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augur

World War I Coins

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100 years ago the Great War ended with the armistice that became effective on the 11/11/1918 at 11.

I have put together a little collection of coins from each combatant nation. Allow me to take a look back at the events through the lens of the coin.

Edited by augur

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On the 28/6/1914 the archduke Franz Ferdinand (the future Emperor of Austria since the crown prince had committed suicide) was shot by a member of the "Black Hand". Serbia was in a financial crisis after the two Balkan Wars where the nations of the Balkan were trying to gain territories and push back the Ottoman Empire.

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The 2 Dinara coin from 1912 (MS61) shows Peter I, King of Serbia. Due to the war effort (Balkan Wars) no coins were minted in 1914 and this was the largest circulation coin. 

Edited by augur

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2 minutes ago, augur said:

28/7/1914 the archduke Franz Ferdinand (future Emperor of Austria since the crown prince had committed suicide) was shot by a member of the "Black Hand".

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The 2 Dinara coin from 1912 (MS61) shows Peter I, King of Serbia. Due to the war effort (Balkan Wars) no coins were minted in 1914 and this was the largest circulation coin. 

The Black Hand also got King Peter. He got a Black Neck.

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Austria-Hungary demanded that a joint investigation would take place to look into the assassination, which Serbia declined. Austria-Hungary still had direct access to the Mediterranean and consisted of many nations, which is reflected by the many currencies in circulation. Austria issued the Corona and Ducat, while Hungary issued the Korona and Forint. 

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The 1914 Ducat (MS65) shows Emperor Franz Josef I with laurel and on the reverse the double-headed eagle with regalia.

 

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The 1914 Korona (MS62+) shows Franz Joseph as Hungarian King in full coronation attire. 

 

In a time of beginning nationalism, where every nation was seeking their independence, cracks were showing in the Empire.

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At this point nobody seemed to be aware to what the July crisis was going to develop. Russia assured Serbia of their support while Austria was asking Germany for support in case of a conflict. 

Germany was going through an economic boom, the Prussian Emperor has just celebrated his 25th Coronation Jubilee and had started the Berlin-Baghdad Railway project, that was economically threatening the British Empire, which still was the main Naval Power.

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The 1914 20 Mark (MS65) shows Wilhelm II in his Jubilee Bust 

 

Unexperienced in politics after dismissing his Chancellor and taking over his role, he gave Austria his full support in the Serbian matter, unaware of the resulting complications. 

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@augur Now you are just showing off.

1 hour ago, augur said:

Germany was going through an economic boom, the Prussian Emperor has just celebrated his 25th Coronation Jubilee and had started the Berlin-Baghdad Railway project, that was economically threatening the British Empire, which still was the main Naval Power. 

You highlight the cause of the war. The same reason as WWII. Prior to WWII Germany was undergoing an economic miracle - not really such a miracle, the international banking cabal had been thrown out. People were asking questions as countries languished in the Great Depression, they were looking at Germany for her recipe for success. This is why Germany, Hitler and National Socialism from the era have since been painted as pure evil. The war was nothing to do with retaking West Prussia ('invading Poland') and everything to do with the economic destruction of a nation that had thrown off the shackles of the banks. We saw the same with Ghaddafi and the Gold Dinar - the guy is painted as a monster and yet the people of Libya never had it so good.

Edited by sixgun

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Russia was in a most enviable economic situation at the beginning of the last century: no government debt. The idea of the panslavism, the union of all slavic nations has always been the reason for their strong support for Serbia. The president and prime minister of France visited Russia in July 1914 and made it clear that France would support Russia against Germany, in case of a war.

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1914 20 Kopeki (MS66) shows the imperial double-headed eagle with regalia on the obverse. Russia considered itself as successor to the East Roman Empire while  Austria used to be elected to lead the Holy Roman Empire and as such the double-headed eagle represents with one head the kingdom and the other head the empire.

 

Russia had made clear that she would mobilize her troops in case of an Austrian atack on Serbia. Despite German requests to think things through, Austria started to atack Serbia and declared one month after the murder of the archduke and his wife war against Serbia on the 28/7/1914. Russia saw Germany as the bigger military threat and mobilised her troops to the German border. 

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France was also mobilising her troops to the German borders where she had built formidable fortresses; for centuries France and Germany had been fighting every few decades and France used to be the European military superpower which only a joint European effort could bring down in the napoleonic wars. But recently France had lost the Alsace (again) in 1871 and was seeing its chance to recover from the loss. 

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The 1914 20 Franc (MS65 – mine is MS66 but not photographed, yet) shows the French Marianne with the freedom cap (which goes back to the Babylonian deity Mithra, or later represented by Isis in Egypt) on one side and the Rooster on the other. The little symbols left and right from the year are mintmarks for the mint in Paris and its mint master. 

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Germany was confronted with the prospect of a two frontier war and any delay would have worsened the prospect of the military outcome. 

