Five wonderful wonders of the world (Series #2)

Reading time: 10'58"

 

A few months ago, we introduced a first series of five remarkable collectible items right here.

Every collector has their own preferences, topics to which they are partial, their favorite collectible items.

The pièce de résistance which will complete the masterpiece.

And numismatists are no exception to this rule.

So, here we are again, embarking together on a new expedition around the world that will reveal five collectible items which are undoubtedly worthy of the greatest interest, undoubtedly original, surely rare, or even sometimes surprising...even amusing perhaps.

Because a collectible item does not exist only for itself but also for the context that accompanies it: its origin, its composition, the characters, the objects – everything that enriches its history...

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

Here are five new wonders of the world to discover without stopping to dream and – who knows – perchance to add to your still incomplete ) collection in the near future.

 

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

Shine bright like a diamond

Power and independence

10 zloty silver trial coin (Poland)

  • Category: Trial coin
  • Issuing country: Poland
  • €9,000

 

First Marshal Józef Klemens Piłsudski was one of the most important figures of 20th century Polish history. Tenaciously, he fought tirelessly for the independence of his country, which hadn’t really been one anymore since the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Finally, he achieved his goal..

Poland declared its independence on November 11, 1918, as soon as World War I came to an end.

Józef Piłsudski was elected Chief of State of the Second Polish Republic from 1918 to 1922. He was a minister in the 20s, then Minister of Military Affairs from 1926 to 1935 under a semi-authoritarian regime that he helped to establish with a coup d’état.

Although perhaps going against his character, he, under the impulse of the Polish Socialist Party, was key in implementing for the eight-hour workday, free education, and women’s right to vote. He was also fiercely opposed to the anti-Semitic policies of some of his close neighbors.

This quote, taken from the Golden Book of the Élysée Palace and left in 1921, sums up the character and all his ambivalence quite well:

« Power without freedom and justice is merely violence and tyranny; freedom and justice without power are but empty words and childishness. »

The end of his political career was also marked by relatively violent repression and notably the imprisonment of political opponents. However, the marshal had tasted the bitter cold of Siberian jails in his youth.

This period of Polish history also saw the grand return of the zloty.

Effectively, this currency of very medieval origins hadn’t been in circulation anymore since 1850. The ruble had been used first, followed by the marka. However, at the end of the war, the situation became complicated as hyperinflation took hold. The zloty was thus finally reintroduced as part of the 1924 financial reforms.

It is for that reason that this magnificent silver trial coin from 1934, featuring the image of Józef Piłsudski as immortalized by Stanisław Kazimierz Ostrowski, is in zloty. This extremely rare strike on a diamond planchet has the bust of the marshal on the obverse and a magnificently engraved eagle with spread wings on the reverse.

Józef Piłsudski died the following year, in 1935, of liver cancer.

Only 300 examples of this splendid trial coin were ever struck, and it is valued at €9,000.

Coin Poland

10 Zlotych, 1934, Warsaw, Extremely rare, MS(63), Silver, KM:Pn349

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

Das Große Fass

Bacchus and the Germans

½ ducat gold medal

  • Category: Medal
  • Issuing country: Germany
  • €2,800

 

Everyone knows the German passion for beer in Bavaria, but perhaps the love of wine in the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg is not quite as famous...

Have you heard of the Heidelberg Tuns?

The wooden barrels’ main function starting in the 16th century was to hold the wine collected through taxes, which is, incidentally, why they can be found in the cellars of castles from that period.

Whilst das Große Fass (literally “the big barrel”) of Heidelberg is reputed to be the largest in the world (the fourth and final version held a whole 221,726 liters of wine!), it would seem that the neighboring Ludwigsburg Palace had one with an even greater capacity of 5,430 hectoliters.

It goes without saying that these immense casks were ultimately not refilled very regularly. The first tun in Heidelberg was crafted in 1591 and repurposed for firewood during the Thirty Years’ War. The second dated from 1664 and was even larger still. Some alterations were made later, and a complete reconstruction was carried out in 1751. On this occasion, a dance floor was added to the top, marking the festive turning point in its history and the starting point of a long-established reputation that now attracts tourists from all over the world.

