The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 21, May 27, 2007, Article 12


This week I found some time to follow numismatic pursuits.  After
work on Tuesday I met E-Sylum subscriber Hadrian Rambach in the lobby,
and we had a pleasant walk to the May meeting of the British Numismatic
Society.  Hadrian is a tall and handsomely dressed young man who was
raised in Paris, worked for three years at Spink in London, and now
represents clients buying rare gemstones and Roman coins.   An avid
numismatic bibliophile, we had corresponded often by email but had
never met.

Arriving right at the start of the meeting we signed in and quickly
grabbed chairs in the crowded and hot lecture room.  The speaker was
Donal Bateson on the topic of "William Hunter and Eighteenth-Century
Coin Collecting."  Dr. Hunter (1718-1783) was a wealthy London collector
who assembled a grand numismatic cabinet which he donated to the
University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Shortly into the lecture I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar
face in the crowd.  Sitting a few seats over in the row in front of
me was none other than NBS Governor John W. Adams of Boston!  I think
he was as surprised to see me as I was him.  Small world, eh?  John
had been doing research at the nearby British Museum.  Seated next
to him was medal dealer and E-Sylum subscriber Christopher Eimer.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints I was unable to chat with
John - he and Chris had to make an early exit to meet their wives
for dinner.

As the meeting ended Hadrian introduced me to numismatic literature
dealer Douglas Saville, also formerly of Spinks, who put the first
glass of wine in my hand at the Sherry Social following the meeting.
Douglas couldn't stay long either, having to get home and assist his
wife who is recovering from a hand injury.  But we exchanged cards
and made plans for a visit before I leave London.

At the Social I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of
great people, including E-Sylum subscriber Phil Mernick and his brother
Harry. Upon stating my interest in U.S. Civil War numismatics I was
quickly introduced to David Powell, who has given talks on the subject
to a number of English societies.  We had a nice chat; David is now
an E-Sylum subscriber and provided an item for this issue on his
research into early British lead tokens.  I also enjoyed a long
conversation with Frances Simmons, who with her husband runs the
London Coin Fair (coming up on 9 June).

As the gathering dwindled Hadrian and I made our exit for dinner,
walking to a nice Greek restaurant on Coptic Street near the British
Museum.  My friend Myron Xenos of The Money Tree, who finds Greek
restaurants like a ouzo-seeking missile at every American Numismatic
Association convention, would be pleased.  The meal was marvelous,
and Hadrian and I had a great conversation about numismatics,
numismatic literature, and dozens of other interesting topics.
The taxi dropped me off at my hotel about midnight.  Many thanks
again to Hadrian and the members of the BNS for their welcoming

Hoping to find time to meet with John Adams I emailed him and Chris
Eimer before finally calling it a night.  The next morning on the
way into the office my cell phone rang - it was Chris Eimer.
Unfortunately, John Adams had a return flight to the U.S. that
morning.  But Chris invited me for lunch at his club that afternoon,
and luckily I was appropriately dressed in a suit and tie and had
no meetings over the lunch hour.  I quickly accepted.

Meeting Chris for the first time at the fountain in Piccadilly
Circus just after noon, we walked together to The Reform Club on
Pall Mall.  Formed as a political organization in the 1830's, the
gentleman's club is housed in a magnificent 1840 building with
an immense marble central hall and skylight.  I was intrigued to
learn later that Jules Verne used The Reform Club as the setting
for the launch of Phileas Fogg's journey 'Around the World in 80 Days'.

Chris and I enjoyed a nice buffet lunch in a grand room lined with
portraits of past members, including William Thackeray.  The time
passed quickly and soon I had to rush back to the office.  But we
also made plans to get together another time during my visit.  Many
thanks to Chris for his time and generosity.   Just don't tell my
wife I've been frequenting "gentleman's clubs" in London...

The rest of the week my numismatic activity was restricted to working
on The E-Sylum in the evening and culling coins from pocket change.
But a few museum visits on Saturday have some tangential numismatic

Having seen many of the London tourist highlights with coworkers the
previous weekend, I was ready to strike out on my own for some
lesser-known sites.  I decided to follow the footsteps of an earlier
American in London, Benjamin Franklin.  The house where he resided
in London is the only surviving Franklin residence in the world.
It turns out I had walked (or stumbled) right past it on a pub outing
last week.  This time I went in for a visit.

The house at 36 Craven Street was Franklin's home and an unofficial
Ambassador's residence for nearly sixteen years from 1757 to 1775,
when Franklin beat a hasty retreat to Philadelphia on the eve of war.
The house opened to the public for the first time just last summer
after a five million pound restoration effort.  As an American history
buff I was delighted and humbled to walk the same floors that Franklin
paced in those uncertain pre-Revolution years.

As a numismatist I was pleased to hear the program acknowledge his
innovations in printing paper money.  The "Benjamin Franklin House
Historical Experience" may not be for everyone, though.  I'm sure my
wife and kids would have found it dreadfully boring.  I was the only
visitor at that time, if you don't count the elderly Chicago couple
who left one-third of the way through.  The museum has no artifacts,
but an actress dressed as Polly (Franklin's landlady's daughter) guides
you through the empty rooms accompanied by an audiovisual dramatization
of events.  I enjoyed it, and most E-Sylum readers should too -- but
leave non history buffs at your hotel.

The crowds who spurned the Ben Franklin house were to be found a few
blocks away at the National Gallery.  Although I had been through there
last week, I went back to proceed at a slower pace. I noted a couple
paintings with numismatic references.

"The Tribute Money", painted by Titian about 1506-8 (and purchased by
the Gallery in 1852) illustrates Christ in Matthew 22:17-22 - "Render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that
are God's"

Of interest to the collector in all of us may be Parmigianino's
"Portrait of a Man", painted before 1524.  "The sitter is probably
a collector of note.  He holds a Book of Hours, while valuable
antiquities and a sculpted relief of Venus, a bronze status of Ceres,
and coins surround him."

Next door at the National Portrait Gallery's Tutor Room was a display
of ten coins titled "Early Coinage Profile Portraits".  "The
earliest face of an identifiable English ruler shown upon a coin
represents King Offa of Mercia produced in the late 8th century."
The case included silver pennies, a groat of Henry VIII and gold
sovereigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I.

A nearby exhibit featured "Tudor and Jacobean Miniatures and Medals",
including a silver medal "celebrating the marriage of Mary Queen of
Scots and Lord Darnley July 1565...  However the following year the
couple were estranged and in 1567 Darnley was murdered."  Too many
visits to gentleman's clubs, perhaps?

The last numismatic connection I'll mention is a portrait of George
Washington by Gilbert Stuart.  This view of Washington is the basis
for the portrait on the U.S. one dollar bill.  "One of Stuart's many
replicas of his best known portrait painted in 1796.  Assuring the
impact of this portrait type, Stuart produced over seventy replicas
and the resulting income led him to refer to it as "his hundred
dollar bill'"

Despite the rain that greeted me when I left the museum, I walked
about four miles back to my hotel in Notting Hill, down Oxford
Street to Oxford Circus, past the Marble Arch and Hyde Park.  I
was damp and tired, but it had been an enjoyable day.

To read the text of David Powell's U.S. Civil War Tokens talk, see:
David Powell's U.S. Civil War Tokens

The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery:

To view Titian's Tribute Money painting, see:
Titian's Tribute Money painting

To view the Parmigianino portrait, see:
Parmigianino portrait

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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