GOOD AS GOLD
"Big Phil" - the world's largest gold coin in size and denomination - will be unveiled at noon today at the Neue Galerie. The 24-karat, record-breaking coin from the Austrian Mint weighs 68.5 pounds. It was produced to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic pure gold bullion coin.
At the event, a Columbia professor and Nobel laureate, Robert Mundell, will speak about "The Role of Gold in an Investment Portfolio and the International Monetary System." The vice governor of the national bank of Austria, Wolfgang Duchatczek, will discuss the prospects of the euro in an enlarged Europe and the activities of the Austrian Mint.
"The line between when is a coin no longer a coin but a great big ingot of gold is a fine one," said John Burnham, coin consultant at Stack's, a coin dealer in Manhattan. "You could have difficulty lifting it up."
"Historically gold coins have been more stores of value than circulating medium of exchange," said Mr. Burnham. "A very large coin would have purchasing power far in excess of anything anyone could use."
"This coin is certainly be yond the reach of most collectors," said Beth Deisher, the editor of Coin World, a week ly publication devoted to coin collecting. "But it is certainly a world-record holder from its size and bullion value. It is of interest because of the mere fact that it exists."
"Big Phil" has a face value of 100,000 euros and a bullion value of $500,000, said Ms. Deisher, who is not aware of an announced selling price. "The thing is worth its weight in gold," said Mr. Burnham, but demand and the promotional process will determine whether it's worth more than that, he said.
Many collectors as well as investors have smaller Philharmonics in their collection, and investors also hold these in their portfolios.
The new coin marks the 15th anniversary of the introduction.
"They are taking note of a significant anniversary," Ms. Deisher said. "Austria does not have a gold-mining industry. They purchase the gold and their mint strikes beautiful coins. They have become in 15 years the premier marketer of gold coins."
She continued, "Some will buy it for the novelty and the bragging rights. Someone with deep pockets, who wants to give something that not many people are going to be able to give or own."
The previous record holder for a gold coin was made in the 17th century under the reign of Aurangzeb.
This new Austrian coin was made by pouring molten gold into a mold, smoothing it, and using a laser device to cut the design. "It was not struck in a coining press as traditional coins," Ms. Deisher said. "They are one-of-a-kind items using the latest technology and the oldest techniques in coin making." She added, "This eclipses anything out there."
The most valuable coin that has sold at public auction in America is one ounce of gold: a 1933 double eagle, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and sold in New York on July 30, 2002, for $7,590,020.
SMALL AND BEAUTIFUL
Small Press Distribution - known as SPD - is a kind of circulatory system that links small presses to the reading public. The organization, which distributes about 11,000 titles from about 500 presses, recently celebrated its 35th anniversary.
A literary crowd came out to the CUNY Graduate Center for a buffet supper and cocktails outside the Martin Segal Theater.
The New York Times Book Review editor, Sam Tanenhaus, was master of ceremonies. He lauded small presses and said that it was hard to imagine what the literary world would be today in their absence.
Present were Terry Copeland of Hewlett-Packard, accompanied by her husband, Keith Duncan, of Washington Mutual Home Loans; the publisher and director of the Feminist Press, Jean Casella, and poet Africa Wayne, wearing a Donna Karan summer-striped pleated skirt. She is reading at Teachers and Writers Collaborative in November. Also seen was poet and novelist Peter Straub, wearing a red striped tie; poet Corinne Robins, who will appear in April at a benefit for Poets for Choice; and publisher Tracy Grinnell of Litmus Press.
The featured writers who read from their works were Renee Gladman, Lydia Davis, and Robert Creeley, who is known as one of the Black Mountain School poets.
Ms. Davis entertained the audience with works about "Boring Friends," the telephone company, and a funeral parlor.
Each attendee left with a poem signed by Mr. Creeley set in letterpress upon handmade, cream-colored paper.
At Columbia University Sunday, a French professor from the University of Nottingham, Judith Still, introduced feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, who in turn gave a lecture televised live from Paris.
Ms. Still described Ms. Irigaray's view that our culture lacks rich choices to say "thank you." One can earn a university degree in criticism, Ms. Irigaray had noted, but not a degree in gratitude.
THE SPEECH THAT I DIDN'T GIVE (YET)
Bulgarian-born French psychoanalyst and philosopher Julia Kristeva will speak on "Narration in Literature and Psychoanalysis" at New York University on October 21...a lecture by essayist and novelist Helene Cixous entitled "The Book That I Didn't Write." has been postponed, as has the Jacques Derrida talk that had been scheduled for October 15 and 16.
Jack and Susan Rudin are hosting a book party for Ed Koch and Pat Koch Thaler's book "Eddie: Harold's Little Brother" (G.P. Putnam's Sons) later this week...Ted Turner, Martin Scorsese, and others join Sir Harold Evans for a discussion of the book "They Made America" at the Broadhurst Theater on Thursday...the Center for Book Arts, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, hosts an artists talk with Robert Bringhurst on October 13...There is a reception for Ellen Graham celebrating her new book "The Bad & the Beautiful" (Harry N. Abrams) on October 14...Jon Stewart talks with Ken Auletta of the New Yorker at an October 14 breakfast...an interdisciplinary conference celebrating the bicentennial of Alexander von Humboldt's visit to the United States will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center from October 14 to 16.