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Cromwell's England under the scope in Money Museum exhibit

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Most people see coins as an annoying necessity. They noisily weigh down your pockets, make the vacuum cleaner emit terrifying noises and give the old lady in front of you at the market the means to hold you up when all you need is a quart of milk. Let's face it: A change purse has as much street cred as a fanny pack or Segway.

But a new exhibit at the American Numismatic Association Money Museum will have people staring at a coin with reverence. Coins, Crown and Conflict, which opens today, will feature several genuine articles from Oliver Cromwell's 17th-century England.

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A central exhibit, "The Petition Crown," is one of the most sought-after chunks of change among collectors. Worth $5 million, the coin contains a plea along its rim from its maker, Thomas Simon, to King Charles II, asking the king to reconsider his choice of a Dutch minter's coin design over his, in 1663.

However, the show isn't just to make a few collectors drool it's for the public.

"It's really a historical exhibit," says Andrew Dickes, the exhibit's marketing and volunteer coordinator. "It's about what was going on mid-century. The years between 1642 and 1651 were turbulent for Western history. You can see what image each leader was trying to put forth during this time."

The death mask of Cromwell a major historical figure who was actually exhumed in order to be formally executed will also be on display. Gauntlets (the gloves, not video games), penny Bibles and apparel will also show the public what life was like well before people thought of loud money as a nuisance.

CAPSULE
Coins, Crown and Conflict: An Exploration of Cromwells England
American Numismatic Association Money Museum, 818 N. Cascade Ave.
Runs through November 2008; opening reception, 5-7 p.m., Thursday, June 7 Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m., Sunday.
Free; call 632-COIN (2646) or visit money.org for more.

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