Tag Archives: collecting

Day 95

Blood test at 10.20. Think of me sitting there with my sleeve rolled up. I’m hoping then blood flows well, but after the last time I had a sample taken at the doctors I am not optimistic. I really should think about getting my own machine to do finger prick tests, but it goes against the grain to buy medical equipment on eBay.

I took delivery of some medallions from eBay this morning.  I spent £22 on four medallions and they all looked quite good when they arrived. So far I’ve only checked one of them out. A similar one is for sale on a dealer’s list (not eBay, which is not a good guide) for £38, so it looks like it was a successful buy. There are more important things than making money, but it’s always nice when you buy a bargain.

I’m sure I will never make a profit on my collection of 1919 Peace Medallions, because I often get locked in a bidding war when buying them, but with the others I try to be more sensible.

When I was younger I used to think that if I paid too much inflation would take care of the problem. Generally this is true as prices do tend to rise with most things. The only problem is that when you are thirty there is a lot of inflation in your future. These days it won’t be many years before downsizing or mortality makes a sale necessary so I have to be a bit more thoughtful. On the other hand, as with the Peace Medals, I tend to think that if I haven’t got it after thirty years of collecting, I shouldn’t let it go for the sake of a few pounds.

The header picture is the obverse of the 1919 Birmingham Peace Medal, one of the commoner town medals given out to school children. The initials MBL next to Victory’s feet, stands for Matthew Boulton Ltd, a factory, set up in 1775 by Matthew Boulton and James Watt to produce steam engines. They later specialised in minting, and ,made the famous cartwheel pennies.

Birmingham Peace Medal – reverse

Day 42

I just looked at the title, and thought, that only leaves 323 days until the end of the year. Give it three weeks and the year will be 1/6th gone. And what have I done? Well, apart from moaning about the cold, worrying about WW3 and putting off the housework? I know they are all important things, but they aren’t real achievements are they?

I’m getting ready to put a few better bits on eBay for work and, at home, to catalogue my collection of plastic transport tokens. Here’s a question for you, what are collectors of transport tokens called?answer (in the US at least) is Vecturist). In the UK, they just call us anoraks. Even coin collectors look down on us as being peculiar. The hobby is much more developed in the US. There are also more serial killers in the US. I’m not saying the two things are linked, but you have to wonder . . .

The pictures for today are two pieces of coin jewellery. The header picture is a 1901 penny which has been cut away and made into a brooch. It’s fine work and it’s a shame the pin is missing. It isn’t much worn, which makes me think it was probably made in about 1901, maybe as a piece of mourning jewellery for Queen Victoria. It is very dark and the patina may have been artificially applied.

The other is an enamelled bronze brooch (also lacking a pin) which has had a farthing mounted in the centre. This, as the inscription shows, is definitely a piece of mourning jewellery. The maker’s mark is “W.J.D” which is W. J. Dingley, a Birmingham manufacturer of everything from high quality trophies to mass market badges.

When I found them (I was going through one of the junk boxes) I thought of adding them to my collection, as I have a few bits of coin jewellery, but decided against it, as it’s time to start cutting back, not adding to the burden of whoever has to sort out my collections.

If things had gone a different way I may, by now, have become a leading authority on mourning jewellery. Instead, I’m a shop assistant. Sic transit gloria mundi, as they say.

Penny Brooch – front view

Penny Brooch showing rear view with Britannia and the date 1901

Penny Brooch showing rear view with Britannia and the date 1901

With modern penny for size comparison

With modern penny for size comparison

Day 18

Day 18 passed in much the same way as Day 17, but without the element of anticipation that you get after a Sunday off. In that respect it was very much like Day 11. I expect that Day 25 will be similar.

It was also like Day 17, in that I have a few ideas for writing, but didn’t do much about it. The trouble with giving days numbers is that the passing of time is much more noticeable and there is nowhere to hide. “Next Wednesday” is quite a friendly place, in a soft and woolly future. “Day 26” is much sharper, and leaves you in no doubt that you have seven days to do something, and that when it arrives the deadlines are only five days away (the days leading up to Day 31 are going to be interesting.)

