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Caritha Holmasto – von Schantz in memoriam 1942-2017

Coindealer Caritha von Schantz died on April 8, 2017, broken by a long-term illness. She was born on February 21, 1942 in Helsinki and turned 75 years old.

Caritha’s father Thure R. Holmasto (1907-1989) had an antique shop in Berghäll in Helsinki since 1949. In 1958 he acquired a business premises at the same address in the recently completed “Kopparhuset” at Andra Linjen nr 15. The name of the antiquarian shop became Pinse (from the name “tweezers). Pinse bought and sold books, comic books, match labels, stamps, money and medals. The trade in old coins and banknotes began to increase and the company’s name was changed in 1965 to “Holmasto’s coin and medal trade”. In practice, Thure R. Holmasto handled the business alone. From time to time Carita’s mother Ragnhild helped with the business as it was most urgent. The customer base expanded, mail order sales increased and in the same time, the arrangement of small-scale coin auctions began in Primula’s cabinet on Kalevagatan. Thure R.

Holmasto is especially remembered for his ardent zeal to write coin catalogs. In the years 1963-1975, he even published 60 different price lists of domestic and foreign coins. The lists of Soviet, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Mongolian coins were the first of their kind in Finland. Finnish coin collectors were very grateful for this because the specialist literature on the subject was almost non-existent.

As retirement approached, Thure R. Holmasto suggested to his daughter to continue his life’s work. Although the father promised to guide his daughter daily in handling the coin trade for about a year, the decision to become a coindealer was not easy. Caritha had a good and secure job as a procurator at Föreningsbanken’s Forum office.

Collecting old money had never interested Caritha. Instead, she was a skilled rifle shooter. Thure R. Holmasto, who had been a national team shooter in the 1930s, had made both his children interested in shooting. This hobby made a significant impact on the lives of both children. Big brother Ove founded a company which at that time was known as “Keräilyase” (collector’s weapon). The little sister, on the other hand, met her future husband, Christian von Schantz, during the Helsinki Shooting Association’s exercises. They married in 1971. Christian worked in the management of Keskos Ab’s computer department. The guidance promised by the father – which lasted exactly one year as agreed, the background support from the husband and the then boom led to Caritha deciding to go from bank to entrepreneur after almost two years of hesitation. The generational change took place 1973-1974. There has been no need to regret this bold decision. The success of Holmasto’s coin trade began.

Caritha von Schantz began her new job with vigor. As the first project, she modernized the company name. At the beginning of 1974, the coin trade was renamed “Holmasto’s coin and medal trade.” The current name of “Rahaliike HOLMASTO Mynthandel” has been used since the early 1980s. Another important measure was the transformation of the company into a purely numismatic specialty business. When the sale of books, comic books and stamps was abandoned, there was also more storage space for numismatic literature and collectibles. Caritha learned relatively quickly to define, categorize and price old domestic and foreign coins, banknotes, tokens, medals and badges. Skill and knowledge were needed, as Caritha had to deal with large amounts of numismatic material during her long career. Nice customer service and good language skills were also very helpful. The store, whose only employee was Caritha, was open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 17:00 and on Saturdays from 10:00 to 14:00.

Despite the personnel changes, the coin trade functioned well during the first half of the 1970s in an unprecedented zeal to collect old money. Numismatics had become a popular hobby. The number of collectors had increased steadily and the prices of old money had risen sharply. The competition in the collector market was fierce. Coins and banknotes were bought and sold at auctions in numismatic societies, in banks, in stamp, antique and tobacco shops and antique shops. Many private individuals, portfolio traders and also the hotel industry also traded with old money. In Helsinki alone, there were a dozen shops dealing in numismatics. This period is already history. The numismatic departments of the banks have been abolished and the above-mentioned deals no longer exist. Only Holmasto continues and is the oldest coin trade in our country.

A new, significant stage in Holmasto’s history took place in the summer of 1976, when the business moved closer to the center of Helsinki by acquiring a money shop (Coinstrom) previously owned by Arvi Ström at Annagatan 28. The opening of the two-storey store was held on 28 August. Operations continued in these premises until the end of 1985. The good location was clearly linked to the significant increase in the number of customers and sales. Work pressure increased. Unlike before, the store was also open on Mondays. Aid forces were needed because Caritha also had to take care of her children Sebastian and Casimir, who had been born into the von Schantz family in the 1970s. Karita Kiviniemi and Pelle Karlsson were employed on the staff and became excellent salesmen under Caritha’s management. Karlsson is already retired. Kiviniemi, who came to Holmasto in 1976, still thrives in his workplace.

