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A Connection Between Coins

A Connection Between Coins

We are sharing this post from the British Royal Mint’s website. To see the original post, click HERE.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the majority of the Sherlock Holmes™ stories during the Victorian era. The coinage of Queen Victoria, amongst other coins, included the Sovereign, the Half-Sovereign, the crown and the shilling. Struck by The Royal Mint, these coins are referenced throughout the Sherlock Holmes canon and their use within the stories made the characters more relatable to the readership of the time.

The Sovereign, the ‘chief coin of the world’, is referenced in The Priory School where Sherlock Holmes offers a Sovereign to Reuben Hayes, the villain of the story, for the use of a bicycle. The coin also features in the mechanics of other stories. The Half-Sovereign, an iconic coin from an iconic era, appears in Black PeterA Scandal in BohemiaA Study in ScarletThe Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of the Four.

The shilling, one of the more common coins in circulation at the time, is mentioned frequently. A notable reference is in The Hound of the Baskervilles when Cartwright, a London teenager hired by Holmes, is given 56 shillings to bribe hotel porters so the hotel waste can be searched for important information.

The Sherlock Holmes stories are not just linked to The Royal Mint through the use of coins but also through the design of coins. Thomas ‘Humphrey’ Paget, the nephew of Sidney Paget who illustrated the Sherlock Holmes stories, ranks as one of the most prolific and outstanding of The Royal Mint’s panel of numismatic artists during the first half of the twentieth century.

Sidney Paget is the most well-known illustrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories and produced around 356 published drawings for the series. They first appeared in A Scandal in Bohemia in July 1891, published in The Strand magazine which serialised the Sherlock Holmes stories. Between 1891 and 1904, he produced 594 illustrations for Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, including work for his non-detective stories.

Perhaps what is most interesting about Sidney Paget and Sherlock Holmes is how Paget came to illustrate the stories. When The Strand magazine decided to find an illustrator, the art director mistakenly sent an offer to Sidney Paget instead of his brother, Walter Paget, who was also a successful artist.

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After Sidney’s death in 1908, his brother Walter was also given the opportunity to illustrate the stories. In 1902 and 1913, he completed five illustrations for Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Adventure of the Dying Detective.

Walter’s son, Thomas ‘Humphrey’ Paget, is perhaps most well-known for being commissioned to prepare the uncrowned effigy urgently required for the coins and medals of George VI. In a little more than a month he produced what has been described as the classic coinage head of the twentieth century.

His head of Faisal II for the Iraqi coinage is admired amongst numismatists and his reverse design for the Southern Rhodesia crown of 1953 is considered a triumph. Another design that should be counted among his best pieces of work is his medallic portrait of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, his last major commission. The portrait was re-issued in 2017 for the coin marking Prince Philip’s retirement and celebrating his life of service.

From Watson’s Tin Box – The Sign of Four

From Watson’s Tin Box – The Sign of Four

“Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, MD, Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid.” – The Problem of Thor Bridge (THOR) Watson’s Tin Box, a BSI scion that meets in Columbia, Maryland, shares a few… Continue Reading

Data! Data! Data! – The Sign of Four

Data! Data! Data! – The Sign of Four

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’” – The Adventures of The Copper Beeches (COPP) This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for a local community college.  It is… Continue Reading

In for a Penny, In for a Pound – British Money as Holmes Knew It

In for a Penny, In for a Pound – British Money as Holmes Knew It

“I’d like two shillin’ better” – The Sign of the Four (SIGN) Some Sherlockians are puzzled by references to money in the Sherlock Holmes adventures – “a fifty-guinea watch” in The Sign of Four, a pipe that cost “seven-and sixpence” in “The Yellow Face.” The British monetary system was undoubtedly complicated. A pound was divided into 20 shillings,… Continue Reading

The 2007 Cook Islands Sign of the Four Coin

The 2007 Cook Islands Sign of the Four Coin

” He handed them a shilling each…” – The Sign of the Four (SIGN)       In 2007, the Cook Islands contracted with the Perth Mint of Australia to produce a set of four 1 ounce .999 silver $2 coins.  All four coins featured color vignettes from the 1979 – 1986 Soviet television productions of The Adventures of… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Sign of The Four

The 17 Steps: The Sign of The Four

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Sign of the Four (SIGN)   WATSON’S FLAW The Sign of the Four begins by showing us a major flaw in our hero’s character, his cocaine usage. Watson, it would seem, does not make it through the tale without showing a flaw of… Continue Reading

British Royal Mint Now Selling 2019 Sets With Sherlock Holmes Coin

British Royal Mint Now Selling 2019 Sets With Sherlock Holmes Coin

“… a work which had been specially designed to please him.” – The Sign of the Four (SIGN) On January 1, 2019, the British Royal Mint released the designs of their 2019 dated coins and began selling the annual sets to collectors. As we predicted in our earlier post about the 2019 Sherlock Holmes 50 Pence coin,… Continue Reading

British Royal Mint to Issue Holmes 50 Pence Coins in January 2019

British Royal Mint to Issue Holmes 50 Pence Coins in January 2019

“It might be his portrait.” – The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN) In January 2019, the British Royal Mint will be issuing a series of 50 pence coins honoring Sherlock Holmes. Late yesterday, an image of the coin’s design was leaked and shared to the World of Coins website. Below is the proclamation authorizing these coins, as… Continue Reading

Here Are Your Wages (1971)

Here Are Your Wages (1971)

“Here are your wages.” – A Study In Scarlet (STUD) Sherlock Holmes handed each of the original Baker Street Irregulars a shilling and said, “Here are your wages.” As you know, today’s Irregulars have as a symbol the Victorian shilling. This, more than any other, is the coin we associate with Holmes. Though the Canon… Continue Reading

“Hey Pal, Can You Spare A ‘Bob’? – A Very Simplified Guide to Sherlock Holmes and Money of the Victorian Age

“Hey Pal, Can You Spare A ‘Bob’? – A Very Simplified Guide to Sherlock Holmes and Money of the Victorian Age

If anyone has experienced the thrill of a summer in Houston, Texas, you know indoor reading is one of few options left for survival. During the summer of my 14th year, as other young men were discovering their first love — fishing, or a summer job, I discovered the stories of the Canon. As I… Continue Reading