparently, acknowledge that they knew the swastika could represent something other than Nazism, they claimed that the legal frame-work in Germany meant that they had no choice but to remove the listing. Now I’m no expert on German law and am prepared to be corrected but I’m pretty sure a 5th century coin shouldn’t be regarded as something glorifying Nazism and I fear the auctioneers were a little bit too eager to apply their interpretation of the law. This will be put to the test later in October when Gorny & Mosch, another Munich based auction house, offer their lot 111, an extremely fine “ORRESCII” (Macedonia) stater from around 500 BC, estimated at 22,000 euros and clearly depicting a swastika! Again I wouldn’t like to put myself forward as a German law expert but I would be surprised if I found Gorny & Mosch raided by the police with a demand to withdraw lot 111, I suspect the German authorities have better things to do. What I imagine has happened in this case is that the on-line auctioneers have fallen foul of that most insidious of modern diseases, Political Correctness and, having had one or two complaints by the offended social justice warriors who stalk the internet these days, they have immediately caved in and removed the listing for fear of risking the wrath of the twits on Twitter or the faceless on Facebook. Sadly such things are becoming far too common these days with it being almost impossible not to offend or upset people no matter what you do. That’s actually OK—the ignorant who can’t tell an early religious symbol from a Nazi flag or who can’t work out that something minted 1,500 years before Hitler’s birth probably didn’t have much to do with him can be offended all they like, they can sit there and stew in their own righteous indignation until the cows come home, I really don’t mind, or indeed care overmuch—but for heaven’s sake don’t let them loose in our hobby. It might seem to not matter too much if they get a coin banned from an on-line auction or not but if they are allowed their way on this then where will it end? Obviously swastikas are out, but it won’t be long before the coins of the East India Company are banned too, after all they were involved in the slave trade and colonisation. In fact if the East India Company coins go then surely any coins minted for use in a colonised, subjugated country must be banned too as will be your Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Ottawa, Pretoria and Bombay sovereigns; particularly the latter, don’t you know it’s Mumbai now you Imperialist monster? I joke of course, but many a true word is said in jest —already in the medal world we are having revision after revision with the tales of glory and Empire being eroded by the “right on”, with the men we thought of as heroes being condemned as brutes and murderers and the enemies they fought in order to win their medals being feted as poor misunderstood peace loving peoples with ne’er a warlike bone in their bodies.We aren’t quite at that point with coins yet, thankfully most people understand the difference between a 5th century symbol and one used in the 1930s and ‘40s and most people understand that history is what it is and that you can’t rewrite it but the plague of the PC brigade is spreading (most recently with students trying to topple statues of Rhodes and other colonialists, many of whom helped found the very colleges that allow them to protest, whilst at the same time condemning ISIS and the Taliban for destroying historical statues in Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria—anyone else see the irony?) and it won’t be long before it will be at our door again. I hope, and believe, that we numismatists are intelligent enough to resist such foolishness. Let’s hope I’m right —if I’m not, well you read it here first.

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