Growth continued. In addition to the trade in the store, regular auctions began to be held and various coin and antique fairs took place. It also took a lot of time to compile auction and mail order lists, price lists and a wide range of ads. In 1980, a sensible solution was reached when Christian von Schantz left Kesko and became the store’s CEO. Christian had always helped Caritha with the management, but now his business and IT skills were fully utilized. Caritha was responsible for the most important area, the purchasing side – buying goods is much more difficult than selling them.

A special case took place during the time at Annagatan. The editor-in-chief of the American, the world’s largest numismatic newspaper, Coin World, visited Finland to write a story about Holmasto. After visiting the store, Caritha and Christian took him to Hvitträsk Villa. The editor-in-chief, who seemed to enjoy Finland, published a long article about Holmasto’s coin trade after the trip. It contained a surprising observation. As far as the author knew, only two women in the world owned coin shops at that time. One of them was Caritha von Schantz. It was rare for a woman to be a coin dealer. In Finland, apart from Caritha, only Nea Örnhjelm, who owned the Numis coin and medal trade in Helsinki in the 1970s, reportedly traded coins. One of Sweden’s most famous coin traders was also a woman, Berta Holmberg. After the death of her father, Daniel Holmberg, she handled the coin trade that he had founded in Stockholm in 1916.

Holmasto’s coin trade published price lists of Finnish money in 1979, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2009. Price lists were issued more rarely than during Thure R. Holmasto’s time. However, they were of even higher quality. The price lists were created as a team effort, but Caritha bore the main responsibility for pricing. The price estimates were in five different fitness categories. The pictures of the money were originally black and white. There is also a bound version of the 1981 catalog with colored banknotes. In the latest edition 2021, all images are in color. It also includes euro coins. Coin variants are displayed as drawings. The catalog from 1979 contains an illustrated list of our country’s tokens according to their rarity, compiled by Erik Johanson – the first of its kind. The 1989 edition contains signatures of banknotes with collector’s values from the independence period. Permission to publish them was obtained by Erkki Mönkäre.

Exhibitions were also arranged. In connection with the auctions at Holmasto, four high-quality and informative exhibitions from the following collections were held in 1980–82: Hannu Paatela’s Bank of Finland banknotes, Turku Provincial Museum’s tin coins, the emblems and medals of the Protection Corps and Lotta Svärd movement, and Finnish 18th and 19th century medals. At the age of 50, Holmasto, together with the Finnish Collectors’ Association ODAF, organized an award- winning exhibition about the Winter War. An extensive selection of war-related medals, commemorative medals, badges and uniforms was displayed in the store’s shop window in the then Fabiansgatan store from 30 November to 11 December 1999.

The store on Annegatan gradually turned out to be too small. A new store was acquired at the beginning of 1986 at Snellmansgatan 15 and was there until the autumn of 1991. There was twice as much retail space as before. This made it possible to hire a fifth employee for the development and maintenance of computer technology. The business was expanded to include precious metals and antiques. The store was well located in the center of Helsinki, but they wanted to keep it separate from antique shops. Therefore and also due to the growing tourism, Holmasto founded an antique shop in the late 1980s right next to Salutorget, on Södra Kajen 14. In this small 30 square store, the focus was on Russian and Finnish gold and silver objects. Eine Holmasto, Caritha’s relative, acted as a qualified store manager.

Holmasto’s coin trade is increasingly appearing in the public media. An expert in the field is often asked for current opinions on, for example, the prices of collector coins, auction results and commemorative coins. In 1988, Holmasto participated in a UNICEF charity event where the company donated a 4 dollar tin coin to the hungry in Africa. The money was sold at auction for DEM 39,000. The amount corresponded to the purchase price of 13 camels or 191⁄2 wells.

In the autumn of 1991, the store moved to Fabiansgatan16 next to the Helsinki Stock Exchange, where operations continued until the spring of 2003. The store, which was located in the real city center, was even more spacious and above all easy to find for tourists. Trading in money and precious metals continued to be rapid and auctions increased. Sales of foreign commemorative coins and year series expanded significantly when they began to be ordered for collectors with short delivery times. This was good customer service. Several interviews, however, revealed that Caritha herself was not particularly fond of this money made only for collectors and especially not in their cases and packaging, which took up a lot of storage space. The changeover to the euro in 2002 made a positive contribution to unification. New collectors emerged and prices rose. On the other hand, this caused a great deal of extra work for staff when they had to advise the public on issues related to the changeover to the euro. The situation was facilitated by a telephone assessment payment service introduced ten years earlier.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russians became increasingly interested in objects from Tsarist Russia that had ended up in Finland. Demand for Russian coins, medals, decorations and antiques increased and prices began to rise. Holmasto was very involved in this development from the beginning and in the business not only numismatic material was sold but also many fine antiques. Caritha delved into literature and also developed into a competent connoisseur of Russian antiques. The company actively participated in antique fairs. In addition to individual items, complete high-quality furniture was sometimes sold. In 1993, for example, four armchairs from the 18th century were sold at the high price of DEM 200,000 at an auction for an estate organized by Holmasto. It was a pleasant surprise when the company Holmasto was chosen in 2001 as the antique dealer of the year.

