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Numismatics in the Principality of Monaco

by Ursula Kampmann

January 10, 2013 – Yachts, luxuries, gambling casino – an ambience barely suited for a down-to-earth coin collector? On the contrary, when coming in the off season the Principality of Monaco has much to offer in regard to numismatics, like an attractive coin fair. How I got to know that? Well, I took the recent Monégasque coin fair on December 2, 2012, as an opportunity to reconsider all my prejudice and travelled to Monaco myself.

View at the famous gambling casino of Monte Carlo. Photo: KW.

View at the famous gambling casino of Monte Carlo. Photo: KW.

First of all, the rumor that in Monte Carlo only the super rich can buy anything and everything is not true – at least not in December. On the occasion of the coin show, exhibitors and guests of the Monaco International Coin Fair can enjoy a very reasonably priced rate which charges a price for a room in a five star hotel you would expect in a four star hotel in the major cities.
When strolling through the town you will find – as in any other place in the world – expensive tourist traps as well as good restaurant with decent prices.

Of course there are many of them: the rich and the beautiful (or those who feel rich and beautiful). Photo: KW.

Of course there are many of them: the rich and the beautiful (or those who feel rich and beautiful). Photo: KW.

Naturally, there is the glitz. One encounters any number of people who want to belong to the pretty folk. They seem rather interchangeable. Hot at present: long, straight hair for women, large sun glasses and shoes as flashily as possible with ridiculously high heels. With men it is the showy car (don’t expect anyone to be impressed by your Mercedes!), a large cigar and a blond girl-friend (yes, on extremely high heels) that makes you think that stereotypes exist because people have a tendency towards indiscriminating mimicry.

View at the marina of Monaco. Photo: KW.

View at the marina of Monaco. Photo: KW.

And you sit there, in one of the little bars at the marina – outside, of course. You enjoy it and bask in the sun while a blizzard blusters at home (which really was the case that weekend!). And suddenly you realize what it is that makes the rich come to Monaco again and again. The weather is simply wonderful! In addition, the public boulevards offer not only superb buildings but a wealth of magnificent flora with rare bushes, cacti and trees.

In the Musée des Timbres et de Monnaies the new Monégasque special coins are issued. Photo: KW.

In the Musée des Timbres et de Monnaies the new Monégasque special coins are issued. Photo: KW.

So much for local color, let us turn to numismatics now. Once every year, Editions Victor Gadoury organizes an international coin show that takes place high above the glamorous marina next to the famous Musée des Timbres et de Monnaies. Usually, though, not that many people queue up to visit the museum.

2 euro commemorative coin on 500th anniversary of foundation of Monaco's sovereignty. Photo: ECB / Wikipedia.

2 euro commemorative coin on 500th anniversary of foundation of Monaco's sovereignty. Photo: ECB / Wikipedia.

But, on the occasion of the coin fair, the latest special coin can be purchased at the ticket office of the Musée des Timbres et de Monnaies at issue price. It is the 2 euro commemorative coin on 500th anniversary of foundation of Monaco’s sovereignty and the 10 euro coin with the image of Honoré II. They were sold out already before noon.

View inside the numismatic exhibition; in the front a balancier, not for minting but for punching out the planchet. Photo: KW.

View inside the numismatic exhibition; in the front a balancier, not for minting but for punching out the planchet. Photo: KW.

That made it easier to get access to the exhibition rooms which are quite worth visiting! Anyone interested can see three sections – unfortunately, it was forbidden for legal reasons to take any photographs of the first one. You see, by tradition, the Cabinet des médailles of the Parisian Bibliothèque nationale organizes an exhibition on the occasion of the coin fair that can be visited just over the course of one single weekend. To prevent any problems regarding image rights it is strictly prohibited to take any pictures during that weekend. I had to put all my charms and my credibility in the balance to get permission to take photos after all, but simply not in the direction where the Bibliothèque nationale had put their coins on display …
To anyone interested in the topic all the same: on the occasion of the exhibition “Souveraineté – Seigneurie – Principauté” a catalog has been published containing images of numerous documents of the princely archive of Monaco as well as some numismatic rarities of the Bibliothèque nationale. 

View at the showcase with the Monégasque coins. Photo: KW.

View at the showcase with the Monégasque coins. Photo: KW.

In Monaco numismatics is a matter for the boss by tradition. Rainier III reserved the privilege to decide himself on any sketch and any realization. And he collected with enthusiasm. It is his coin collection which is on display in the museum’s showcases today. He primarily collected the coins and medals of his own principality of which an excellent overview is provided on site.

Die of the euro series 2004. Photo: KW.

