Tag Archives: history

The Medallion Collection

It’s a very modest collection, which was, partly, my intention when I started it.

The idea was to buy a medallion relating to every year of the 20th Century, and to do so with discrimination and economy. (Before you ask, that’s 1900-2000 because I can’t be bothered to argue about when a century begins and ends).

I’ve collected a number of things in my life but I’ve never really made a sustained effort, or had sufficient cash. Not that I’m pleading poverty, just that my eyes are bigger than my wallet. Once I’ve bought a few things I start getting ambitious.

Look at this one – linking piers and medallions. What better for a man who likes piers and medallions? It’s nearly 200 years old and it isn’t expensive in collecting terms. However, I can’t see Julia being too happy to find we were on baked potatoes and beans until the end of the month because I’d blown the housekeeping. She’s very patient with me, but even she has her limits.

The first medal celebrates the life of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. I presume it was made in 1972 to commemorate his death. It doesn’t have a pier on it, but it does have a map of Africa and some interesting history behind it.

He was 63 when he died, just two years older than me. In that time he had achieved independence for Ghana and established a fame that still endures. That doesn’t leave me with much time for achieving something as I’ve loafed away my first 61 years and all I have to show for it is a small collection of  medallions.

The second one marks the Cambridge University Press’s move away from hot metal to digital printing.

I like medals made from re-used metal. I have one made from the copper of the Foudroyant )one of Nelson’s old ships) and one made from the lead of Selby Abbey. The Selby Abbey one was sold to raise funds for rebuilding the fire-damaged abbey. I really must find them…

It’s interesting to hold something in your hand and think that it used to be something else, though I suppose all metal was once something else, even if it was just ore.

This isn’t an elegant medal but it marks the end of an era. It was £6, including a box and explanatory leaflet.

I aim to spend around £5 on a medallion, which allows me to complete the century for around £500 and lets me buy something regularly. A collection needs regular additions. Or an addict requires a regular fix, depending on how you view collectors.

Looks like I missed the midnight deadline. I remember thinking it was 11.40 and time was pressing. Then I woke up at 12.10 sitting in the computer chair. I left it another eight hours before posting, as my ability to edit improves greatly after sleep.

 

Crossing Off Another Day

I have packed parcels, as usual. I have drunk coffee, despite my preference for tea (because I am offered coffee and am too lazy to make my own drinks). And I have eaten my sandwiches.
It has not been a day of high excitement or great drama. We have been using the internet as a displacement activity, and to inform ourselves so we now know that Doctor Ferdinand Porsche was chauffeur to Archduke Franz Ferdinand during his National Service. This reminds me that although I know the names of the Archduke and the assassin, the name of the 1914 chauffeur seems to be absent from the records.
I also now know that Nickola Tesla was a Serbian, liked pigeons, liked walking and didn’t like paying his bills.
I then moved on to eBay, selling gold-plated coins with pictures stuck on the back.
They are not quality coins, but if you buy them from us they are reasonably priced. Buy them from the manufacturer and they will cost you a lot more.
I’m seriously thinking of  applying for a job copywriting for the manufacturers, using words like sumptuous and avoiding words like value for money. Today I managed to get the word “skullduggery” in, so sumptuous should be easy.
That’s why I’m going to be nice about the makers of crap coins. Well, maybe not nice, but possibly neutral. If they find the blog I don’t want to put them off by being honest about the expensive tawdry garbage they market so aggressively.
I finished off the day with coins which have been made into jewellery. The best bit is this 1676 Half Crown.
Half crown of Charles II

Half crown of Charles II

It’s not the prettiest coin, it’s been made into a brooch, and someone has started to make a hole at the top, but it has seen some history in its life.

When it was minted Charles had only been back on the throne 16 years and Cromwell’s head was still on a spike above Westminster Hall. It probably circulated during some of the wars with Holland, Monmouth’s Rebellion and the South Sea Bubble. It might have been handled by Prince Rupert, Sir Isaac Newton or Sir Henry Morgan.

You never know, it might even have still been in circulation when America declared its independence.

That’s a lot of history for one small coin.

Storms and Stuff

It’s very windy this morning, though according to the weather forecast it isn’t a storm. As I lack formal training I can’t actually tell the difference.

Julia’s brother rang us last night to tell us. He’d been in the park next to the mosque shooting in New Zealand yesterday and heard the gunfire.

I wasn’t worried because I’d forgotten he was there. Julia wasn’t worried either, because she hadn’t realised how close to the shooting he was. Now she’s worried. I’m not. Over the years I’ve allowed her to do the worrying. She has more compassion than I do.

Time for work now, but I thought I’d share my brief connection to history.

There is, I feel an irony to the situation where an Australian gunman tries to draw attention to the perils of immigration  in New Zealand. I’m sure the Maori and Aborigines are already aware of the perils of uncontrolled immigration.

As for Trump’s wall, which is in the news again, well if I wasn’t going to work I’d feel compelled to mention that he really should give Texas back to Mexico…

 

 

Frank Soo

I was entering pre-war football cards onto eBay, specifically the large sized Topical Times series from the 1930’s. I find them awkward to work with and tricky to photograph, because they are nearly ten inches long with a tendency to curl. I’ve mainly used the scanner, because it flattens them nicely for the picture.

Yes, I’ve finally worked out how to use the scanner properly, though you can only fit two of these monster cards on at a time.

