Volume 53, Number 3, March 2016
Lost treasures? THIS MONTH Jeremy Cheek’s fascinating article on Treasures from the Royal Collection focuses on some pattern coins that few knew existed. I won’t spoil the surprise here (you can read the article on pages 35–36) but suffice to say the sets of these patterns housed in the Royal Collection today may not be the only examples of these coins out there. It is possible that somebody in the numismatic world has, probably unwittingly, got one of these treasures nestled in their collections; dismissed, perhaps, as an oddity, fake or mis-strike with no interest as anything other than a curio. Maybe they purchased it because it was an oddity or maybe it was given to them by a friend or relative because they were “into that sort of thing”. Perhaps an example of the coins Jeremy talks about resides even now in a forgotten album somewhere, known perhaps to the original collector but overlooked as “nothing much” by those who came after him who were unable to find it listed in a catalogue and so assumed it was of no interest. You may scoff, but how would a non-collector find out about the rarity (and thus value) of a coin? They would search in the COIN YEARBOOK or similar but if a coin was hitherto unrecorded then it won’t appear in a catalogue and thus may well be considered worthless to those outside our hobby. Most of us collectors would, I hope, be able to realise if something wasn’t quite as it should be, be it a mule, a uniface, a mis-strike or whatever, but even we wouldn’t necessarily know its true history. Take, for example, the 1954 penny—it shouldn’t exist, according to the Royal Mint there was no penny struck for that year, but we know of one that has come to market, it’s been seen, it is a genuine penny and yet it shouldn’t be! Are there any others out there I wonder? Are there potentially pennies from other non-mintage years around? It seems unlikely that such things have gone undetected in this day and age of mass communication, on-line fora, etc. We assume everybody knows which coins are rare and we assume that if any oddities came along then questions would be asked about them. But how do we know that back in the early 1960s a collector didn’t purchase a full set of pennies that shouldn’t exist, thinking them mere novelties and of no specific interest and, in the intervening half century, they have simply been forgotten about? You, as a keen collector with an eye for such things would consider such a scenario absurd but many a schoolboy collector has since moved on to other things, their coins languishing in a cupboard or drawer somewhere. So how do we know there isn’t a hitherto undiscovered numismatic gem hidden away amongst the more humdrum pieces? I am fully aware that many of you are reading this with more than a touch of cynicism—you have, for years, been searching for the Edward VIII coins that were supposedly never returned to the Mint when the King abdicated; have been trawling through 20th century copper at every antiques fair in the hope of finding the “lost” 1933 penny; have been eagerly looking through any Russian coins you may come across in the hope that they were struck in platinum and yet are being sold as silver and, in recent years, have been checking your change religiously hoping for a dateless 20p, a 1983 “New Pence” 2p or a “drowning swimmer” 50p—all without luck—and you know that tales of untold riches in your pocket are more than a little far-fetched, they don’t really happen at all. But you see they actually do, really—and even now, out there somewhere, are some coins once struck by two young girls who visited the Royal Mint in the 1930s. The chances are that the person, or people, who have them know little about what they are or about their history and yet a quick glance at Jeremy’s article will reveal all and perhaps someone is due a very pleasant surprise indeed. Are you, I wonder, one of the lucky holders of such a numismatic golden ticket? Check out the article to find out—and do let us know...!
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