Irregular Postings on Coin Collecting & Numismatics - Both Canonical & Conanical

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Category Archives: United Kingdom

A Conversation Pertaining to Aspects Concerning Counterfeiting of Coins in Victorian England.

A Conversation Pertaining to Aspects Concerning Counterfeiting of Coins in Victorian England.

“… the counterfeiter stands in a class by himself as a public danger.”

– The Adventure of the Three Garridebs (3GAR)

Writers are known, if not lauded, for their imaginations. Doyle’s imagination was in full form during his creation of The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb. The house / rooms / press descriptions were nothing short of an Esher sketch. The concept of an entire house created to stamp coinage while disguising the activity is inspired, yet, impractical in the extreme.

The objective in counterfeiting is to make money in the endeavor, not to go bankrupt in its exception. High end counterfeiting of coin in the 19th century involved fabricating a metal stamp rendering the likeness of the coin from which metal pressings are made. Two passes, front and back, stamp out the product – imperfections and all. The economics of the operation necessitate spending no more time and material on the creation of the stamps than necessary (the stamps will require constant replacement). Once a “product” acquires a level of “name-recognition within a community (i.e. vendors can spot the imperfections) one must move on. Even “perfect” coins would not possess the same “feel” (texture, look or weight) since duplication of the exact metal composition would simply cost more than could be acquired from any transaction.

Almost all counterfeiting of the time involved crude fabrication using casts made from impression or molds. The operation was much the practice of “slight of had” as craftsmanship. A good coin would be palmed and replaced by its dubious sibling in a transaction. Those less skilled in the art would focus their attention on those “worse for drink” for the passing of a false coin. Gold or silver plating “coppers” was another common practice. Just keep your “customers” attention away from any attempt at inspecting the product.

Currently it is known that approximately 1% of all UK pound coins in circulation are forgeries. To put a rough estimate on it, this means that there are 16,000,000 of them out there just waiting for you!!!

High end operations, as described by Doyle, were never really attempted for coinage. Too much cost for too little benefit. A few hundred “high-end” coins could be produced before the market became saturated. Those operations would fit comfortably in a cellar, and were mobile, permitting one to move on in a timely manner.

The “top-tier” coin counterfeiters of the time specialized in “collectibles.” Greek and Roman coins were in vogue. What proper Victorian house would not like the prestige of a fine collection of coinage from the time of Alexander, Augustus, Cleopatra and Homer? The metallurgy could not be duplicated and the sculptural imagery be rendered exact. The best found their way into museums where they reside even today. A single coin could fetch a year’s wages with no real risk to the enterprise.

The best-of-the-best were these “specialty” counterfeiters these patrons were the rich-and-famous of the day. Some experts place these Victorian counterfeits as compromising up to one-third of national collection holdings. It says a lot that even today “no one knows for sure.”

Dr. David Bensley has been a member of “The Occupant of the Empty House” since 1986. He and his wife Janet are responsible for so many creative projects and articles for the scion.

Originally published in the November 2016 issue of The Camden House Journal (Volume 38, Number 11), a publication of The Occupants of the Empty House in southern Illinois.

A tip of the hat to the 13th Garrideb, Peter E. Blau, for making us aware of this article. Thanks to William Cochran, editor of the CHJ, and to Dr. Bensley for their permission to reprint the article here.

 

Meet the Garridebs: William Pavey Meskan

Meet the Garridebs: William Pavey Meskan

“A little later the chief constable sent for me.” – The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez (GOLD) It’s been just over a year since we last published one of our “Meet the Garridebs” features. Let’s take this opportunity to meet the 12th Garrideb, William Pavey Meskan, aka Beau. One of our founding charter members (Syracusean,… Continue Reading

Book Review: The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin

Book Review: The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin

“… I have had considerable experience of my work during the seven years that I was apprenticed …” -The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb (ENGR) In 2011, noted Denver-based Sherlockian Darlene A. Cypser self-published The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin. In the story, Sherlock Holmes is attacked in an alley and is rescued by a young boy.… Continue Reading

Visa’s 2012 London Olympic Games Sherlock Holmes Pin

Visa’s 2012 London Olympic Games Sherlock Holmes Pin

“The hand which fastened that pin…” – A Study in Scarlet (STUD) Your editor is also a collector of Sherlockian lapel pins and recently came across the above pictured lapel pin. The Summer and Winter Olympic Games are a boon to pin collectors, with hundreds of pins being issued to commemorate the Games by various… Continue Reading

The Adventure of the Fur-Trimmed Hat

The Adventure of the Fur-Trimmed Hat

” … the compliments of the season.”  – The Adventure of The Blue Carbuncle (BLUE) I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Eve, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a chartreuse dressing-gown, the day’s newspapers well-studied and his black briar emitting… Continue Reading

A Check on Lady Frances (1955)

A Check on Lady Frances (1955)

“She banks at Silvester’s.” – The Adventure of Lady Frances Carfax (LADY) According to the distinguished French criminologist, Alphonse Bertillon, it is impossible for a bird to fly through a cloud without leaving traces. And so, while passing near Montpelier during one of my recent trips through Southern France, I decided to investigate a bird of another color. Not… Continue Reading

The Ballad of the Queen’s Shilling (1965)

The Ballad of the Queen’s Shilling (1965)

What a beautiful coin the shilling is which bears the famous Wyon head! J. C. Horsley, RA—victim of Whistler’s savagely contemptuous “Horsley soit qui mal y pense!” —did a sketch of the 19-year old Queen, and William Wyon engraved the head for a medal struck to commemorate the Queen’s first visit to the Mansion House. HM liked the Wyon head so… Continue Reading

The Decorated Judy Dench of “A Study In Terror”

The Decorated Judy Dench of “A Study In Terror”

“… she is a most consummate actress …” – The Adventure of the Cardboard Box (CARD) The 1966 film A Study in Terror featured noted actress Judi Dench in just the third film of her long and illustrious career. Dench would play the role of Sally, who assisted her uncle in running a hostel / soup kitchen.… Continue Reading