The Finnish Numismatic Association awarded Caritha von Schantz its 100th bronze medal in connection with her 60th birthday in February 2002. A significant recognition for her long-term work in numismatics. The work had been interesting and rewarding, but also very heavy.

Weekdays were long and the weekends were usually spent arranging international auctions as well as participating in various coin and antique fairs. She could disconnect from work mainly in the summer, when she also had time for her own hobbies. Caritha and Christian enjoyed traveling. They were avid caravans and often toured Europe by car and caravan. One of the couple’s most memorable experiences was the trip with the ocean-going ship Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York in the autumn of 1994.

Boating was also a favorite hobby. Canoeing, aqua aerobics and yoga kept Caritha in good condition. She was interested in history and collected a large library. In her spare time, she enjoyed reading, not only non-fiction, but also historical novels.

At the beginning of 2003, Holmastos Mynthandel made a very successful deal when it bought its current store apartment on Aleksanterinkatu 50. The valuable property is located in Litonius-house, which was completed in 1846−47. This protected building, Domus Litonii, is located right in the city center at the corner of Alexandersgatan and Centralgatan, opposite the Stockmann department store. The intersection between the streets is one of the best business places in Helsinki. According to a study, about 40,000 people a day pass the store’s shop windows. Holmasto’s spaces are spacious, 270 square meters on two floors. The store is located at street level. The work points, the library and the archive are upstairs. It also handles the receipt, processing, display, collection and dispatch of auction items. The store’s good location made it unnecessary to continue the antique shop on Södra Kajen. Trade in numismatic objects has continued to increase. The arrival of the Russians has also raised the prices of the Grand Duchy of Finland’s coins, medals and decorations considerably. In addition to numismatics and antiques, the shop on Alexandersgatan also trades in Aleksanterinkatu precious metals, precious stones, quality watches, jewelery and cutlery.

Holmasto is a Finnish family business. Many of Caritha’s and Christian’s relatives and friends have worked or are working in the store. Both boys have been involved and helped at an early age. Sebastian (Basse) is involved as a partner and also works as an auction broker. The staff currently includes the following people: Christian, Basse and Micce von Schantz, Karita Kiviniemi, Kai Tainio. Antti Virtanen, Jenny Sinisalo, René Valta and Paul Karle.

The trade in old coins and banknotes has changed considerably in recent decades. The traditional retail trade has been reduced or abandoned completely and almost all the better numismatic material is now only sold at auctions or over the internet. The coin trader no longer needs to invest capital in the items and the profit comes from the broker commission that sellers and buyers are charged. The auctions are international.

Holmasto is best known in the world for its auctions. Regular auctions began under Caritha von Schantz in October 1978. The number of auctions held is large, more than 155.

In Helsinki 1978−80 once, 1981−86 twice and 1987−88 three times a year. Current practice with four auctions per year, two in the spring and two in the autumn, has continued since 1989. The auction day has mostly been Saturday and the auctions have started at noon. Items may have been inspected in advance in the store or at the auction site. Auctions have been held in many places: Hotelli Marski, Mannerheiminvägen 10 (8.10.1978), Restaurant Adlon, Fabiansgatan 14 (20.10.1979−12.4.1986), Restaurant Kaivohuone, Brunnsparken (11.10.1986−3.3.1990), Gallerie Hörhammer, Georgsgatan 31 (12.5.1990−11.12.1993), Astoria Hall, Stora Robertsgatan 14 (5.3.1994−29.3.2001), Aktia Hall, Georgsgatan 31 (9.6.2001-−13.3.2004 och 9.10−18.12 .2004), Rake hall, Skillnaden 4 C (5.6.2004 and 16.4. – 8.10.2005), SFV hall, Nylandsgatan 17 D (17.12.2005−25.5.2013) and Arbetets friends ballroom, Annegatan 26 (19.10.2013−). Holmasto has also held a coin auction in connection with the national fair for collection, art and antiques in Hämeenlinna on 24 May 1987.