As early as the beginning of the 19th century, the Heidelberg Tun was visited by an illustrious tourist by the name of Victor Hugo, who recounted the experience with his dynamic and precise quill in En voyage (Volume 1):

« The Great Tun in the manor house at Heidelberg is Rabelais at home to Homer. The Heidelberg Tun, lying on its belly in the vast cellar that houses it, has the appearance of a ship under the hold. It is twenty-four feet across and thirty-three feet in length. It bears on its front side a rococo escutcheon engraved with the cipher of Elector Charles Theodore. Two two-story staircases snake around it, leading up to a platform positioned upon its back. It contains two hundred thirty casks, each of which contains twelve hundred double bottles, from which it follows that the Heidelberg Tun has a capacity of five hundred sixty-six thousand four hundred standard bottles. It was filled through a hole drilled in the vault above the bung and emptied with a pump that is still there hanging on the wall. This monster vessel was filled three times with Rhine wine. The first time it was filled, the elector danced on the platform atop it with his court. It has been empty since 1770.” (Translated from the original French) »

This rare ½ ducat gold medal of the period immortalizes the extraordinary and imposing monster tun of Heidelberg. In addition, the engraving shows the wood carvings representing the apotheosis of Bacchus, which have since been lost.

This original, Bacchic, and rare gold medal dating from the 18th century has been valued at €2,800.

Germany Module du 1/2 Ducat

Heidelberg Fass, 1716-1727, Rare, AU(55-58), Gold

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

EURO AND MONNAIE DE PARIS

Accio euro!

Silver “Harry Potter” €10 euros

  • Category: Collectible euros
  • Issuing country: France
  • €190 and 109

 

Our now traditional Europhile interlude is by no means ancient. Rather more of a fledgling in fact. But nobody said that our series could only include ancient and antique rarities. It is aimed at all curious people, and it may be that among them – among you – there are Harry Potter fans.

Here are two collectible coins created this year by the Monnaie de Paris. The first, featuring the lovely Hedwig and the letter everyone hopes to receive, is made of silver and one of 5,000 copies minted.

France 10 Euro

HARRY POTTER - HEDWIGE, 2021, MS(65-70), Silver

The second, also in silver, features the effigy of the now famous wizard with Dumbledore in the background and is also one of 5,000 copies minted. The reverse bears the Hogwarts coat of arms with the school motto on the banner below: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus (Never tickle a sleeping dragon).

France 10 Euro

HARRY POTTER, 2021, MS(65-70), Silver

Please note that, even though NumisCorner is an official dealer of the Monnaie de Paris, and it is possible that our experts organize secret quidditch tournaments in our stores (don’t tell Prof. McGonagall!), the items are still delivered by a mailman and not intrepid owl couriers.

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

IN FULL SETTLEMENT

Capitulation is odious

18 stuivers banknote from Zeeland

  • Category: Banknote
  • Issuing country: Netherlands
  • €5,500

The year was 1795 and France was in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars.

In January, General Claude Ignace François Michaud marched into the Netherlands and occupied the southwest province of Zeeland.

His advance was notably facilitated by the current situation: the Batavian Revolution was unfurling at the same time. The province’s surrender was negotiated with Cornelis Gerrit Bijleveld.

In March, 1,100,000 livres were issued in bills of 5 sols, 10 sols, 1 livre and 2 livres to pay the wages of the French soldiers on Zeeland soil. The obverse shows the face value in French livres and the equivalent in Dutch stuivers. Only 100,000 copies of this 2 livre (or 18 stuivers) banknote were issued.

However, Zeeland merchants were reluctant to accept them as a means of payment. A few months later, in August, the banknotes were withdrawn from circulation and almost all of them were burned – thus making them extremely rare.

It should also be noted that this was the same year that the decimal franc was introduced in France and thus heralded the end of the French livre.

This extremely rare specimen, a fragile paper witness of the French Revolutionary Wars, has been valued at €5,500.