I bought 500 items on eBay last night. They were very cheap, just pennies each and will, eventually, help finance my collecting habit. Julia will be delighted when she finds out and will no doubt be keen to congratulate me on my financial acumen and the purchase of more clutter. That’s why I’m letting her know via the blog. I don’t want to be in the room when she finds out. I could, I suppose, conceal this from her, but she will eventually notice a big box of plastic tokens no matter what I do.

When I have  a few minutes I will prepare more posts on collectables to leaven the musings on mortality, boredom and the passage of time. However, despite all my attempts to put it off, I need to go for a blood test now. It’s not procrastination if you put it off because you have to do something important.

I had some haiku turned down yesterday, which means I am currently running with one acceptance and one rejection so far this year. The editor sent a longish email and included a useful link to help me do better. The problem I find with haiku is that although they are small poems they come with a lot of conventions attached (some call them rules, though this isn’t quite accurate) and I never quite manage to remember them all at the same time. It’s a bit like that hypothetical over-filled bookshelf – you put a book on one end and one falls off the other. That’s my brain . . .

The picture is a small Royal Artillery sweetheart brooch carved from mother of pearl. They are generally from the First World War usually, I’m told,  made in Palestine. I include it as it’s a new picture and illustrates my inability to stop collecting things.

Two New Sweetheart Brooches

US Navy Sweetheart Brooches – the penny is 20.3 mm in diameter. An American cent has a diameter of  19.05 mm for those of you who like to know these things.

Despite the need to spend money on the house, and to declutter, I am still browsing eBay, and still adding a few items to my collection. If you want to see other examples , I have written about  Sweetheart Brooches in a previous post,

My collecting started over 50 years ago.  I was about five or six when I started collecting badges. A few years later my Dad gave me his stamp collection (which had been untouched since he had left the Navy). I added a few to it, then went into coins, bird’s eggs (yes, I know this was bad) and military medals. I’ve carried on sporadically ever since. At times I’ve been busy or broke, so there have been long gaps between purchases. However, with eBay , a regular income and the time that comes from having no kids around the place, I have been slowly adding to the collection again.

The latest two are both American and Naval. I don’t collect Navy brooches to the same extent as I collect the army ones but I always like to add a different type when  I find one. American brooches are often sentimental/patriotic rather than military in style, though there are some more military ones. They also tend to have more bracelets than we do. Generally I don’t collect brooches from beyond the Commonwealth forces, but if I see an unusual type I can be tempted.

US Navy Sweetheart Brooch – with PO Class II badge

A couple of months ago I was tempted by the brooch with the Eagle and Chevrons. I think it is the badge of a Petty Officer Class II but I’m relying on the internet for this, as I’m not sound on US Navy badges. I have a couple of other brooches with this sort of chain set-up but this is better quality, and it’s always nice to upgrade. Collecting sweethearts, you will never get every possible type, so there’s no point trying. Compared to the tyranny of trying to collect one of every known date of a coin, this is a very relaxed way of collecting. These days I just collect things that catch my eye, and where the price is right.

A couple of weeks ago, another one caught my eye. It’s exactly the same sailor and the same set-up but the device on the chain is the medal ribbon of the American WW2 campaign medal for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was sold by the same dealer and is out of the same collection.

US Navy Sweetheart – Europe, Africa and the Middle East campaign ribbon

I’m now checking them regularly to see if they have any other varieties. With coins and medals all the varieties are known and catalogued (with the odd rare exception) but with sweetheart brooches you can’t know everything. There might be sailors with different devices attached, or there may be marines, soldiers or airmen. You never know…

 

US Navy Sweetheart – fine work

 

Silver, Survival and Salvage

Here, at last, is the information on the Gibraltar £20 coin I mentioned a few days ago.

