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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 37, September 16, 2007, Article 16

LONDON REFLECTIONS

John Dannreuther (whose email was signed 'In Books We Trust'),
writes: "The latest E-Sylum brought back memories of my two visits
to the British Museum's study room.   It's a very nice atmosphere
to examine coins (except the lighting). The coin exhibit also is
among the best, if not the best, in world."

John Adams writes: "Another numismatic attraction in London is the
exhibit at the V&A showing how a medal is cast, from start to finish,
accompanied by a film clip that further amplifies.  No doubt, the
inspiration for this exhibit was the museum's director, Mark (The
Art of the Medal) Jones."

Nick Graver writes: "Please tell me someone is going to print out all
your London Diaries and bind them as a book!   They are so special, at
least one set should be bound and exist as a genuine book. Has it been
proposed, or done?"

Actually, I've been thinking of doing just that to have something
to give to my kids.  John Adams also suggested "How about doing an
offprint of all of your Notes from London, 20 numbered copies signed
by the author, proceeds to NBS?"   That's a good idea as well.  I
still haven't quite unpacked from the trip, but I'll work on something.
I wonder how many pages it will be - I've never actually printed out
an E-Sylum issue.

Looking back on my London assignment, I thought I'd offer the following
observations.  For numismatists planning a visit, my top recommendations
would be the British Museum and the Bank of England Museum.  Both can
be enjoyed by numismatists and non-numismatists alike, so bring the
whole family.  Better yet, both museums are FREE to the public (but
be sure to drop something in the donation boxes).

If you have time to travel outside of London, consider the Fitzwilliam
in Cambridge.  The medieval armor display is stunning and the exhibits
are close enough to touch (although you're not supposed to, I'm sure).
I found the armor displays at the Tower of London must less interesting,
mainly because the items are farther from the viewer or behind glass.
I got bored marching through and I wasn't the only visitor to jump the
lines to get out quickly.  The temporary numismatic exhibit in the Tower
was the biggest disappointment of my visit.  The recent Coin World
article on the exhibit was clearly written from a press release.
Having seen it in person I wouldn't bother walking up the steps to
get to it.

But don't let me be a sourpuss and turn you off of the Tower of London.
It remains a must-see on my list, but for the power of place and the
masterful interpretations of the Yeoman Guards.  The guards-turned-
tour-guides do an absolutely marvelous job of bringing history to life,
and to hear their tales while standing in on the very grounds where
the centuries-ago events took place borders on the magical.  As
Disneyfied as the place has become, it's no Disney, at least not in
the everything-is-fake-but-fun sense of the word.  Despite the thousands
of years of changes, this place is undeniably REAL, from the Roman wall
to the execution grounds to the White Tower itself.

Back to numismatics, serious collectors should kick themselves if they
don't plan at least one visit to the Student Room at the British Museum.
I procrastinated until late in my visit and wish I had found the time
to visit more often.  The ease of access is unbelievable - I guess I
just didn't expect it would be so easy to just waltz in off the street
and gain access to the collection.  As I noted, security is heavy -
coins are logged carefully and visitors are watched closely, but with
no questions asked visitors can see and handle many of the items in
the museum's extensive collection.

Access to collections is much more limited elsewhere, but one should
never be afraid to contact curators in advance to request a visit.
For example, my visit to the coin rooms at the Fitzwilliam was
enchanting, and serious scholars can be given research access to
parts of the collections on an as-needed basis.

The same can be said of the major London coin dealers.  These are
businesses after all, not tourist attractions, but if my experience
is any indication most of the dealers are quite welcoming to visitors
and happy to take a few moments to visit.  I did not make the rounds
of all the dealers, but Baldwin's, Spink and Dix Noonan Webb were
especially gracious and accommodating to my presumptuous last-minute
visits as my schedule allowed.

Simon Narbeth was equally welcoming and willing to spend a good deal
of time chatting with an interested collector.  In the end I did
purchase several items but I could tell that I was welcome
regardless.  This same spirit was evident in Pam West, who was quite
forthcoming with information during my visit to her coin fair table.
My hat is off to all the dealers for their openness and welcoming
demeanor.

Although non-numismatic I will add the staff at Sotheby's of London
to that list.  I would highly recommend to everyone visiting London
to stop by Sotheby's to view auction lots.  In some ways this was
the highlight of my visit, and I'm very glad I took the initiative
to stop by.  Viewing multimillion-dollar paintings first-hand before
an auction was a true thrill.  It's true that some of the best things
in life are free.   Seeing a painting on a wall in a museum is one
thing, but seeing pieces that have been in private collections for
decades (and likely to return to another private collection) is a
rare treat.  And it would be a fun way for family members to learn
a little bit about collecting.  They’ll remember that painting if
they read in the paper that it sold the next night for $55 million.

Lastly, try to find time for some of the idiosyncratic London sights
that are a bit off the beaten path.  Other highlights of my visit
turned out to be the Sir John Soane museum, the pedestrian tunnel
under the Thames and the Royal Observatory - all free as well, I
might add.

As E-Sylum editor I am blessed with many friends, but as E-Sylum
readers we're all friends.  Readers like Ted Buttrey, Christopher
Eimer, Harry and Phil Mernick, Hadrien Rambach, Douglas Saville,
John Andrew, Caroline Holmes and others all went to extra lengths
to brighten my stay, and to them I'm eternally grateful.  I would
also like to acknowledge Charles Riley of Charles Riley of Aylesbury 
(near Oxford) who graciously offered to meet with me, but our 
schedules never quite synced up.

My main regret is only that I only had a certain amount of time
available to visit with everyone.  I also regret my mental lapses
in having people sign my copy of the Comitia Americana book.
Sometimes I had forgotten to bring it with me, sometimes people
were busy with customers at a coin fair, and in Darryl Atchison's
case, I was so enthralled with his manuscript that I completely
forgot to pull out my book to have him sign.  Nevertheless I'm
glad I thought to take it with me and very happy to have a number
of signatures and inscriptions to remind me of my visits in addition
to these electronic jottings.

Thanks also to all of you, my E-Sylum readers - your comments
and complements were quite encouraging, and although I stayed up
later than I should have some nights completing my diary entries,
I'm glad I did.  It was a fun episode in my collecting life, and
I'm glad to have had your vicarious companionship.  Happy collecting!

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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