One Funny Ugly Coin

One day, a call from my dad went something like this:

I was going through your mother’s things and found this…coin? Something round. Seems old. Roman? Figured it had to be yours.

It did not, in fact, belong to me. When I was a kid, my grandfather tried getting me into stamps and my brother into coins. I think my brother’s interest lasted about 5 minutes. Mine lasted only slightly longer.

If I recall correctly, my brother’s collection was mostly pennies. He was about 8 years old, after all. But Grandpa had also given him this super old coin, because that was a thing Grandpa did. I suppose my brother, Jon, spent the pennies when he gave up collecting, but Mom kept the funny, ugly coin. It’s not like Jon could drop it into a vending machine.

And we all forgot about it. Decades later, I occasionally considering asking about it, but I never remembered at a good time.

Then Mom passed, and Dad found it in her stuff. But I was a good sister and insisted it was Jon’s. I was also mercenary enough to offer to claim it if Jon still didn’t want it.

And he didn’t. So I did.

Searching for more coins

Comparing it to images I found online, I think this is a coin from Constantine X, who ruled the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century. So it’s a thousand year old coin. But by now I was expecting a Roman coin – both because of Dad’s description and my original memory of the coin – which would have been twice as old, and, thus, twice as cool.

(For the record, Byzantine Empire is just another name for the Eastern Roman Empire, so that may have been the root of the confusion.)

Now, this Byzantine coin was bought for an 8-year-old. Presumably, it wasn’t very expensive. So I get on the internet to see if you can also get cheap Roman coins.

And boy can you. One of the things you can do is buy Roman coins dirty and clean them yourself. So, that looks like fun! I buy some of those.

And then more of those. And more.

The problem is collecting coins is like collecting Pokemon. You get the same common things over and over as you hope to stumble into something new. Now I have a growing pile of little, worn Roman coins. So I start gifting them, and some of my friends really like them. They like holding something historical, and they make the greatest faces, the kind of look I treasure when a student actually gave a crap about something I was teaching.

I’m not sure how I went from this to turning them into jewelry through, but the project started out of a hope of getting them into more people’s hands so they experience with a bit of history. (Which, incidentally, isn’t working overly well. Personally, I find it hard to comprehend someone not being impressed by holding a 2000-year-old artifact. I realize I’m biased on the matter, but still…. I blame the educational system, which is awful at teaching history in any meaningful and interesting way.)

So after 30 years, Grandpa finally got someone interested in coins.

Customers periodically ask me how I got into coins, and I tell the above story. One day, after I tell this tale, the customer asks, “so, is that Byzantine coin for sale?”

Did you not just hear the story? It was a gift from my late grandfather passed down through my late mother, which inspired me to explore a whole new hobby and a business. Of course I’m not selling that coin! No matter how ugly.

(If you want a better idea what the coin originally looked like, check out WorthPoint’com’s page featuring a similar Constantine X follis.)

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