21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 11


Coins and How to Know Them. By Gertrude Burford Rawlings. (Methuen and Co. 6s.)—" This book," to quote a sentence from the preface, "offers concise epitomes of the coinages of ancient- Greece and Rome, of the British Islands and their dependencies, and of the United States." A chapter is added about mediaeval' coins of European nations. The history of coins proper does not begin at a very early time, the seventh or eighth century B.C. being the starting-point, though the pieces of silver found in the Cretan explorations, round pieces of metal with a symbol on them and of a uniform weight, are curiously like coins. (These are probably of the twelfth century B.C.) The gold and silver mentioned in the Old Testament were in the form of bullion. The Jews, indeed, had no coinage of their own till the time of the Maccabees, though it seems that there were local mints for producing coins of the superior power at an earlier date. The earliest systematic coinage was in Asia Minor. After this we have Greece, the earliest specimen of Greece proper being a seventh-century stater of Aegina. Both Sicily and Graecia Magna furnish us with some early specimens. Roman coins of the Republic begin with the fourth century. They are largely connected with private families. The coinage of the Empire begins with 27 B.C. A. very large bulk of it survives, though some specimens are rare in the highest degree,—an "Otho," for instance, would be almost: priceless. We then come to British coins. The earliest of these were imitations of the "Philippus." They may be dated at the beginning of the second century B.C. They ceased to be produced when. the ,Roraaws became masters of the island, or at least of that part of it-which was sufficiently advanced in civilisation to, have a coinage. Finally; we have "The Coins of England," occupying, together with the issues that have appeared in the , Colonies, and with those of the United States, about half the volume. Messrs. Spink have added a highly useful "Table of Value," which, we imagine, will have a somewhat disenchant- ing effect on some possessors of coins. The most costly of Greek gold coins mentioned is a drachma of Agathocles (tyrant of Syracuse, 317-228 B.C.),—this is priced at 45. A Rhodian tetradrachm stands at 42. The Maccabean silver coins are costly (from 45 downwards). But those of their Asmonaoan successors may be obtained for a shilling, and a copper coin of Herod the Great may be bought for 2s. fkl., and one of Pontius Pilate is but sixpence dearer. A gold coin of Galba fetches 48, and so does one of Hadrian; of Trajan 46, of Titus 45 55., and of Antoninus Pius and M. Aurelius 45. The fortunate owner of some kinds of British pennies may get as much as 450 for them. In later times we see that a half-guinea is pro- portionately more valuable than a guinea, and copper more precious than gold. A five-guinea piece of Charles II. fetches 45 5s. only, but a tin farthing 4s. fid. As a rule all gold and silver coins of the last three centuries stand at very little more than their face value.