The introduction of new coins or banknotes usually excites a lot of public and media interest but have you ever wondered about the first coin produced? While we know that various early people were bartering for things they prized at least 40,000 years ago, currency as a representation of inherent value is more difficult to pin down. We do know that some natural objects were used in this way, like mother of pearl shells in the Americas or cowry shells (pictured) in many parts of Africa and Southern Asia. In 1892, in Tanzania, an egg cost between 3 and 5 cowry shells while two balls of soap cost 100.
Yet the first named currency is the Mesopotamian shekel which dates from about 5,000 years ago. Yet we do not have any physical examples until the shekel was first minted in the seventh century BCE. As it stands, the earliest example we have is the Lydian Lion (on display in the British Museum right here in London). Made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, it is stamped on one side only and believed to have been worth about one month’s pay.
Not that you could ever have doubted it, but we will of course be OPEN as usual this Saturday. Those stamps, coins, military items, autographs, postcards, African ethnography, beer mats, football programs, memorabilia, antique toys, and all manner of everything else just will not collect themselves!
The urge to collect is one of our basic human instincts. Our brain is hardwired to recognise patterns, amassing a huge store of data against which we compare any novelty to see where, or if, it fits in.
Whether it’s coins, stamps, military patches, autographs, football programmes, African ethnography or any one of countless other collectibles, for whatever reason a certain subset of precious things will appeal to us and we have to have one. Before long, it’s two and twenty years later the guest bedroom gives up any claim to be anything other than a shrine to rare vinyl records from the sixties.
NFTs are all very well but no-one has ever, or will ever, be able to touch one with their hand. Thanks all the same but I’ll stick with my WWII Airfix models.
Putin obviously believed he’d conquer the whole of Ukraine in a matter of a few weeks. It turns out that the Ukrainians, like their stamps, take some licking.
The inspiring stories of their resistance to Russian aggression has been celebrated in two fine stamps seen here. The first celebrated the cheeky response of the tiny garrison on Snake Island when asked to surrender by two Russian warships. The soldiers were captured but have since been returned and hailed as heroes.
Titled ‘Good evening, we’re from Ukraine”, the latest stamp records a quite incredibly common scene played out on the nightly news: a Ukrainian tractor towing away an abandoned (or even stolen!) Russian tank.
Both designs were the result of open competitions and are available to foreign collectors through their website.