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Essentials for the Scandinavian Coin Collector

Old to New - Book Review

Building a Library for Scandinavian Coin Collecting

Back in May I wrote a posting giving guidance on how to build a library suited to collecting British Colonial Coinage. This month I thought we'd take a look at building a good working library for collecting Scandinavian coinage, with emphasis particularly on the coinage of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The single most useful guidebook you can buy for this field is Siegs Møntkatalog from Jens Pilegaard and Børge R. Juul. This annual catalog covers pretty much all coinage types from all time periods for the following countries: Norway, Denmark, Danish West Indies, Trankebar, Faeroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. It's small, handy, reasonably priced and contains accurate values for all coins in several grades. For Swedish types and varieties you might also want to pick up a copy of the annual Myntboken catalog from Archie Tonkin. Tonkin's catalog features coin listings beginning in 1521 and running to present, with plenty of variety information and images, as well as error coin data, some banknote listings and a good grading guide. The same single country approach is employed by Norges Mynter, the prominent specialist annual catalog for Norwegian coinage, which would also be a good addition to any Scandinavian coin reference library.

Some of the larger classic references from earlier days also retain a great deal of usefulness for modern collectors. There were three Bjarne Ahlström books published between 1976 and 1980, which can be obtained for reasonable prices and should be sought out for your Scandinavian library. They are; Sveriges Mynt or The Coinage of Sweden 1521-1977 by Bjarne Ahlström, Yngve Almer and Bengt Hemmingsson, Coins of the Swedish Possessions by Bjarne Ahlström, Yngve Almer and Kenneth Jonsson and finally, Norges Mynter or The Coinage of Norway by Bjarne Ahlström, Bernhard F. Brekke and Bengt Hemmingsson. To round out for Denmark you should also seek out a copy of Holger Hede's Danmarks og Norges Mønter 1541 - 1814 - 1963 published in 1964. This is still the classic reference for the coins of Denmark and Norway, with excellent cross-reference notes, weights and measure, extensive illustrations and rarity scales where applicable. This will be a more expensive book, but well worth it in terms of data.

With these seven books in hand, you should be able to navigate your way around most questions you may encounter for the coins of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, plus a few others. But as your interests and pocket book grow, you may want to consider adding some of the following references to help broaden your knowledge base.

The classic 1926 work Beskrivelse Af Danske og Norske Mønter 1448-1814 og Danske Mønter 1815-1923 by H. H. Schou presents coin listings year-by-year, largest denomination to smallest, with full legends. All known legend varieties are listed and there is a large plate image section at the back of the book. The 1983 reprint can still be obtained with a little effort and is well worth the price. Georg Galster's 1972 catalog and historical reference Unionstidens Udmøntninger - Danmark of Norge 1397-1540, Sverige 1363-1521 can also be located for purchase and should be added to your library as you advance in your Scandinavian collecting. The Galster work presents solid historical background, with a brief English language summary, plus cross-referenced coin listings, a wonderful bibliography and some information on forgeries.

Jørgen Sømod
has published many smaller card cover books on specific areas of Danish coinage and tokens. In the 1980's he created a wonderful book on all aspects of Danish West Indies, while back in the late 1960's he produced a book on early Danmark and Norway coinage from 1448-1540. In 2000 Sømod worked on the reprinting of a Danske Mønter catalog covering 1241-1377, while in the 1990's he produced excellent works on several Greenland token issues. Suffice it to say, I would highly recommend that you add any Sømod authored coin book to your library whenever you find one. Sømod is a meticulous researcher and it will be worth your time to seek out his books. Another author to watch for would be Peter Flensborg, and one book in particular would be Mønt arbogen 1977, which included a section with line drawings for Danish middleages coins from 825-1241. If Trankebar develops into your Danish Colonial area of interest, I'd recommend you seek out a copy of Trankebarmønter 1620-1845 by Uno Barner Jensen, or visit his website on this subject. The line drawings for Jensen's book are very clear and varieties are well delineated. For a small card cover tome, it packs in a great deal of information.

When you first encounter Swedish Plate Money many questions about minting, practical uses and such may come to mind. It's precisely that spark which has helped Plate Money retain its fascination for collectors over the years. The Standard Catalog of World Coins contains listings for both Swedish and Russian Plate Money, but to get a more complete understanding of the historical purposes of plate money you really need to locate a copy of Bertel Tingström's book, Plate Money - The World's Largest Currency published through the auspices of the Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm, Sweden, in 1986. This wonderfully researched book tells you everything about the history of Swedish Plate Money. It's a large hardcover book, with a great photo section of plate money illustrations, a good index and reference listing, and the added benefit for Americans of having been written in English. If you can't immediately locate a copy of Tingström's book, try to pick up a copy of O.P. Eklunds small card cover catalog of Copper Coins of Sweden. The reprint from The Numismatist of this little work also contains a nice section covering Coinage of Swedish Plate Money by Berta Holmberg, which offers a brief background to the subject.