Completely ignoring the sovereignty of Belgium and Luxembourg, Germany requested permission to pass through with her troops, to avoid the fortified French/German border. Belgium had reassurances by the mighty British Empire that it would protect the Belgium neutrality in a French/German conflict. 

 

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The 1914 20 Francs (MS64) shows the Belgian King Albert I in military uniform and some consider this as a declaration of war against Germany. I doubt that since in 1913, when the coin was designed, few would have been able to predict what was coming. In addition he was a Saxe-Coburg Gotha like the British King (later he renamed himself into Windsor) but his mother was Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the family of the German Emperor. This coin has the Flemish legend, another 125,000 were produced with the French legend to represent the two main ethnic groups still dividing the country to the present day.

 

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This 1914 50 Cents (MS66) Essai coin should have been labelled SP66 since essai means specimen and shows the young grandduchess Marie Adelaide. Alongside a 1 and 2 Franc specimen coin were also produced.

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Allow me to insert an interesting leaflet that I saw the other day. History is obviously written by the victors and the narrative is that the imperialistic and expansionist policy of Germany was the main cause of World War I. Here a completely different picture is painted but, as always, there are two sides of a coin.

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Depending on what sources one cites it is easy to argue that either Germany pushed on into war or was left with no other choice due to the circumstances.

Fact is that Germany did declare war to Russia on the 1/8/1914 and to Luxembourg/France/Belgium on the 2/3/4 of August 1914. Britain was asked by German diplomats to hold back as due to the imminent Russian attack Germany was now forced to deal with the dangers from the French mobilisation in the swiftest possible way. With the German declaration of war against Belgium, Britain and her dominions were now in the state of war turning a local conflict on the Balkan to a pan European and now truly global war. 

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1914 London Mint sovereign (MS64) shows George V on the obverse. George was actually uncle to the German Emperor Wilhelm since his oldest sister was the mother of Wilhelm. 

Edited by augur

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21 hours ago, augur said:

The 1914 Ducat (MS65) shows Emperor Franz Josef I with laurel and on the reverse the double-headed eagle with regalia.

If you are ever selling this one please give me a shout!

And a great collection of history by the way, thanks!

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Since Canada was a dominion, any foreign policy decisions were made by Britain. Yet Canada was able to determine its involvement and so mostly Canadians of British descent felt obliged to enter into service. 

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The 1914 10 Dollar (MS64) shows King George V on the obverse and the coat of arms of Canada on the reverse. There was a great discussion whether Canada should mint their own gold coins or only sovereigns. 

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Nepal provided along with a million pound more soldiers than almost any other nation (in proportion to the population) to fight in the First World War. The Gurkhas are to the present day some of the most formidable soldiers of the world and the British Forces.

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VS 1971 (1914) Mohar (MS63) with inscriptions of the rulers but I couldn't find too much on it. There was also a 2 Mohar produced in 1914.

 

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Australia went initially very enthusiastic into the war but this changed latest in the infamous Gallipoli campaign, where the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) troops suffered heavy losses.

New Zealand committed, despite its remote location, 10% of its population to military or medical and nursing services for the war.

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1914 Sydney Sovereign (MS65) shows the usual sovereign with the small S mintmark under the right rear hoof. In addition the Melbourne (M) and Perth (P) were issuing gold sovereigns.

 

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New Zealand didn't receive their own specific coinage until later (e.g. Kiwi Florin in 1933). This is therefore a British 1/2 crown from 1914 (MS62). 

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Newfoundland also enlisted about 10% of its population or over 1/3 of its male population of military eligible age to the war. They further sent in 1917 skilled forrest workers to produce the lumber required for the war effort clearing some 1,200 acres of timberland up in Scotland in the last few year of the war. (Actually only after being almost deforestated after WW I Britain started to manage her forrests preventing a similar fate as the Mediterranean Maritime Empires)

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Newfoundland 1912 20C (MS61) from the Heaton Mint in Birmingham. Largest recent circulation coin at point of entry since the 50C wasn't minted again until 1917. 

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After the British Empire had entered the First World War on the 4th of August, Montenegro decided to join on the 9th of August against the central powers. Just recently formed and internationally recognised, the Kingdom tried to come to aid to Serbia (Peter I of Serbia was himself Montenegrin) and received supplies by the French and Italian allies.

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1914 Montenegro 2 Perpera (MS61) – there is also a 5 Perpera piece but right now I find £650 a bit dear...

Edited by augur

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4 minutes ago, SilverTanner said:

would make a great NGC Custom Registry Set!

That is certainly what I had in mind, once it's finalised. But the question is where to draw the line pricewise: South African Ponds become prohibitively expensive past 1898 (£20,000+) and Nicaraguan Cordobas in MS are also not cheap to have...

my, so far, most expensive in this lineup comes next. 

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