This set initially grew out of a desire to do something a little different with my collection. I’d been pushing to build a large collection of modern silver buillion rounds from various countries. I’d been wanting to collect some small gold coins as well and I’d bought some modern US gold commemoratives along the way. However, I’d also been wanting to get away from modern coins a little more.
The designs on modern bullion and commemorative issues can be a lot of fun but they’re not made with circulation in mind. The nature of the coins makes MS68, MS69 and MS70 examples abundant with MS70 graded sets dominating the top rankings, and so a remarkable sameness settles over all the sets in those categories. The sets lack their own distinct personality, traits, quirks and voice that you get with sets of circulation strikes with more varied grades.
The process of building those modern sets is also likewise much different than with hunting down scarce examples of rare, century old circulation strikes.
None of this is to dump on or diminish the collecting of modern bullion and commemorative coins or modern coins in general. I own many, have worked on building many sets and will continue to do so. But it can’t be denied that the collecting experience is very different. After having mostly finished working on the birth-year mint sets for the family with my step-father, I wanted another taste of the other side of that coin. The experience of building the 1932 set with my step-father probably did a lot to build the desire to do something like this.
So in mid-2009 I decided to branch out a little. I decided to go with European gold coins because many of them could be had in good MS grades for not much more than spot where American coins in similar grades from the same time period were much more expensive – we all have budgets to consider. While I do love the designs used for American coinage from this period I also love the seeing the coats of arms on various European coins from the era.
The reasonable question that might be asked is, “why this set?” Why the Netherlands? My family comes mostly from England and Scotland after all. But it has less to do with the country of origin and more to do with the name.
I don’t remember exactly how I found this set or series of coins. It might have come to my attention when they were first added to the registry as a competitive category. I liked the idea of a Monarch named William, Wilhelm or some other common version of the name and this one, the more I looked into him, was almost perfect for me.
I’m named William. I’m part of the third generation of a naming tradition in my family. My grandfather was named William and one of my uncles is a junior. I was the first male child born in the family after my grandfather passed. I share a first name with him but have a different middle name. Two of my younger cousins were also later given William as a first name and have a different middle name that they go by. I’m the only one in the family that goes by William. In 2016, 7 years after starting this set, I continued the tradition and named my first son William Benjamin. We call him Ben.
Willem III ruled the Netherlands from March 1849 until his death in May 1890. He took the throne from his father, Willem II, who took it from his father, Willem I. He had 4 legitimate children, including 3 sons and a daughter. He named all 3 sons – who all tragically preceded him in death – Willem, and his daughter Wilhelmina. His daughter succeeded him as the ruler of the Netherlands – as Wilhelmina I - as his only surviving heir. All of Willem III’s brothers and sisters were named either Willem or Wilhelmina, so I guess he got the idea from his father.
I’d always though it was funny that we had so many Williams in my family. I never thought I’d find a European royal family with a dedication to the name William that so far outstripped that of my own family – we actually have men in the last 2 generations that we’re named William and we don’t use Wilhelmina and probably never will. That apparently just didn’t happen on this man’s watch.
That as much as anything made me fall in love with building this set. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’s depicted with a substantial beard and I was seriously into rocking my won full beard at that stage in my life. Mine was never as epic as his apparently was though and I’ve subsequently stopped wearing one.
As a man, it doesn’t seem like he was much to brag about or a role model admire. He was a serial philanderer that fathered “several dozen illegitimate children” with multiple women and was apparently so bad at hiding this that the New York Times called him “the greatest debauchee of the age.” In fairness to him though, I suppose it would be quite difficult to hide that much infidelity - most people find it difficult to keep one affair a secret and they aren't kings.
He was very conservative and opposed to the idea of a constitutionally constrained monarchy - running counter to the prevailing trend of the times and the opinions of liberal intellectuals like his wife. Queen Victoria of England, a friend and pen pal of his wife, called him an “uneducated farmer.” Between his affairs and his refusal to allow her opinions to be heard in the palace I can’t imagine his wife found him to be a very desirable companion, but I doubt she got a lot of say in the pairing. Of course, depending on how much of an ogre he acted like she may have been grateful for the mistresses keeping his attention elsewhere.Read more...