There is a tradition in Numismatic circles for collecting coins from shipwrecks, indeed we had a talk on this subject just a few weeks ago at the Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire. Sadly, I had one of my senior moments and completely forgot about it, even though I had intended going. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of shipwreck and treasure and it’s a collecting field that has always interested me. However, you can’t collect everything.

There has also been a fascination for collecting relics of ships. It is still possible, if you go round antique centres, to pick up small barrels and oddments like paper knives made from the deck timber of ships like the Warspite, Iron Duke and Ajax. Copper from Nelson’s Victory has also been used to make souvenirs, such as this copper fob from the British and Foreign which we currently have for sale on eBay.

Despite the photos, it’s only about an inch across.

 

More recently, I bought some key rings made from the bronze of the Queen Mary’s propellers, and also have some copper cash coins from the Admiral Gardner, which sunk on the Goodwin Sands in 1809.

This year, I have seen mementoes made from the silver recovered from the SS Gairsoppa.

The Gairsoppa, originally built as the War Roebuck, was completed in 1919 by Palmers of Jarrow, just in time to miss the Great War, and was named after the city of Gerusoppa in the state of Mysore. She had one touch of drama in her career in the Merchant Fleet, with just one touch of adventure when she ran aground  at Fulta Point on the South Eastern coast of India in 1930.

Palmers closed in 1933 after a long struggle to stay in business during the depression, and the unemployment this caused precipitated the Jarrow March.

In early 1941, whilst carrying a cargo of pig iron, tea and silver, she joined a convoy at Freetown, Sierra Leone to complete a voyage from India to the UK. Running short of fuel, she had to reduce speed, drop out of the convoy and head for Ireland to take on coal. On 16 February 1941, she was spotted by a Focke-Wulf Condor aircraft and was attacked by U-101 later that day, being sunk by a torpedo attack.

There were 82 men on board. Only one lifeboat launched successfully and out of the six men on board three died in the next two weeks. The boat capsized on the fourteenth day and the Lizard lifeboat was only able to rescue one survivor, Second Officer R. H. Ayres.

Sunk by submarine, fourteen days in an open boat, five men dying before rescue…

I can write the facts, but I can’t come up with anything that remotely does justice to the experience. While writing this post I found this item on an on-line forum – amazing to read the words of the man in question. His account doesn’t match up with the Wiki entry, but I suspect it’s more accurate.

The researcher who contacted him did a fine job, as modesty could have prevented us ever knowing the full story.

The eleven British casualties are recorded on theTower Hill Memorial, or, in two cases, on  a headstone in the cemetery at Landewednack. The seventy one Indian seamen are commemorated on the Chittagong War Memorial.

The epic nature of the story does not end there, because in 2011 an American salvage company located the wreck and, under licence from the British Government, began lifting the silver. So far they have recovered 61 tonnes, or just over half of the 110 tonnes known to be on board. At 15,000 feet deep (half a mile deeper than the RMS Titanic) this is the record for a salvage operation.

Of course, if the ship didn’t contain silver this would be considered plundering, piracy or desecration of a war grave. It’s amazing how a mountain of silver can make the moral compass swing.

In 2014 the Royal Mint struck 20,000 Quarter Ounce Britannias, using some of the silver.

The Gibraltar Mint followed up in 2016 with a specially made £20 coin, featuring a seafarer design and containing Gairsoppa silver.

The title of the coin is taken from a John Masefield  poem, For All Seafarers. It isn’t, in my opinion, one of his best, but it does make a number of telling points.

For all Seafarers

Even in peace, scant quiet is at sea;
In war, each revolution of the screw,
Each breath of air that blows the colours free.
May be the last life movement known to you.

Death, thrusting up or down, may disunite
Spirit from body, purpose from the hull,
With thunder, bringing leaving of the light,
With lightning letting nothingness annul.

No rock, no danger, bears a warning sign,
No lighthouse scatters welcome through the dark;
Above the sea, the bomb ; afloat, the mine;
Beneath, the gangs of the torpedo-shark.

