Log in to post
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.

Visit one of our other blogs:

Archive for 'December 2015'

    Saint 2: A visionary saint

    December 23, 2015 1:10 PM by


    The world changed Oct. 28, 312, at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber north of Rome and hasn’t been the same since. On that day, Constantine the Great, fighting beneath Christian banners, defeated Maxentius, winning control of the western half of the Roman Empire.

    The day before, Constantine had a vision. In the sky appeared a Christian symbol (either a cross or the Chi-Rho XP monogram, depending on the account) and the Greek words for “In This Sign You Shall Conquer.”

    That night in a dream, Christ appeared to Constantine and told him to paint the sign on the shields of his soldiers before they went into battle.

    Maxentius drowned in the battle, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome the next day.

    Four months later, Constantine and Licinius, who ruled the East, issued the Edict of Milan, permanently ending persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. While no copies of the edict exist, a rescript sent by Licinius to the governor of Bithynia says, “Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each person has desired, whereby whatsoever Divinity dwells in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us, and to all who are placed under our authority.”

    The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Constantine showed equal favour to both religious. As pontifex maximus (chief priest, a title traditionally held by Rome’s emperors) he watched over the heathen worship and protected its rights.”

    Over time, Christianity replaced the old religions as the religion of the state. Constantine was baptized a Christian on his deathbed by Eusebius of Nicomedia in 337. He is especially revered as a saint by Orthodox Christians.

    Lifetime coins of Constantine the Great are cheap and plentiful. Most show Constantine on the obverse and a god or military representation on the reverse. A few have the Chi Rho (XP  the first letters of Christ in Greek) symbol in the design. Ancient coin dealers often heap piles of Constantine’s bronze coins on their tables at coin shows, offering them for as little as $5 or $10.

    Next: Mom’s a saint, too

    Saint 1: ​The saintly mint master

    December 18, 2015 10:50 AM by


    St. Eligius (588 to 659 or 660) apparently took to heart the New Testament proposition that the want of money is the root of all evil and aimed to do something about it. He made money as mint master of Marseilles.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the saint’s father sent him to work with the noted goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges, as a youth.

    His skill and honesty were recognized by Frankish king Clotaire II, who commissioned him to make a throne of gold adorned with precious stones. The encyclopedia says, “His honesty in this so pleased the king that he appointed him master of the mint at Marseilles.”

    After Clotaire II died in 629, the successor, Dagobert, named him chief councilor. The Catholic News Agency writes, “The charitable and honest Eligius took advantage of his status to obtain alms for the poor and to ransom Roman, Gallic, Breton, Saxon, and Moorish captives who were arriving at Marseilles daily. He was able to get the king’s approval to send his servants through towns and villages in order to take down and bury the bodies of the criminals whose bodies were executed and displayed as a further punishment. He founded several monasteries … built the basilica of St. Paul and restored the basilica of St. Martial in Paris. In honor of the relics of St. Martin of Tours, the national saint of the Franks, he had several churches built. He did the same thing for St. Denis, whom the king had taken as a patron saint.”

    Eligius was consecrated as a bishop in 641 and died Dec. 1, 660. Over the years, he became venerated as a saint and is recognized today as the patron saint of goldsmiths and coin collectors.

    Inge Lyse Hansen and Chris Wickham, writing in “The Long Eighth Century,” note, “The legend Eligius monet(arius) appears on coins struck at Marseille between c.625 and c.638 and … at Arles between c. 638 and 641, before Eligius returned north to be consecrated bishop of Noyon.” His name and title - ELIGIUS MVN - also appear on coins issued in Paris.

    Eligius’ coins are scarce and highly sought after. In 2013 a tiny gold tremissis sold for 7,000 euro ($9,500) at a Fritz Rudolf Künker auction in Germany. The undated coin shows Clotaire II on the obverse and a cross-anchor symbol known as the Eligius Cross surrounded by the saint’s name on the reverse.

    Less well-heeled collectors can buy medals showing the saint. The Austrian Mint sells a medal depicting Eligius as a bishop striking coins on the obverse. The reverse shows the anchor-cross. The bronze medal sells for 18 euro.

    The Paris Mint struck a large format — 115 mm — bronze medal honoring the saint. The obverse shows the saint. The reverse shows the famed throne surrounded by a dozen of his coins.

    In 1966 the Van Brook Mint of Lexington, Ky., stuck antiqued bronze and silver medals show Eligius at work. These turn up on eBay from time to time, with bronze pieces generally selling for less than $10.

    Next: A visionary saint

    ​Saints on coins

    December 10, 2015 1:03 PM by

    Religion and money have a long history, dating at least as far back as the time of Moses.

    As the Jews wandered in the desert, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. ‘Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord.’ ” (Exodus 30:13)

    That temple tax was collected even during Christ’s lifetime and is referenced in the New Testament.

    “Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” Matthew 21:12

    The money changers provided the silver shekels of Tyre that were used to pay the temple tax. No other coin would do.

    From the time of Constantine the Great (306 to 337) Christian religious references have appeared on European coins and even a few Colonial pieces.

    In 1790 the First Presbyterian Church of Albany even issued its own pennies. The church pennies were struck to stop churchgoers from placing worn or counterfeit coins in the collection plate. Church pennies are worth a pretty penny today. They catalog for upwards of $12,500 and can top $100,000.

    Today, houses of worship everywhere accept money as donations.

    For the next five weeks I’ll be discussing five saints who either appeared on coins during their lifetimes or, in one case, struck coins. Most of their coins are incredibly historic and uncommonly inexpensive.

    Next: The saintly mint master