Ears, as you can see from the photographs, were worn larger in the 1930’s.

When I started on the colour cards, which are much less harrowing than the black and white images, I found Frank Soo.

 

The combination of name and slightly oriental features made me look again.

Frank Soo, was the first man of Chines heritage to become a professional footballer and first man of non-white heritage to play for England (in nine wartime Internationals). He went on to manage a number of teams in Sacandinavia, Italy and Scunthorpe. As a collector of trivia, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him.

His brother Ronald flew with the RAF in the war (Frank served in the RAF in a technical capacity) and was shot down and killed as a Lancaster air-gunner in 1944.

It’s amazing what you can learn if you keep your eyes open.

An Ordinary Life

Yesterday started, as usual, with shillings. We’ve probably spoken about shillings enough. I’ve certainly sorted enough.

I then moved on to sorting out four boxes of  secondhand office supplies we’ve recently inherited from the estate of a local dealer. Although I like stationery, I don’t necessarily like it when it’s mixed up in a box. What with scissors, loose staples and a loose craft knife it was not a happy episode.

Finally I was able to get to the computer in the back office and start putting medallions on eBay. We have a large supply of medallions. I refer to them as “modern”, though to many people the 1970s and 80s are “before I was born”.

I’ve put 41 on in two days and sold 14 already.

Fortunately I am not an ambitious man.

Historical Note: When someone reads my blog 50 years from now to see what ordinary people were thinking about Syria in the run up to Armageddon they are going to have to conclude “not much”.

I’m not sure why we are involved. I’m not sure why the Russians are involved. And I’m not going to waste time worrying about it because there’s nothing I can do to change things.

I’m now going to make corned beef hash for tea.

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Sifting Through History

It was an interesting day yesterday, starting with sorting out several boxes of Royal Mint proof sets. It moved on to refilling the decimal coin albums – the £2s, the £1s and the 50 pences. You can’t knock it, because it’s getting people involved in coin collecting and going through the change in their pockets. That’s how I started.

Collectable decimal coins – one of the mainstays of the shop. The 1807 is the two pound coin that supposedly has the rare variety. It doesn’t.

The first coins that ever interested me were farthings. We had a few at home in the early 1960s, just after they were discontinued. They were small neat coins, with a picture of a Wren on the back. A few years later my grandfather gave me one dated 1901. It had the veiled head of Queen Victoria on one side and, wonder of wonders, the figure of Britannia on the back. I was amazed.

I suppose in the days when we only had two black-and-white TV channels and no internet it was easier to be amazed.

There’s a little more to the farthing than the Wiki entry suggests, they actually date back to the days when silver pennies were cut into quarters (or fourthings) but it’s a good summary of the farthings I’m talking about.

By 1968 I had moved on and bought a book. That told me that it was still possible to get Churchill Crowns from the bank at face value (5 shillings, or 25 pence) and that they would be a good investement for the future. I asked my mother to get me four. Fifty years later they are worth their face value when we buy them in. You see them at all sorts of prices on ebay and antique centres, but that is just proof of either ignorance or greed.  A cupro-nickel crown from the 60s, 70s or 80s is not an expensive coin, and as I noted the other day, we just sorted a thousand for export. The fact that we were able to put together a thousand (and still have plenty left) may be a clue as to how well they sell, even though we are only looking for pennies of profit. It’s a rare week when we don’t buy twenty or thirty. And an even rarer week when we sell one to the public.

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Cupro-nickel crowns commemorating the silver wedding of the Queen and Prince Phillip

Although I didn’t continue with coins, I did continue collecting, which is a long, long story.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I was allowed to look through a couple of boxes of junk that we have bought from the estate of a deceased dealer. This is the sobering side of dealing in collectables, when you end up with the stuff of someone you’ve known for years.

Coronation medallet of William IV (1831) – an interesting piece of history from the junk box

Apart from being a practical demonstration of mortality it’s also a lesson that everyone, no matter how well organised they seem, has an accumulation of bits and pieces lurking around at the back of their life.

Peninsula War victories of the Duke of Wellington. It’s a bit worn, but so am I, and I’m a lot younger.

A Crowd of Customers and the Laws of Chance

We opened at 10.00 this morning, the phone went at 10.01 and two elderly gents walked in at 10.02 with three bags of coins. One wanted to sell coin.

Meanwhile. his friend wanted to look at postcards, which involved finding various boxes and albums for him. We need to get organised when we move shops. Two shop assistants, two customers. So far, so good.

Then a lady came in to sell some silver, banknotes, coins and medals. It was a shame about the medals, as they had no paperwork or photographs with them. He saw service in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with the Royal Navy during the war, but without extra details or medals with names on, all the history is lost.

So that was two assistants and three customers. Then a regular customer came and wanted to look at coins. The phone kept ringing with enquiries. Then two more people came in with things to sell…

Two assistants, six customers. It’s not ideal, as you can’t leave people hanging round too long, particularly if you want to take money off them, but you can’t do three jobs at the same time.

Eventually we managed to finish, and everyone seemed happy. I wasn’t even rude to anyone on the phone, though it was touch and go at times. It wasn’t the subject matter, it was the fact that they all start with a similar, lengthy, preamble, which you can do without when you have a full shop.

I don’t mind the fact that most questions are about “rare” coins: the laws of chance dictate that one day it really will be a rare coin or an interesting medal.

It really will.