Wednesday, August 20, 2014

K Foundation Burn A Million Quid

Early in the morning of 23 August 1994, in an abandoned boathouse on the Scottish island of Jura, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty burned £1,000,000 pounds. It was the majority of the fortune they had earned in their brief career as pop stars (their band was The KLF).

This Saturday will be the 20th anniversary.

You can watch the burning on YouTube. There is also a television interview. A book on the burning, K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (1997) is available on Amazon for $10. AbeBooks has a copy of the book for £0.60.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Do the coins of Antiochos IV depict the Medusa Rondanini?

The Seleukid emperor Antiochos IV, who ruled from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC, gave the Athenians a golden aegis with the Gorgon upon it. Presumably Pausanias, who lived in the 2nd century AD, actually saw the aegis at the theater in Athens.

What did the golden aegis look like? Antiochos IV actually had some of his bronze and small silver coins minted in Antioch depicting an aegis, perhaps the very aegis that Pausanias would see three centuries later.

The most famous Medusa from ancient times is the Medusa Rondanini. The marble Rondanini sculpture is an important piece of Cultural Property in Italy, and has been depicted occasionally on their currency such as the 1948 1000 lire note.

Janer Danforth Belson has suggested the Medusa Rondanini is a copy of the aegis Antiochos IV gave the Athenians. Belson believes “Classicizing features for the gorgoneion would have been chosen intentionally as an artistic tribute to the sculptural stype of Pheidias and his chryselephantine creation.” Belforth says “… the gorgoneion shown on this coin has many of the same iconographic features of the Medusa Rondanini rather than the usual round faces of the ‘grotesque’ type.”

If Antiochos IV's coins depict the Rondinini (or it's original) as Edward Newell first suggested in 1918, then Antiochos IV's aegis coin reverse provides an important contemporary reference confirming Belson's theory. Does the coin match? (Scroll back and compare them). I would say not much. It is possible the Rondinini only copies the center gorgoneion of the Athenian's aegis. Unfortunately the bronze coins are not detailed enough to make a positive identification. Antiochos also issued small silver coins depicting an aegis, but they are so small the gorgoneion is only a few millimeters across.

An even rarer coin type of Antiochos IV's depicts a side-facing winged head usually described as Medusa. I wondered if it could possibly depict the same sculpture.

First I had to find a side-view of the Medusa Rondinini. I had a hard time! Nothing on the regular internet shows the Rondinini from the side. I finally found the side view in Adolf Furtwängler's 1895 book Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture. I have placed it beside an image of the coin from the 2009 catalog by Münzen & Medaillen of the Roland Müller collection. The coin is rotated and scaled to match Furtwängler's picture.

I believe there is quite a resemblance!

Arthur Houghton and Catherine Lorber suggest the side-facing Medusa coins were struck at Antiochos IV's mint in Mallos. They connect Medusa iconography with later tetradrachms of Mallos that depict Athena with an aegis draped over her shoulders and back. This is possible, but I prefer connecting Medusa iconography with the forward facing aegis struck at the Antioch mint.

And with the Medusa Rondinini.

Dave Surber (of Wildwinds) collection being auctioned Tuesday

Many of you use, a web site cataloging ancient coins built in 2000 by Dave Surber.

Dave Surber passed away suddenly five years ago. His collection is being auctioned on Tuesday by Agora Auctions. 46 Greek coins, 61 Roman Provincial, 133 Roman Imperial, 21 Byzantine and Medieval. 26 lots of books. 35 group lots.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Collectors' source for Zero Rupee Notes

Collectors may obtain Fifth Pillar's anti-corruption Zero Rupee Notes from Joel's Coins. As of this writing Joel's price is $2/note (but cheaper in quantity.)

The 50 Rupee note that the anti-corruption piece mimics has an exchange value of 83 US cents. Thus in single quantities and encased in plastic the anti-corruption note is worth more than what it mimics, at least to collectors.

Of course, you can always download and print your own notes. Because of this it will be difficult for collectors to distinguish the notes distributed by Fifth Pillar from ink-jet printed notes.

Although Fifth Pillar printed more than a million of these notes and has been distributing them for six years they have been scarcer than hen's teeth on the collectors' market. Fifth Pillar's concept of using imitation bills to discourage corruption has been widely reported. Stories appeared in The Economist (and here), CNN, the World Bank's blog, and NumisMaster. Fifth Pillar also made a video.

This note will be historically important. Collectors of paper money should consider obtaining an example.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quarter deliveries, for laundry

The web site is offering “Quarters for laundry, delivered monthly”. Prices as low as $14.99 for $10 in quarters a month, with two day shipping.

A parody? Every laundromat I've used had a change machine. But I suspect the site is real.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unicode 7 adds symbol for Azeri Manat symbol

We can now typeset the Azerbaijani currency symbol, the Azeri Manat, as it has been added to Unicode 7.0. reported that the symbol gained wide use in 2012, appearing on advertisements and markets in Azerbaijan. The code is U+20BC. If your browser, OS, and font support it you will see the symbol here: ₼

(On my browser (FireFox, Mac OS X 10.8) I see the new Ruble character, and not the M-like manat symbol.)

Older websites, such as Currency Symbols, describe the currency using the Cyrillic abreviation ман. The full list of Unicode currency symbols can be obtained from

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hungarian central bank shreds old notes for heating

Hungarian central bank shreds old notes for heating (2012)

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Greek die deteriorates

For many years I suspected the animated coins above were modern forgeries. The first die in the animation looks very strange. There are dots within the snakes surrounding Medusa, a very unusual feature. The first die shows blunders, such as two dots on the tongue. The snakes near the cheek have poorly made circles.

The reverse die has some unusual features. It appears octagonal rather than the typical round or square. The shackle above the anchor seems to float above it. There are weird scratches on it.

For years I gathered images from this coin and die-linked coins, hoping to prove it was fake. I was even working on an essay explaining my reasoning. Some of the die-linked coins have strange die re-engravings and post-strike damage.

I now think it is genuine. Stay tuned.