World Coins

Beards on coins: beginning the hirsute pursuit

Edtior's note: this is the final part of a story about beards on coins, written by Steve Roach. The story appears in the May monthly issue of Coin World.

Collectors have dozens, if not hundreds, of options, if they want to begin collecting coins showing beards. There are plenty of pieces to pluck out of auctions and dealer inventory, but here are some starting points.

Bearded numismatists

Where does one start in this collecting field? Sam Gelberd is an educator at the American Numismatic Association (with an impressive beard of his own) and has hundreds of examples of beards on coins in his collection, which he frequently exhibits at coin shows around the country. 

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He suggests that collectors look at new coins produced by mints around the world, adding, “Many famous, historical figures like artists, explorers, leaders can be found on British coins from the Isle of Man, Virgin Islands, and Falkland Islands, just to name a few. The beards could be bigger, but it’s nice that these are accompanied by a theme related to the person on the coin.”

For those with more historical leanings, he observes that coins of the 18th and 19th centuries are a fun challenge to collect because the beards are so varied. He enjoys collecting the “many wonderfully coiffed gentlemen on coins from Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and of course, Germany. Some of the biggest, baddest beards are found on German States coins (pre-WWI) with guys like Luitpold of Bavaria, Georg II Herzog, and Ludwig IV.”

For those seeking to deepen their collecting, Sam looks to coins that one can differentiate by variety based on the beard, such as Bolivian Melgarejo coins from 1865 that shows Mariano Melgarejo and Mariano Donato Muñoz on the obverse with long or short beards. 

Rare 1874 South African/Transvaal gold pond patterns are known with a fine beard, but there is also a harder to find variety with a coarse beard obverse. Sam concludes, “both are highly sought after, and not just by the beardos.”

The coins are perhaps the most famous of all South African coins and were an attempt both to find a use for recently discovered gold and to create circulating coins in South Africa, although they became more of a souvenir than a circulating coin.

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