Coin News

Volume 52, Number 5, May 2015

Exceptional gold

Volume 52, Number 5, May 2015

How to be remembered HOW many of us, I wonder, actually think about why we collect. I know I don’t. I know why I started collecting, I know why I enjoy it and now I realise I collect simply because I can’t not. I could no more stop and leave my collection incomplete than fly in the air, so it has become self-perpetuating. I collect because I started. It is as simple as that. Some of us, the “true” collectors, do it differently. Over the years we have seen some amazing collections come up for sale (e.g. Lockett, Norwood, Montagu, Garrett, Mack, Hunt, etc., etc.) and that trend is still continuing today. In recent years we have had the wonderful Prospero Collection and the memorable Bentley Collection sold through Baldwins and now we have the outstanding Park House collection to be offered through St James’s later this month. And of course we have the occasional “Property of a Gentleman” sales where the collector wishes to remain anonymous. These collections are generally the crème de la crème—they are the benchmarks against which we mere mortals measure our meagre efforts and they invariably contain coins that are not only the best of their type but often the only one of their type! Did these collectors set out to achieve this level of numismatic greatness? Did they, one day, buy a coin with the avowed intent to ensure they had the best collection of its type ever to be put together? Did they expect to go down in history with a named collection that would forever be referenced in auction catalogues (ex Park House Collection, ex Bentley Collection, etc.)? Did they start out with that aim or did they stumble upon it accidentally? Did they, like most of us, simply start collecting because they were interested in it and then find it difficult if not impossible to stop? Did they simply buy what they could, when they could, and then realise one day that they had one of the best collections of their particular coin/reign/ type ever amassed? The somewhat reclusive nature of many collectors means that we may never really know much more about them, or their motives, than what their brief biography at the start of the auction catalogue offering their treasures gives us—and in many cases we don’t even get that. The “Property of a Gentleman” tag ensures that not only will we never know motives, but we will not even know the name of the person who is allowing us the chance to purchase such delights. However, I suspect that few of these collecting greats ever set out with any motive at all, other than to acquire the best they could when they had the means to do so. Admittedly the “means” to acquire such coins is what stops most of us from being able to put together collections of such importance and there is little doubt that most of those whose collections go down in history have had a certain element of wealth associated with them; but don’t let that put you off! Somewhere out there, I am sure, is somebody reading this editorial comment who has been collecting for a few years and, without even really thinking about it, is already the custodian of one of the finest collections (of shillings/sixpences/groats . . . — delete as applicable) and who knows, they may one day have their name in an auction catalogue which will be quoted down the years. You see, the thing about “important” collections isn’t just about how much money they will fetch when sold, or indeed how much money they cost to create in the first place, but rather how much care and dedication went in to building them up. The “greats” spent years scouring dealers’ lists and visiting coin shows to find what they were looking for; they put the word out to those that mattered to look out for what they were collecting; they bartered with and bought from other collectors—they were single-minded in their goal and their hard work was duly rewarded. Most of us don’t collect like that: we buy things when we see them, we enjoy making new acquisitions and are excited when we stumble across a coin that fits our theme at a show, on a list or on-line, but if we don’t buy anything that month, if we don’t add to collections for a while, it doesn’t really matter. I know I’m like that, I really enjoy looking for something new: I get a buzz out of adding another coin to the “Mussell” collection, but if I don’t see something for a while then that’s OK too. With this attitude I fear my name won’t appear in an auction catalogue. I won’t ever be one of the “greats”. Will you?

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