Coin News

Volume 39, Number 12, December 2002

Just a bag of sweets

Volume 39, Number 12, December 2002

Another shilling handed over for a bag of sweets and another three threepenny bits handed over as change, would one of these be the one I had been looking for for so long? (I and thousands of others that is!) would one of these little nickel-brass dodecahedrons bear that elusive 1937 date and the effigy of the man who would not be king? The story of the abdication was well known to us schoolboys, even those of us born some years later, and equally well known was the fact that the event, by its very nature, was so last minute that a great deal of time, effort and money had already been spent to make the new King’s transition to the throne, a transition that would now never happen, as swift and easy as possible. This had included the production of a number of pattern and trial pieces for the new monarch’s coinage, the most famous of these was the new look threepenny bit with the thrift plant, or “sea pink” on the reverse. This design originated from sketches submitted by Frances Maude Kitchener for the new reverse of the silver three pence, however the decision had been made to do away with the small silver coin and replace it with a larger nickel-brass piece. At the time of the abdication the exact shape and size of the piece was still being debated and various trial pieces of varying thicknesses had been struck to send out for testing by interested parties such as slot and vending machine manufacturers. It is known that not all were subsequently recovered by the mint and, following the decision of the king to give up the crown for the woman he loved, these pieces became like gold dust with every schoolboy, and girl, religiously checking their change for one, or it’s equally famous cousin the elusive 1933 penny. Now I’m not for a second suggesting that this was done with the higher cause of numismatics in mind, not at all, it was done because most of us knew that to find one of these funny shaped little coins meant riches beyond our wildest dreams – we were in it for the money! We were right to be so as well for if we had found such a coin we would have been able to dispose of it for many times it’s face value and, if we had had the courage to wait a while it’s value would keep rising – as is proved this month when one of these coins comes under the hammer at London Auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) with an estimate of £15,000-20,000, not a bad return on an old threepence when their were 80 to the pound, something like an 80,000% increase on face value – show me another investment that has gone up so much? Of course such marvellous gems as this do sometimes create a problem with newcomers to the hobby, who naively expect all coins to go up in value in such leaps and bounds and who become sorely disappointed and disillusioned when they don’t; but those in the know, those of us who collect for pleasure and not for profit are always happy to see such wonderful pieces come onto the open market. Certainly we recognise that there may be the element of investment in a purchase such as this, just as when we hunt for a ’33 or ’54 penny in the bag of copper brought in to us by the little old lady down the street or the 1983 “New Pence error” two pence in our change today most of us would be doing it with an eye on our bank balance, but we also realise that it is just as likely that the successful buyer will treasure this coin for years to come and get endless pleasure from owning it even if he does allow himself, from time to time a rueful smile when he remembers how he hunted for it all those years ago and, had he been lucky could have got it for no more than the price of a bag of sweets.

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