This past August, we had to say goodbye to our beloved family dog, Bear. If you have stopped by our office at any point over the last 12 years, it is more than likely you got to meet him and maybe even acquiesced to his relentless demands to be petted by all visitors.
As my son is only a year and half old and most likely will not remember him, I decided to put aside some photos of the two of them for him in the future. I also wanted to put in there something numismatically related, as I have been doing for the last few months in the likely event my son ends up with some interest in numismatics.
There are so many canine-related coins, tokens, and medals that it was tough to know where to begin. The first piece that came to mind was the famous “Good For a Scent” Civil War Token. Depicting a regal-looking dog facing right, this piece was issued by medalist and die sinker Joseph H. Merriam of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1863, with the witty phrase emblazoned on the reverse of the piece. While certainly iconic, these tokens have become quite expensive over the last few years, with nice uncirculated examples regularly selling for several thousand dollars.
Another famous dog depicted on coinage also came to mind rather quickly. In Greek mythology, Odysseus spends 10 years fighting in Troy, and 10 more years on a journey to return home to Ithaca. Upon his return, no one recognizes him except for his elderly dog, Argos. As Odysseus was in disguise, he could not stop and greet his dog without revealing his identity, causing Odysseus to shed a tear. Argos, who has fulfilled his duty in waiting for his master to return, promptly dies.
Even though the Odyssey was written by the ancient Greeks, it remained an important cornerstone in the learning of the Romans. There is a famous ancient Roman issue Denarius Serratus from 82 BC depicting Mercury on the obverse and Odysseus (Ulysses to the Romans) and Argos on the reverse. These silver pieces can usually be had for a couple hundred dollars in circulated condition.
A far more modern piece I considered was an example of Ireland’s sixpence depicting an Irish wolfhound. Minted from 1928 through 1969, originally in nickel and then in copper-nickel, most issues are widely available in all grades, with 1945 and 1946 being the toughest dates. The obverse of this piece displays an Irish harp, while the reverse features a side profile of a well-muscled wolfhound, one of the largest breeds of dog in existence.
Circulated common dates can be picked up affordably for less than a couple of dollars, while uncirculated examples range from a few dollars to a couple of hundred depending on the date. Proofs are much scarcer, with the exception of the 1928 which is readily available.
However, the piece I went with was one of my all-time favorite designs on a world coin. In 1830, the Southern German state of Bavaria issued a commemorative thaler honoring the loyalty of the Bavarian people to the royal family.
While the obverse depicts a bust of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the reverse is far more intriguing, displaying a Romanesque seated figure with a medium-sized dog resting at the feet of the woman. The legend on this side reads “Bayern Treue,” meaning “Bavaria’s loyalty” in German. Circulated examples of this type generally sell for a few hundred dollars, while graded uncirculated pieces generally sell for over a thousand dollars.
I chose the thaler to put aside, as the dog depicted looked much like Bear did, and the allegorical representation of the dog’s loyalty spoke to me, as that was one of his strongest characteristics.
Over the years, we have had several clients who had canine-related collections or side collections to go along with their main collections. It has always seemed like a fun theme to get into! There are countless medals honoring dogs and plenty of other coins which have featured man's best friend over the centuries. Who knows? You may find a type where the dog portrayed looks like your pup!