At noon on October 22, 2009, the main hall at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona was filled to capacity. There had been more than 1,200 requests to attend the event, but only 200 people had been selected to witness the auction house Áureo & Calicó offer collectors from across the world a chance to buy a gold coin made in Segovia in 1609, under the reign of Philip III of Spain. The piece was denominated in escudos – a currency used until the early 19th century – and was part of the Caballero de Yndias collection, a compendium of over 2,000 coins that once belonged to a Spaniard who had settled down in Cuba.
The starting price for this unique item – measuring 71 millimeters and weighing 339 grams – was €800,000 and that was without factoring in an additional 18% in fees. Only one individual at the auction, a Swiss man identified simply as Number 74, rose to the challenge: he paid €944,000 for the 100-escudo piece, making it the most valuable coin in Spanish history.
The Spanish government, then led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Party (PSOE), was unable to exercise preferential acquisition rights because the coin had been “a temporary import,” meaning that it had been brought to Spain from abroad exclusively to be sold at the auction.
“A coin is worth precisely what someone is willing to pay for it at any given moment, but as an investment, it is not safe. It is ruled by the laws of supply and demand to a superlative degree,” notes the expert Jesús Losada in his book Las monedas españolas más valiosas (or, The Most Valuable Spanish Coins), which explores the biggest global auctions to 2021 involving these sought-after objects.
In his book, Losada explains that the coin purchased by the unknown Swiss collector was originally made at the Royal Mint of Segovia, the only facility with the necessary machines to craft it. Doing so involved inserting sheets of gold “through two cylinders that were activated by a large hydraulic wheel as many times as necessary, until a sheet of the required thickness was achieved.” This thinner sheet would then pass through two other cylinders to strike both sides of the coin with the appropriate design. There are only seven other known facilities in the world with this kind of machinery.
The second-most-valuable Spanish coin ever sold at auction was minted in Pamplona in 1652 during the reign of Philip IV. It is an eight-escudo piece that once belonged to the collection of Archer Huntington, a 19th-century philanthropist from New York who donated it to the Hispanic Society of America. When the museum found itself in dire financial straits, it was forced to sell off its 38,000-strong collection. The sale took place at Sotheby’s in March 2012 and raised $30 million (€26 million). The Spanish coin was bought for €614,250 and auctioned off again in November of that year.
As for the third most valuable Spanish coin ever sold at auction – another 100-escudo piece made in 1633 under Philip IV – only four of them are known to exist: one is kept at Spain’s National Archaeology Museum, another one belonged to the Prince of Ligne (a Belgian lineage) who sold it in London in 1968, and a third was in the hands of a collector from Milan known only as L. B. who auctioned it off in 2019 for €590,000.
On July 31, 1715, a large fleet of Spanish galleons laden with riches sank off the coast of Florida after departing from Havana on its way to Spain. A hurricane destroyed 11 out of the 12 ships, and more than 100,000 coins ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of them have since been found by treasure hunters who offer them to auction houses, even though legally they belong to the Spanish state because they were part of a shipment on state-owned vessels. One of these coins went on sale in 2009. Minted in Mexico in 1695, under the reign of Charles II, the buyer paid €448,000 for the eight-escudo gold piece.
But not all the most valuable coins sold at auction are made of gold. The seventh spot is held by a silver eight-real coin minted in 1538 in Mexico during the reign of Queen Joanna I. It was sold by the auction house Daniel Frank Sedwick for €469,400 in November 2014, thus becoming the most expensive Spanish silver coin in history. This coin was legal tender in the United States until 1857, “which means these eight-real coins were the true first dollars” in America, according to Losada. Two more such coins are known of, both of which were plucked out of shipwrecks.
Losada also notes that there are other old coins that have never been auctioned off, making it hard to know their market value, but which he estimates at above €1 million. He mentions 50 examples from the days of the Catholic monarchs in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, including “a real gem weighing 176 grams with a diameter of 66 millimeters, minted in Seville between 1497 and 1504.” Until 2012, this too belonged to the Hispanic Society of America in New York.
The Cortes de Monzón, an early parliamentary body, gave Charles I of Aragón “the biggest coin of all time,” a 100-ducat piece weighing 349 grams with a diameter of 83 millimeters. It was a thank-you gift for getting behind the construction of the Imperial Canal of Aragón, a project to divert water from the Ebro River to feed the farmland in what is today Zaragoza. The coin shows the faces of Joanna I and her son Charles with the legend in Latin “Iona et Karolus reges aragorum trunfatores et katolicis” (or, Joanna and Charles monarchs of Aragón triumphant and Catholic). During the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon, it was stolen by the latter’s troops and is now on display in Paris, at the National Library.
Losada’s favorite, however, appears to be a large coin made under Ferdinand IV of Castile, “an impressive and unique” gold coin weighing 45 grams with a diameter of 67 millimeters, which is undated but believed to have been made between 1304 and 1308. This coin is now at the Valencian Institute of Don Juan in Madrid.
Losada seems surprised that no Spanish coins, despite their rarity, technical quality and good state of conservation, have ever reached a selling price of $1 million (€880,000) at auction, whether in Spain or abroad. The most expensive coin ever sold is a double eagle, a gold coin made in the United States in 1933, with a denomination of $20 (€18). This past June, a collector paid €15.4 million for it even though there are 12 others just like it. “But that’s a whole other story,” says Losada.
Census 2022 – what difference does it make?
Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.
But what it is it all about?
At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.
The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.
Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.
Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.
And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.
Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture
Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.
At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.
During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.
When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”
He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.
House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022
House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.
Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.
The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.
Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.
This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.
MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.
“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.
“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.
“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.
“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.
He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.
Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.
Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.
The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.
“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”
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