Year after year, with insufficient guard,
Often with, none, you have adventured thus:
Some, reaching harbour, maimed and battle-scarred,
Some, never more, returning, lost to us.

But, if you ‘scape, tomorrow, you will steer
To peril once again, to bring us bread,
To dare again, beneath the sky off ear,
The moon-moved graveyard of your brothers dead.

You were salvation to the army lost,
Trapped, but for you, upon the Dunkirk beach;
Death barred the way to Russia, but you crosst;
To Crete and Malta, but you succoured each.

Unrecognised, you put us in your debt;
Unthanked, you enter, or escape, the grave;
Whether your land remember or forget
You saved the land, or died to try to save.

John Masefield

Banknotes, banknotes, banknotes…

We have, as I noted in the last post, been putting banknotes on eBay.

There are a lot of notes in the shops, ranging from serious notes for collectors to cheap and cheerful bulk lots.

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Austro-Hungarian Empire – early 20th entury

I work with two keen banknote collectors. I always admire enthusiasts, and respect their immense knowledge on the subject, but really can’t get enthused by talk of serial numbers, replacements and security printing. If I was going to collect notes I’d probably collect them by theme, such as notes with pictures of birds on them. I like birds.

However, I prefer burgers, and that would be a very small collecting field.

Republic of Biafra 1967-70 - a short and tragic story

Republic of Biafra 1967-70 – a short and tragic story

Some notes are spectacular, either because of the quality of design, or the history of the note or country. Others are very dull. You will probably see several of each sort in the pictures, though it has to be said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s a very simple way of touring the world and it has one advantage over many other forms of collecting in that you can, when handling circulated notes, get a fairly strong whiff of foreign bazaars and sweaty hands.

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Guyana

Years ago I had a delivery of foreign notes in an antique centre and as soon as the wrapping paper came off several neighbouring dealers turned green and ran off spluttering.

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Atmospheric selection of notes from Ghana

So, for atmosphere , circulated notes are the thing to collect. But if you are looking for beauty, collect uncirculated notes.

Bhutan - nice and clean, with dragons

Bhutan – nice and clean, with dragons

Blood, toil, sweat and sweetheart brooches

Today started well when I had just a short wait to have my arm stabbed. The blood flowed well and I was able to et out and get Julia to work in plenty of time. I’m hoping the free flow of blood indicates that it is going to give me another five or six weeks before the re-test. Tomorrow’s post will tell.

We will spool forward to my recent telephone conversation with the doctor. It seems that while testing for the arthritis consultation they took it upon themselves to test for liver function using a new test they can now do.

So, I had a test done for something we hadn’t discussed, for a condition I’m showing no symptoms of, to get a result that isn’t germane to the current issue so that I can be investigated for a result that isn’t any cause for concern and that isn’t going to cause any problems.

Meanwhile, I still have trouble dressing myself because of the arthritis in my fingers and would like to get that sorted before winter sets in.

But that doesn’t matter because they have a new test they can do for something that’s more interesting. I’ve agreed to have a scan because I was so tightly wound up by this point that I was on the point of being rude, and I’ve been brought up to be polite. I also don’t believe in being rude to people who may have to check my prostate at some time in the future.

But I am not happy.

On  a brighter note, Number One son will be home tonight. He’s having two nights in Nottingham then going up to Leeds to look for a job. This is good as we get to see him and discuss his trip, then we get rid of him. This, despite what Julia may think, is the natural cycle of life. You are born, you grow, you get a job, you leave home and pay your own bills. Then it starts over again. You settle down, you have kids, you moan about their effect on your finances…

The grandparents turn up and get them excited, give them fizzy drinks then go home and leave the consequences. I’m looking forward to that bit.

In the middle of all this, I had a delivery in the shop.

My military sweetheart collection is progressing in a shaky and uncertain manner. Like all my collections it is under-financed, under-researched and badly neglected. I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my collecting. With the sweethearts I’m going to start looking at eBay a couple of times a month and buying something that seems  reasonably priced. If I don’t find anything it doesn’t matter. If I do, it will be a bonus. If I buy one item a month for the next ten years that will be 120 extra brooches for the collection.

