"In the 1980s, Dad kept his coins in a two litre juice container by his bed. Sometimes, before school, while he showered, greedy for Hubba Bubba and Burger Rings, I’d fill my pockets. If I overdid it, if I took too many of those huge fifty cent pieces, I’d have to leave the house with a hand around my waistband to stop the weight of silver pulling my track pants down.
Of course there were more honest ways to acquire wealth. Lawn mowing, washing the car, digging the garden over. Stick to the weekly chores, follow house rules, and you were rewarded with a dollar in twenty cent pieces.
Trading work for silver or gold, trading goods, stealing – there’s nothing more human.
1300 years prior to the 1980s, Arab traders travelled to West Africa to swap salt for gold. The traders needed the gold to mint the coins that sustained their economy. The Sudanese needed salt to stay alive. They lived 1000 miles from any source so they traded it for gold weight for weight.
The Arab coin was the dinar. The Byzantines had the bezant. Before the bezant came the solidus. Previous to that, in 49BC, it was Julius Caesar’s aureus. 500 years before Caesar, Athenian boys were stealing silver drachma’s from their dads, while to the east, Lydian kids went after the tiny hemihecte. More recently, in Western Europe, it was the thaler or half thaler. Today, when the stock market’s crash you’ll get your gold in the beautiful form of a one ounce bullion coin.
Coins sustaining empires and economies, sustaining, through their very existence, the need for the thing itself.
Which gets us back to the 1980s and the great capitalist Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge had a vat of coins. Each morning he’d take a swim, bathing in the deep, soft, yellow of his wealth. But if you don’t have a vat of coins to swim in what is their real value? Beyond food and shelter is money worth all this clamour and terror and deceit? All these late-nights, double shifts and seven day weeks? Salt kept the Sudanese alive. Can gold? Or silver?
Rainer Beneke has minted his own coins – each one the exact replica of those past and present. Same dimension, same weight, same metal. Close your eyes. This is the way a thaler would have felt to a jeweller in Hamburg. And this solidus... it’s for the artichoke salesman, working in the heat and dust of the agora.
Beneke has inscribed text on each coin. Text that seems anti-money, that seems to suggest we step back from the rush and buzz of life. That we reflect, or if not reflect, that we make space, that we live for now... but, isn’t time and space also made of money? What do you need? And when? I think that’s what he’s asking. Did I need Dad’s coins back then? Did I need that junk food and those arcade games? Or is what I really needed a belt to stop the money pulling my trousers down?
To put all these questions a different way, as per the text on Beneke’s gold bullion:
When do we lose the ability to step back and get a sense of our own ridiculousness?
But then, all these questions don’t allow for the object. That gold bullion, say, with the diamonds. Or the magpie-shine of the thaler. So forget being in Crete or Istanbul or any Nubian capital. Hold the necklace. Wear it. Feel it over your heart and neck – over those places where most blood flows. See it dangling so beautifully, see it glimmering with contradiction."
Breton Dukes, 2015
1. Stater, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $320
2. Aureus, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $1,880
Now is the golden age
3. ½ Thaler, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $400
I was looking back to see
If you were looking back at me
To see me looking back at you
4. Hecte, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $580
5. Tetradrachm, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $400
8 4 8 4 / If there is a fork in the road, take it
6. Stater, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $320
Take more time, cover less ground
7. Thaler, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $520
8. Stater, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $320
Hunger for sense not cents nonsense
9. Tetradrachm, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $400
And others haven’t a clue what time it is
or where it goes or even where the clock is
10. Drachma, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $220
Kicking up mischief / walking the wire
11. Dinar, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $1,180
If not now / when
12. 1 oz Bullion, pure gold, 22ct gold toggle, diamond $7,800
When do we lose the ability to step back and get
a sense of our own ridiculousness
13. Aureus, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $1,880
Listen to the drums beat
14. Solidus, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $1,180
Abundance / not what we have but what we enjoy
15. 1 Hecte and 5 Hemihecte, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $2,400
16. Solidus, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $1,180
True idleness takes courage
17. ½ Thaler, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $400
A conversation punctuated by leisurely
18. Thaler, pure silver, 18ct gold toggle $800
Superman you are tired
Superman you need a rest
from all the constant flying
and bullets bouncing off your chest,
the world goes on without you
we’ll be all right without you
for a while SJD
19. Stater, pure silver, sterling silver toggle $320
20. Late Bezant, pure gold, 18ct gold toggle $980
Seize the day
All pendants on coloured polyester cord / braid