Volume 55, Number 7, August 2017
Shopping around COLLECTING MEDALS has never been easier than it is today. With the advent of the internet, medals from across the globe are accessible to us all, whether via private sales on eBay or similar, major auction houses on the other side of the world, or just sales/dealers in this country that we just can’t get to—today all are just a laptop or tablet screen away. It’s the same with research: in the past you would have to physically go to the place where the papers, diaries, etc., were kept, or pay somebody else to go there for you, but not today. Now you can go on-line and within seconds find out more about “your man” and his service than you ever thought possible. You can then go on a forum and discuss your findings, potentially learning even more about your latest acquisition. It is truly a great time to be a collector, a time when you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home in order to pursue your hobby. . . . Now, of course, you know what’s coming next because I have made no secret of this little piece of soap-box propaganda in the past: that if you collect solely from behind your keyboard then you are missing out. This is highlighted again this month with the opening of a brand new medal shop in Herefordshire and the celebration of two decades worth of trading for another in London. In this electronic age you could be forgiven for thinking that the medal shop is a thing of the past, but as War & Son have shown this month, that is far from the case; and Chelsea Military Antiques, now the London Medal Company, have also proved that bricks and mortar work very well indeed as they have been in business now for 20 years (see “News and views” for full details on both stories). Indeed, a physical presence is important across the board. Chris Dixon, one of this country’s most respected dealers, has a business premises in Bridlington where collectors can come and peruse his latest stock; there’s the Medal Centre in Hexham, Scotmint in Ayre, DCM Medals in Shrewsbury, the new War & Son shop in Leominster, Louis Bannon in Cardiff, Q&C Militaria in Cheltenham, Peter Morris in Bromley, Stephen Wheeler and the London Medal Company in London and, as was seen last month, even some of the big London auction houses are thinking of getting back into retail. Of course, the fairs have always been a huge part of the hobby and are great places to meet dealers face to face and actually handle the medals you’re hoping to buy—no amount of pictures on-line can take the place of being able to pick up a group, check the naming, feel the weight and just “know” whether it’s right or not, but there’s something special about a medal shop. I remember when Emile Szauer had his Dublin Coins and Medals shop in Cathedral Street in the Irish Capital—it was a meeting place, a social club, a go-to venue for local collectors and visitors alike and, for those favoured few upon whom Emile bestowed his favour, the pub next door did a great Irish coffee! I’m not sure whether there’s a great pub next to the War & Son shop in Leominster (we will find out later this year when we visit them to see their new venture), but there’s a nice one just down from the London Medal Company and I’m sure if you spend enough money with them Richard, John or Rowan will stand you a pint or two! Because that’s what this hobby is about just as much as the medals themselves. David Erskine-Hill said it in this magazine last month in the Spink interview, when he mentioned that for him meeting the people was the important thing. Yes, the medals are the reason we all get together—they are what we have in common, they are our shared interest, but they are not, or at least shouldn’t be, the be all and end all. We talk about the “man behind the medal” and revere his story, well, there are men (and women) behind the collections, behind the stalls at fairs and behind the counters at shops and they are every bit a part of this hobby as the medals are. So this month I dedicate this “Comment” to all of you out there in the medal shops—whether you are just starting out or have been in business for decades, I wish you the greatest success—the hobby just wouldn’t be the same without you.
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