Netherlands 18 Stuiver

1795, KM #B98, 1795-03-23, AU(50-53), Lafaurie #259

Five wonderful wonders of the world  (Series #2)

Lazy Ptolemy

Grandeur and decadence

Gold Egyptian octadrachm

  • Category: Ancient coin
  • Issuing country: Egypt (Ptolemaic dynasty)
  • €58,500

 

Πτολεμαῖος Φιλοπάτωρ, Ptolemaĩos Philopátōr (who loves his father), also known as Ptolemy IV, is often considered the pharaoh who launched the decadence of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

The dynasty was born out of the division of Alexander the Great’s empire, with Egypt having been granted to one of his generals, Ptolemy. Let’s not get things confused though, whilst the Ptolemaic rulers reclaimed the title of pharaoh and are numbered as such, they were in fact kings of Macedonian Greek origin.

Now let’s get back to our number IV, who reigned from 222 to 204 BC. He was described by the ancient historian Polybius* as an influential, inveterate party animal, a notorious hedonist, and scarcely interested in the affairs of his kingdom, and the scandalous adviser Sosibios is also implicitly involved in his story.

Effectively, immediately after the death of Ptolemy III, the advisor secured the future of the king-to-be by swiftly having his mother, Berenice II, his uncle, and his half-brother assassinated. All cleaned up! However, such measures were nothing new for the dynasty and history would also repeat itself later.

Polybius wrote of the king:

« Immediately after his father’s death, Ptolemy Philopator put his brother Magas and his partisans to death, and took possession of the throne of Egypt. He thought that he had now freed himself by this act from domestic danger (...) fortune had released him from danger abroad. He therefore felt secure of his position and began conducting his reign as though it were a perpetual festival. He would attend to no business, and would hardly grant an interview to the officials about the court, or at the head of the administrative departments in Egypt. (...) But when Philopator, absorbed in unworthy intrigues, and senseless and continuous drunkenness, treated these several branches of government with equal indifference, it was naturally not long before more than one was found to lay plots against his life as well as his power (...). »

Unfortunately for Ptolemy IV, the geopolitical circumstances of the age were not favorable to the peaceful and lazy reign which would have agreed well to him. That includes within Egypt itself with several successive uprisings and the secession of Upper Egypt

From a monetary perspective, the war against the Seleucids, where the pharaoh left victorious following the battle of Raphia, triggered inflation in the country. Bronze was devalued in order to counter it. A stater was then worth not 4 and a bit drachmas but 16 bronze drachmas, so money was hoarded and its circulation became scarce as a consequence.

This splendid gold octadrachm was minted in the mythical city of Alexandria and immortalizes the sovereign, trident at his shoulder and sporting a diadem. It is estimated that the coin was minted between 221 and 205 BC.

This magnificent ancient treasure weighing just over 27 grams has been valued at €58,500.

Coin Egypt

Ptolemy IV, Octodrachm, 221-205 BC, Alexandria, graded, NGC, Ch AU

Thus concludes this second collection of numismatic wonders.

Perhaps it will have inspired you, and for sure, we hope, it will have taken you on a journey.

*It should be noted, as for all historians of antiquity, that evaluations and descriptions evolve over time and that the opinions of historians may differ on this subject.


Translation: Michael Wright


ICONOGRAPHY

  • "Through Sea and Air" by Charles Napier Hemy (1910)
  • "The Muses Leaving their Father Apollo to Go Out and Light the World" by Gustave Moreau (1868)
  • "Reprodukcja obrazu Jerzego Hulewicza", drawing Based on a photograph, signed by Mulewicz (1935)
  • "Das grosse Heidelberger Fass. 212 422 Ltr. fassend", private collection of postcards
  • Engraving imagining the Pharos of Alexandria (Egypt), by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1721)
  • "Il Barbagianni" by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1863)
  • "A Zeeland Ship and Other Dutch Vessels off Flushing" by Jan Baptist Bonnecroy (17th century)

SOURCES

Selection published on 24/09/2021