Tag Archives: junk box

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.


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.

History in a Junk Box

There was a time when dealers used to have junk boxes full of clapped out coins, broken bits and base metal medallions. I certainly did. When I bought mixed boxes at auction the detritus from the bottom, after being carefully checked, would end up tipped in the junk box.

When buying, the junk boxes of other dealers were my natural habitat. I’ve bought some good stuff out of junk boxes. It seemed like they would never end. Then ebay came along and  it all ended up on line.

The contents of the box could cover anything from ancient coins to petrol station giveaways, via Georgian medals, Victorian adverts and pre-decimal coins. One of the staple items was the mass produced commemorative medal. They really started in a big way with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and ended in the 1930s with a flurry of royal events – George V’s Jubilee, the abdication (though this is shown only by the  items of Edward VIII (which aen’t really rare, whatever dealers may say) and, finally, the coronation of George VI.

This is the medallion Nottingham produced for the 1897 Jubilee of Queen Victoria

This is the Edward V!! medal from Nottingham – note the foresters supporting the coat of arms.

The colour changes for 1911, as do the supporters on the coat of arms, but the general idea remains the same. There is a second version of the medal, often known locally as the unofficial version (see below).

There is a medal very similar to the 1911 coronation medal – made for the 1914 Royal visit. It isn’t just in recent years that the Royal Family has been unpopular, there were seven attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria and one on Edward VII. In 1914, to encourage public approval George V embarked on a programme of visits. I’ve seen the itinerary for his visit to Nottingham – he visited Arnold and Mansfield too, though I think he just waved at Arnold in passing.

Royal visit to Nottingham (above( and Dundee (below).

Things seemed to tail off after that, with a much smaller selection being produced for 1953. To set it in perspective, rationing was still in force in 1953, and the fledgling Matchbox company struggled to produce model cars when metal supplies were diverted to fighting the Korean War.

This is one of the later medals, from Mansfield Woodhouse.

I have plenty more to show you yet, so don’t worry about me running out for the next few weeks,