The printed auction catalogs were originally unnumbered. The first numbered coin auction, no. 34, was held in May 1991. At the time of writing, we are already number 156. These also contain some antique auctions. The first catalogs were small, A5 size. The current A4 size was introduced at auction no. 48 (1994). As the size of the pages increased, there was more space available for text and photos. The languages in the catalogs have been Finnish, Swedish, English and later also Russian. The pictures were black and white for a long time. All items were first published in color in auction catalog no. 100 (2007). The technology developed. The customer register was obtained on a computer in the early 1990s, which accelerated invoicing and mailing. Telephone bids during the auction became possible from the auction on December 15, 1990. Before that, bids must be submitted in writing or by telephone before the auction. Written bids could be submitted via e-mail
for the first time in auction no. 79 (2002) and the auction catalog with color images began to be shown on the internet from auction no. 81 (2002). Follow-up of auctions and written bids in real time took place at the beginning of 2015. At that time, separate online auctions were also started in real time.

The auctions have mainly sold domestic and foreign coins, banknotes, tokens, temporary means of payment, share certificates, decorations, medals, emblems, the Olympic theme and numismatic literature. In addition to numismatic material, there have also been some other collectibles such as watches, jewelry, precious stones, precious metals and the military. Conducting each auction has been a laborious effort for the entire staff, but especially for Caritha, who was responsible for defining and pricing the goods. She also received valuable background support from experts in various fields of numismatics. You get an idea of the workload when you know that the auctions from 1978 to 2017 contain more than 90,000 items. This makes an average of 650 items per auction. Most are individual objects, but there are also many mass objects from valuable gold items and collection folders to ordinary kilo objects.

Holmasto has held 155 auctions in Helsinki from October 8, 1978 to March 6, 2021. Their printed catalogs (latest issue 155) are also interesting documents for future generations, as they show the type of material that has been for sale for the past 40 years. The results from the previous auction are attached to each auction list. The prices achieved can also be tracked online with the results from the latest auction and a list of successful items from the last ten years. Prior to 1985, no commission was charged by buyers. After that, the so-called. the call-in fee (incl. VAT) has gradually risen from 10% to 22%.

Already the catalog of the first auction from October 1978 is an interesting read. It had 620 objects. The most expensive item was a 40-mark banknote from 1862, which rose from a starting price of 12,000 marks to 19,000 marks. Then came Sardinia’s gold dip in 1676 (sales price 10,200 marks) and Hanko naval battle commemorative ruble 1914 (sales price 6,000 marks). The collection of Russian money was still small-scale when the normal Peter I ruble in 1710 (Bitkin 192, starting price 2750 marks) remained unsold. This rarity has no longer appeared at the Holmasto auctions since then, while the Hanko ruble has been for sale 18 times.

During the land period, the most expensive Finnish coins auctioned at Holmasto were a magnificent 50 pence from 1876 (starting price 80,000 marks, striking price 165,000 marks) and a 4-ruble banknote 1820 (starting price 100,000 marks, striking price 145,000 marks). They were sold at auctions 67 (1998) and 42 (1993). Among the highest prices in foreign currency at that time were the numbered 1970 series of South Korean gold and silver coins (starting price 27,000, strike price FIM 127,000) and the Russian 100-ruble banknote from 1896 (starting price 90,000 marks, strike price 200,000 mark). Both items were auctioned off on October 8, 1988. A similar Korean year series with a different edition was sold at auction 81 (2002) for 15,000 euros also abroad.

Holmasto has long been a major seller of badges. The auctions have had a number of valuable Russian decorations that have received high prices. At auction 102 (2007) the miniature cross of the White Eagle’s Order was sold for 74,000 euros and the second class cross of St. Vladimir order for 72,000 euros. The starting price for both objects was 5000 euros. Second class cross of St. The Vladimir words with a crash also rose to a high price at auction 112 (2010). The strike price was 72,000 euros (starting price 10,000 euros). Similar prices have not been paid for Finnish material, although there have been many interesting objects, such as Prime Minister T.M. Kivimäki and Minister Vilho Annala’s badge of honor.

In 1975, the Finnish Numismatic magazine Holmastos had sales advertisements with a request from Caritha von Schantz, the new owner of the money trade: “Our goal is a satisfied customer.” After more than 40 years, it is easy to say that the goal has been achieved perfectly. The future also looks good. Finland’s largest coin trade will continue as a family business in the heart of Helsinki and organize various auctions.

– Hannu Männistö