Die of the euro series 2004. Photo: KW.

Naturally there are many relics of the latest numismatic history exhibited as well.

Monégasque paper money. Photo: KW.

Monégasque paper money. Photo: KW.

Namely the testimonies of the money production are most interesting, like, for example, the lithography stones used during World War I to produce the Monégasque paper money.

Printing press for stamps. Photo: KW.

Printing press for stamps. Photo: KW.

The third section of the exhibition is devoted to philately. After all, since July 1, 1885, Monaco issues stamps which are quite popular with collectors. Leading figure in this area, again, was Rainier III. He was a keen collector, and the International Association of Publishers of Stamp Catalogs, Albums, and Philatelic Magazines awarded him their prestigious Grand Prix as avid supporter of philately.

The Office des Emissions de Timbres-Poste. Photo: KW.

The Office des Emissions de Timbres-Poste. Photo: KW.

The office responsible for issuing stamps was present on the coin fair as well, of course. It was possible to buy the most recent editions on the cheap.

View at the interior of the showroom. Photo: KW.

View at the interior of the showroom. Photo: KW.

Speaking of the coin show: Approximately 100 dealers from home and abroad had travelled to Monaco to offer their stock to the customers. Most of them came from neighboring France and Italy, but German dealers had found their way there, too.

All Monégasque coin dealers were present and there is a great many of them in the Principality. Photo: KW.

All Monégasque coin dealers were present and there is a great many of them in the Principality. Photo: KW.

It was a pleasant coin fair that offered enough time for engaging in conversation. The room with the high ceiling and the broad walkways prevented any pushing and shoving. As a matter of fact, the coin show is expandable, it is young. But the space is nice. A solvent clientele is present. The sale of Monégasque coins at issue price is a special attraction. Thanks to all this, the participation is very likely to increase in the years to come.

Table of the Numismatic Association of Monaco. Photo: KW.

Table of the Numismatic Association of Monaco. Photo: KW.

The Numismatic Association of Monaco is well-prepared, at any rate. Anyone looking for more information, please visit the highly instructive website.

Close to the marina: auction house Editions V. Gadoury. Photo: KW..

Close to the marina: auction house Editions V. Gadoury. Photo: KW..

In Monaco, there are lots of coin dealers you can pay a visit throughout the whole year. This is the office of Editions V. Gadoury.

Coin dealer at main shopping street Princesse Caroline. Photo: KW.

Coin dealer at main shopping street Princesse Caroline. Photo: KW.

Situated very close to the main shopping street, at the marina, is another coin dealer. There, the Würz firm offers coins, clocks and precious antique jewelry.

Idol decorated with kauri shells. Photo: KW.

Idol decorated with kauri shells. Photo: KW.

There is more to come. Anyone interested in pre-monetary money ought to see the Oceanographic Museum which is worth visiting for more than one reason. Apart from a beautiful aquarium and fascinating exhibits there is pre-monetary money on display there, too. Its founder, Rainier III, collected everything related to the sea; and numerous objects of value and prestige of overseas peoples are simply made of the precious raw materials the sea supplies.

Model of a Roman war ship. Photo: KW.

Model of a Roman war ship. Photo: KW.

A little tip for those who are fond of ships: Rainier III collected model ships and commissioned elaborate reconstructions. So, for anyone interested in learning how the ships depicted on the coins have looked like, based on the latest academic research, the Naval Museum a good address.
Click here to have a look at the museum’s website.

Victory monument of the Alps at La Turbie. Photo: KW

Victory monument of the Alps at La Turbie. Photo: KW

On your way home you absolutely have to see the victory monument of the Alps at La Turbie. This ancient monument was erected in 7 / 6 B. C. in honor of Augustus. On his behalf, Drusus and Tiberius had secured the jagged coastline and its hinterland, hence the land connection between Italy and France. According to the inscription, which was reconstructed thanks to the Natural History of Pliny, 46 tribes were defeated in this military campaign.

Augustus. Denarius, Lugdunum, 15 B. C. RIC 165a. From auction Gorny & Mosch 170 (2008), 1916.

Augustus. Denarius, Lugdunum, 15 B. C. RIC 165a. From auction Gorny & Mosch 170 (2008), 1916.

As a matter of fact, we have a numismatic testimony for this military operation. A denarius, minted in Lugdunum in 15 B. C., shows Tiberius and Drusus handing laurel branches to Augustus, in remembrance of the campaign to conquest the Alps.

Thus, Monaco is worth a visit in any case! Editions Victor Gadoury has just announced the date for the Grande Bourse 2013. Make a note of November 24, 2012. Monaco pays off – likewise in regard to numismatics!

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