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Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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Archive for 'November 2015'

    ​Leopold’s private hell: Leopold II of Belgium

    November 11, 2015 9:46 AM by

    ​At first glance Leopold II, who ruled Belgium from 1865 to 1909, looks like just another bearded 19th century European monarch. 

    Benevolent at home, Leopold gave workers the right to form unions and take Sundays off. Child labor was restricted. All men were given the right to vote.

    Abroad, though, he was a monster, running the Congo as his private colony, enslaving the populace and killing and maiming millions.

    "He turned his 'Congo Free State' into a massive labour camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million innocent people,” the BBC reported in a 2004 story on the murderous king’s legacy.

    Leopold’s private army, Force Publique, murdered men who failed to harvest enough rubber, and killed their wives and children, too. Leopold’s soldiers cut the hands and feet off children and the penises off men and routinely beat natives to death.

    While many of history’s mass murderers were held to account for their sins against humanity, Leopold came out smelling like a well-fertilized rose. The Belgian government bought him out in 1908, extracting the payment, of course, from the Congolese.

    In 1914, American poet Vachel Lindsay included these lines in a work called The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race:

    Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
    Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host,
    Hear how the demons chuckle and yell
    Cutting his hands off, down in Hell.
    Leopold’s portrait appears on the European nation’s late 19th and early 20th century silver and gold coins.  
    Leopold’s coinage, unfortunately, had a long run. They are common and plentiful.

    ​A dynasty of mad men: Kim Jong-Il

    November 2, 2015 3:09 PM by
    Kim Jong-il was North Korea’s supreme leader from 1994 to his death in 2011. Dear Leader (Really, that’s what he was called) succeeded his father, Great Leader Kim Il-sung, and was father to Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong-un, the hermit kingdom’s current ruler.
    Language doesn’t have words bad enough to describe Kim Jong-Il, his dad and his chubby son. An estimated 1 million to 3 million North Koreans starved to death in a needless famine during the early years of Kim Jong-il’s reign.
    God, though, apparently thought he wasn’t so bad.  According to North Korean media, the heavens cried when Kim Jong-il met his maker. The BBC relayed the report Dec. 22, 2011. “Ice cracked on a famous lake ‘so loud, it seemed to shake the Heavens and the Earth’, and a mysterious glow was seen on a revered mountain top, KCNA said.”
    The report continued, “Following the storm's sudden end at dawn on Tuesday, a message carved in rock — ‘Mount Paektu, holy mountain of revolution. Kim Jong-il’ — glowed brightly, it said. It remained there until sunset.”
    Dear Leader appears on several coins from the 1990s and 2000s,  mostly showing half and three quarter portraits of Mr. Misery greeting diplomats. The most entertaining is a 1992 50-won silver piece celebrating Kim Jong-il’s 50th birthday. The coin has the nation’s coat of arms on the obverse and a facing bust of Dear Leader on the reverse. 
    If you squint a bit while looking at the coin, the high-haired murderer looks just like his idol, Elvis Presley. Dear Leader, it turns out, was a huge Elvis fan, adopting the King’s jumpsuit, sunglasses and even his bouffant hairstyle.
    The coin can be difficult to locate. In July, a deep cameo Proof sold for $305 on eBay.
    Next: Leopold’s private hell