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  For centuries, collecting the largest coins produced by nations and principalities has been a hobby of choice for those wishing to own the finest examples of medallic artistry and having the means to do so. The large space allows the designer to boldly display his skill with intricate detail and realism. Whether it be a dekadrachm from Syracuse, a fine city view thaler from central Europe, or a Bird of Paradise 5 Marks from Papua New Guinea, the finest work of high art comes in large packages. Milled (struck by machine, as opposed to hammered or rolled) coins were largely referred to as 'crowns', because crowns (or those who appropriately fit under them) were engraved on their surfaces.

Collecting the largest in the finest condition available is even more of a challenge, though a crown need not be uncirculated to be a majestic and beautiful representation. Crowns of the world may be accumulated for a few dollars each to thousands of dollars per coin, depending on the condition and date.

Design moved from somewhat arcane to classically artistic near the end of the 19th Century, to rather flat and utilitarian in the mid- to late 20th Century. The collector of these, however, chose to acquire ones around the turn of the century and graded by a renown certification service in Mint State/Proof 66 or better.


In 1935, Canada issued its first dollar coin (though a trial or pattern dollar was made in 1911) to commemorate the silver jubilee (25th year) of the reign of George V.

The obverse contained the bust of George V, surrounded by "GEORGIVS V REX IMPERATOR ANNO REGNI XXV" which roughly translates "GEORGE THE 5th, KING, EMPEROR FOR THE 25th YEAR". (Emperor refers to his title as Emperor of India.) The reverse has a fur trapper ("voyageur") and Indian guide paddling their canoe past an islet with trees and the northern lights in the background. 428,707 were struck at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa.

  Yuan Shih Kai, whose military portrait adorns this Chinese dollar from 1914 began a career in the military and politics that culminated in his becoming president, and shortly thereafter the self-proclaimed Emperor of China, which he held for only 83 days. Lack of support forced him to abolish the Monarchy and return to the presidency, where he remained until his death a short time later in June of 1916. This coin, with a limited original mintage of 20,000 commemorated his founding of the Republic.  
  Great Britain        
  Thought to be one of the most beautiful portraits on a British crown, this "Veiled Head" design of Victoria was created by Sir Thomas Brock and appeared in 1893. Benedetto Pistrucci's popular design of Saint George (the patron saint of England) slaying the dragon (after the rescue of a Libyan king's daughter in the 6th Century) first appeared on coinage in 1816.

Victoria ruled over Britain between 1837 (at the tender age of 18) until her death in 1901. She married her cousin, Albert, and mourned his death from typhoid for the last 40 years of her life. She was best know for expanding the British Empire to include India, Australia, Canada, and parts of the South Pacific and Africa. This design graced British coinage between 1893 and 1901.
  This crown-sized 5 franc piece was designed by Augustin Dupré in 1794 and known as the Hercules obverse (Hercules wearing the skin of the Nimean Lion, flanked by allegorical figures of Liberty and Equality on whose shoulders he rests his hands in a fraternal embrace). The motto of the French Republic, "Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité" frame the three figures. The reverse has the denomination and date encircled by branches of olive and oak.

This coin, dated 1873 and struck in Paris was minted shortly after the Franco-Prussian War and the end of the Monarchy, when Napoleon III (Napoleon's nephew) was exiled to England.
  In 1930, Germany's Graf Zeppelin surprised the world with its commercial round-the-world flight in only 21 1/3 days. This 5 Mark crown was issued to both commemorate the event as well as to help recover some of the costs incurred from the flight. (The United States also issued Air Mail stamps to assist in this venture.) 400,000 were struck at six mints (this example from the one in Berlin), mostly as circulation strikes. A small but undocumented amount was struck as proofs, this one being a superlative, frosty example.

The year this crown was struck fell seven years after the renown and destructive German hyperinflation and only three years prior to the rise of Adolph Hitler.
  Known as the country of the Mayans, the obverse of this exceptional peso from Guatemala shows a seated Liberty with cornucopia and scales, leaning on a pedestal with the date June 30, 1871 (Date of the revolt for agrarian reform in which Justo Rufino Barrios overthrew the Conservative president, Vicente Cerna). The reverse displays an olive wreath under two crossed rifles with bayonets behind a scroll with "Libertad 15 Septembre 1821", the date Guatemala declared its independence from Spain. The year (1894) and fineness (900) appear at the bottom. Nearly 1.7 million were struck.  
  In 1870, one of the results of the 'Meiji Restoration' was a move to modern decimal coinage. Through the Emperor Meiji's reign, which ran from 1868 to 1912, beautiful coinage based on the Yen denomination was created, designed by Kano Natsuo and struck in Osaka from British coining presses purchased in Hong Kong. The obverse displayed a stylized dragon holding a treasure sphere, with "Great Japan - Meiji 27 - 416 (grains of pure silver) - One Yen - 900 (fineness)" surrounding it. The reverse has 'One Yen' in kanji within a wreath topped by the country flower, the Chrysanthemum. Many circulated as trade coinage in Hong Kong and China.

This particular piece, one of 22 million dated Meiji 27 (1894) was struck the year the Sino (China)-Japanese War began (ending 9 months later with Japan victorious).
  Designed by the French artist Charles Pillet, the majestic "Caballito" (little horse) peso of Mexico was coined to commemorate the Independence Centenary, which is commonly known as "Grito de Dolores" (Cry of Delores), honoring the first revolt against the Spanish in 1810. The obverse shows "Freedom" represented by a feminine figure on horseback, holding a laurel branch with her right hand and a torch in her left. The reverse has the Mexico Coat of Arms: An eagle on cactus with a snake in its beak.

This gem example is dated 1913, and is one of 2.88 million struck. It was in this year that the newly elected President of Mexico, Francisco Madero was assassinated and a repressive dictator, Victoriano Huerta seized power for all of one year before being forced into exile.
  This outstanding Peruvian Sol was struck in Lima in 1914. The obverse shows Liberty seated holding a phrygian cap on a pole. On Liberty's right hand there is a shield with a sun ("sol") which was worshipped by the Incas. The message "Firme Y Feliz Por La Union" ("Firm and Happy for the Union") surrounds Liberty.

The reverse Coat of Arms was created by José Gregorio Paredes. The field is divided into three sections: The vicuña, the national animal of Peru; a quina tree, the national tree of Peru; and below, a cornucopia with gold coins inside, representing the mineral richness of the country. Surrounding the Arms is "Republica Peruana (Republic of Peru) Lima Fine Decimos Puro (9/10ths Fine) Y.J. (assayer's initials)".
  United States        
  When silver mining interests were threatened with lower demand from the U.S. Mint due to a reduction in coin production, the Bland-Allison Act was railroaded through Congress, guaranteeing a steady demand for silver in the form of minted dollars. Over 500 million dollars were struck between 1878 and 1904, and due to limited demand by the public, most of these were stored in bank vaults. Some dates and mint marks are quite rare, but as a whole, the Morgan dollar is relatively common.

George T. Morgan created the obverse and reverse designs. This gem example was one of 8.9 million struck at the San Francisco Mint in 1880.

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