Last week I bought a lot of brooches from eBay consisting of six pieces. I therefore stuck to my principles (just about) but managed to add five to the collection – one, I think, is destined for the swaps box. They have a definite Scottish theme to them with four out of the six being Scottish Regiments.

They are a sort you don’t often see – made to look like a hanging banner by folding celluloid over a pin. I suspect they were cheap at the time and , because they don’t look like jewellery, they didn’t survive in such numbers as the more durable and attractive metal ones.

At 600 words that’s more of a memoir than a post, so I’ll let you go now. Thanks for sticking with it so long.

A Picture for Laurie

The opening picture is a medallion of William Shakespeare by Paul Vincze, commissioned for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. You may remember the Moon Landing Medallion I pictured a few days ago. I mentioned I had this in my collection and Laurie said she’d be interested in seeing a picture of it. I laughed in a hollow fashion, as it’s just one piece of the multifarious detritus that flows around our house.

However, I have to start tidying and last night one of the first things I put my hand on was my medallion collection. To be more accurate, some of my “medallion collection”. The some is easy to understand, the inverted commas were added as I haven’t really collected so much as accumulated. There is a difference, as we tell people when they come to the shop with bags and boxes and even buckets of coins, stamps, cigarette cards, medals and postcards. We do banknotes too, but they don’t usually appear in such quantity.

An accumulation is just an aimless gathering of bits and pieces, often put together with an eye to quantity and economy rather than a theme. It’s often called a collection, but that doesn’t make it one. I could call a salad food, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s just colourful plate decoration.

I’m in anti-salad mode tonight. Julia is cooking and has just told me that our baked potatoes and veggie burgers will be accompanied by salad. This is indeed a cruel and unusual meal.

However, back to collections, a proper collection should have a theme, it should improve your knowledge of the subject and it might even increase knowledge of a collecting field.

Having rather foolishly agreed to give a talk at the Numismatic Society – Monday, 9 March 2020 – Peace & Tribute Medallions of The Great War – I am having to knock that part of my collection into shape. (Make a note in your diary if you are in the area).

The trouble is that there isn’t much information about them and I’m having to trawl the internet and write to museums. So far the museums have been friendly but have had no information, and the internet is tricky. If you search individual towns for information something sometimes crops up. But if you just search generally the third or fourth reference I found was one of my posts on this blog.

I’ve pictured a couple of examples below.  In a week or two I’ll probably find this post cropping up as part of my research!

Another 30 Minute Post

Once again the evening has been squandered with tea and biscuits and curry and poor quality TV. I regret the waste of time, when I have so many things to do, and I hadn’t planned on such a relaxing evening, but it’s been pleasant enough. The only problem is that I have to write a post in 30 minutes before taking Number Two Son to work.

If that seems familiar I can only apologise. I tried to write earlier but couldn’t find the enthusiasm.

Plans for the coming week include finishing the book I’m reading about William Dampier, reviewing a couple of other books and sending some more haibun off. The theory is that if I keep sending them off I will be forced to keep writing and improving. It seems sensible, but time will tell.

I’m also preparing a section of my collection for sale on eBay. It’s the part of my collection that I accumulated because it was cheap or included in lots with things I actually wanted. As such I really ought to call it my “collection” or my accumulation. When I’ve sold it I’m going to use it to buy more things. That’s the nice thing about collecting – you get to buy things for yourself on a constant basis.

It’s the Numismatic Society meeting on Monday. It’s comforting to get out and meet people with the same sorts of personality defects I have. I say “people”, but I mean middle-aged men. There is only one female member that I know of, and very few people under fifty.