If your interests lean towards Finland, you might want to try to pick up a copy of The Finnish Numismatic Society catalog of Finnish Coins and Banknotes. My copy is from 1995, but they may have done one more recently. It's a card cover price guide for collectors of Finnish coinage, which includes mintage figures, rarity scale and values.

Anton Holt
has done a good job over the years promoting the collecting of Icelandic coinage. Holt authored a book on Icelandic Token Issues in 1988 which included metal tokens and paper chits. When working with the Central Bank of Iceland, Holt was influential in bringing to publication a catalog of the Numismatic Collection of The Central Bank and National Museum of Iceland. Released in 1997 this card cover book offers excellent detailed listings of banknotes and coins issued from 1778 to publication date. A small card cover price giude was also made available in conjunction with this book. Any of Holt's books would make good additions to any Scandinavian Coinage reference library.

Another quick handy reference which includes 19th and 20th Century listings for the type coins of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, amongst many other Northern European countries is The Official Krause Guide to Coins of Northern Europe & Russia. It's an easy to use type coin reference for all Northern Europe at a price that won't break your budget. An older book with still retains its usefulness for variety and type identifications is The Modern Coinage of Sweden by Scott Cordry, published back in 1971. If you can get a copy cheap, I'd suggest adding it to your library for it's nice blow up shots of Swedish date and legend varieties. A more expensive option could be found in Svensk Myntförteckning 1818-1988 by Christian Hamrin and Jan L. Hyllengren, a hardcover book which offers even more blow up shots of date, crown, legend and other varieties. I don't often see the Hamrin-Hyllengren book offered, so if you see one at a book auction, bid generously.

Though this posting centers on building a library for Scandinavian Coinage collecting, a comment from fellow blogger David Kranz is well worth mentioning here. Dave tells me that The International Bank Note Society (IBNS) has honored a Norwegian banknote reference as its Book of the Year. Norske Pengesedler, med Svalbard og Bjørnøya, 1695-2005 by Karl Sæthre and Hans-Gunnar Eldorsen is in its 19th edition and still striving for excellence, as evidenced by this IBNS recognition. If you decide to branch off into Scandinavian banknotes, this catalog would seem to be a great addition for your library.

Finally we should cover the acquisition of prominent auction catalogs for Scandinavian Coinage. Almost any auction catalogs from Brunn Rasmussen Kunstauktioner, B. Ahlström Mynthandel, Oslo Mynthandel, Holmasto and Thomas Høiland Møntauktion would make good additions to any reference library of Scandinavian Coinage, but there are certain collections, which have been offered at auction over the years, which stand out as very useful references. The Holger Hede Collection was auctioned off in three parts in 1988, 1991 and 1994 by the Rasmussen and Ahlström firms. These three sales offer a wide array of primarily Danish coins and medals and are almost as useful as Hede's book itself.

About the same time as the Hede sales were happening, Swiss Bank Corp. and Spink held a joint auction of a large collection of coins and banknotes of Sweden. Part one contained items from 1512-1697 and closed during November 30th and December 1st, 1989. Part two offered items dated 1697-1988 and closed may 14th & 15th, 1990. These two sales are extremely useful in deciphering the myriad of die variations on early Swedish coinage. Few, if any, references offer the clear date-by-date picture of Swedish types that this pair of auction catalogs provides.

Beginning in April 2001, Thomas Høiland Møntauktion launched the auctioning of the Zinck Collection. This massive collection of Danish and Norwegian coins was parceled out into eight auctions over a three and half year period ending in November 2004. The full set covers just about everything in the way of classic Denmark and Norway coinage and it's fully color illustrated. With the prices realized included the Zinck sale makes an outstanding reference for all aspects of collecting the coins of Denmark and Norway.

If you like the idea of tracking auction prices realized for specific types of Scandinavian coins, then you might want to consider adding some of Morten Eske Mortensen's Coin Price Yearbooks to your library as well. Though these volumes are costly, they are great time saving devices when doing research on specific coins and they will introduce you to sales and items you would not otherwise have normally noticed. Mortensen invests large amounts of time into compiling auction records from various firms into one compact source book. Each annual edition covers two years of auctions and most of Mortensen's recent Yearbooks cover single countries, making three separate editions for Danish, Norwegian and Swedish coinages. Finnish coinage has been compiled in a single volume covering 1998-2004. A Scandinavian Banknote Price Yearbook covering 1998-2004 is also available from Mortensen, as are a series of Roman Coin Price Yearbooks covering Republican and Imperial ancient Roman coins.