And that’s it. Time’s up. I will now fill out the “Categories and Tags” and post for today. Only three days to go…

 

 

 

 

 

The Psychology of Collecting

For years I’ve observed the link between collecting and mental illness. I’ve seen it in others and I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve also seen hoarding, excessive shopping, depression and bipolar disorder, though I’m glad to say that, apart from the hoarding, this has been from a distance.

I will confess now, that the house is full of junk and it is a case of hoarding rather than collecting. The old excuse – that it’s stock – no longer applies because I don’t have a shop. Even when I did have a shop I could never part with the rubbish. As a result, when I moved from the shop I moved carfuls of worthless junk that now just clutter the house. That’s how you know you’ve passed from “collecting” to “hoarding”, or from sanity to something that needs tackling.

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Brick from Watnall Pit Brickyard

Julia, having found out that there were a lot of local brickyards, including those run by the National Coal Board, has started a collection of bricks. So far this one is the entire collection. We have a photograph of another in a post on Rufford Abbey, which was where we discovered that there were such things. There is, inevitably, a website on the subject. This is a good example of what can actually be done by a collector with a passion for his subject.

One of the things I found when doing the research for this post, is that Freud considered that hoarding to be a result of our feeling of loss of control we experience when we flush the toilet. I’ve never felt the urge to retain anything I’ve put down the toilet. Fortunately I’ve never known anyone who has, and nobody has ever brought such a collection into the shop. Dr Gillian McKeith might have an archive collection, but that’s work, not a hobby, so is probably acceptable.

I was struggling for vocabulary for a moment, but after reading the Gillian McKeith article I can now use the word stool. Normally I only use it when referring to a small backless seat, but needs must. None of the other words I know are really suitable, though the word stool is not as clear as it could be.

If I refer to not being offered a stool collection during my days in the antiques trade I lack clarity as, for all you know, I might have been in the furniture trade. I suppose, with modern technology such as freeze drying and vacuum packing, it is only a matter of time before the first stool collection hits the market. Or the fan.

It seems that many people collect things. Up to 70% of children collect things, though by the time people are in their 20’s only 23% of people collect things, falling to 12-15% of people in their 60’s. These things don’t have to be valuable, they just need to be something that interests the collector.

This is part of my collection of Post Box photos. The box is a double aperture Type C with the post-1980 “Royal Mail” logo. Oh yes, collections can be dull and worthless…

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Post box at Bakewell

It’s clear from this that the people I would to as collectors are different from the people that psychologists would refer to as collectors. They see people who accumulate things as being collectors where I tend to think of collectors as people who collect to a plan. Even if that plan is to amass a pile of stuff as cheaply as possible.

As for hoarders, these are collectors who have let things get out of control. Between 2% and 5% of adults meet the criteria for being hoarders.

The lack of clarity in terminology is only one of the complications you run into. The mind of the collector is another cause of confusion.

There was a collector in Nottingham who used to enter all his purchases in a diary. This was so that he could prove to his wife that he was sticking to a strict budget. He did this by writing down a cost that was 10% of the true cost. Even at that level, his wife thought he was spending too much on his hobby.

It all went well until he died. His wife, armed with the book, then marched into the dealer where the husband had made most of his purchases. After lecturing him on the evils of him helping her husband waste his time and money she pointed to the book and demanding that he repaid her all the money her husband had wasted. She wanted the full purchase price back, she declared, and wouldn’t take a penny less.

So he paid her.

It’s a tricky moral point. He paid her what she wanted and she went away happy. If she’d merely asked how much he would give her he’d have paid more.

On another occasion a widow called me in to look at a collection. It didn’t go well and, after travelling fifty miles to do so, I fell off the badly made loft ladder leading up to the hobby room in the roof. It got worse after that, but I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just leave you with the comedic picture of me stuck halfway through a roof hatch as she struggled to shove the ladder back under my flailing feet.

 

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Notts and Derby sweetheart brooch

And, of course, no discussion of collecting would be complete without a picture of a sweetheart brooch. It appears to be as big as a Double Aperture Type C pillar box, but is actually quite a lot smaller.

I have yet to master photography as a documentary medium.