The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 27, July 8, 2007, Article 18


Regarding my stay in London, Roger Burdette writes: "When do you
begin spelling words with extra letters and taking the 'lift' to
your hotel room?  I replied that "I’m already taking the tube and
the lift every day, and using colourful phrases!"   Roger's retort
was: "Bilmey, let's hope you don't come down with 'pub elbow' from
lifting all those pints. That would put the cotter in the hill! If
you're driving, be sure to stay off the vergis - driving there
could land you in gaol for a fortnight."

Well, I haven't driven in London and don't plan to.  And I doubt
I'm in danger of getting pub elbow - this week brought some late
nights in the office.  We even put in a full day and then some on
the Fourth of July, which strangely, the Brits don't seem to celebrate.
 Work keeps getting in the way of fun, but I try.  Although I missed
the first half, on Tuesday I made it to the meeting of the London
Numismatic Society.

I wasn't the only late arrival.  Outside the Warburg Institute on
Woburn Square I met David Dell, a well-dressed older gentleman who
introduced himself as a 50-year member of the club.  I learned that
he collected the short cross coinage.  But we were both locked out
of the building.  David reached through the bushes and tapped on the
meeting room window, which was conveniently on the first floor just
off the lobby.  It's the same room where the British Numismatic
Society meets.

After an officer of the club had some cross words with the building
guard who had left his post with the door locked inside and out, we
were let inside.  Harry Mernick was finishing up his presentation on
"The Royal Mint Centenary Medal Series, 1986-1999".  Counting myself,
there were seventeen attendees.

Beautifully illustrated with images projected from his computer,
Harry's talk was quite interesting.  Examples of all the medals were
laid out for viewing on the table at the front of the room.  The
series commemorates important British events.  Mintages were 5,000
in bronze, 2,500 in silver and 25 in gold.

The series was discontinued after 1999 for lack of public interest.
It's a shame, for many of the medals are quite well executed.  Harry
suggested that the problem could be due to the availability of so
many commemorative coins in circulation and the high prices charged
by the Mint for the medals.  He noted that the Royal Mint is testing
the waters with a new series, priced at 1,495 GBP for a set of six
silver medals.

One attractive medal honored the Llantrisant Longbowmen.  The Welsh
archers changed the course of warfare forever when their technological
advances ended the reign of Knights on horseback which had dominated
battlefields since the later years of the Roman Empire.  At 100 yards
their bodkin-tipped arrows could pierce not only chain mail, but
plate armour.

In a famous battle in 1346, "the French sent in wave after wave of
cavalry, hoping to overwhelm the English line. It held. Each time the
longbowmen made terrible slaughter from the protection of their ditches
and caltrops. As supplies of arrows ran shot, they sallied out in groups
to drag arrows out of dead and living, horses and men; and took prisoners
for later ransom.

"By midnight, Philip's brother, Charles II of Alençon and his allies,
King John of Bohemia and the Count of Flanders, Louis II of Nevers, as
well as 1,500 other knights and esquires were dead." [Taken from the
web site listed below. -Editor]

How events from 1346 ended up commemorated on a modern Centenary medal
I don't know, but I deserved to be confused for arriving late.  It was
an elegant medal regardless.  I learned more than just the story of
the archers - I finally learned how to pronounce the name of the town
of Llantrisant, Wales.  Harry explained that it means the "Land of
Three Saints" - Llan/Tri/Sant.

QUIZ QUIZ: What is Llantrisant's numismatic connection?  Harry's
vocabulary also includes the word "penultimate", which I remember is
also a favorite of numismatic author Q. David Bowers.  Harry used the
term correctly, but many of us misunderstand.  So what does it mean?

Other medals in the series are proper centenary medals, commemorating
events occurring 100 years earlier.  The 1994 Tower Bridge medal
commemorates the 1894 opening of the iconic London landmark.  A
majestic composition with extraordinary detail, the medal is a delight.
If you're in London and looking for a souvenir, pass up the trinkets
and get something like this.

I also enjoyed the beautiful art deco-style design of the 1997
Women's Institute medal, commemorating the founding of the organization
in 1897 (in Canada, actually).

In the question-and-answer session following Harry's talk, Frances
Simmons spoke about the Royal Mint's efforts to attract new engravers,
and another member noted that the remains of John Harrison (a renowned
clockmaker commemorated on one of the medals) are interred near Royal
Mintmaster Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

Following the meeting I was delighted to be invited to dinner at a usual
post-meeting haunt. Our party included Phil and Harry Mernick, David
Powell, Anthony Portner, and Robert H. Thompson, who edits a bibliography
of the British Numismatic Journal.   We walked down Tavistock Place past
a nice a pretty public square, eventually stepping into a little Indian

Starters and a round of cold Cobra beers was served.  Conversation was
a delight, and covered topics in and out of the numismatic realm.  I
noted that the pound coin seems to be the real workhorse, with most
examples I've seen being well worn.  Phil Mernick said that apparently
1% or more of all pound coins in circulation are actually counterfeits.
Apparently the high face value and worn condition of most of the
genuine coins makes it ripe for fakery.

Phil told us about some of the diagnostics, which are mainly on the edge.
He pronounced the two coins I drew from my pocket as genuine.   I looked
at them through a borrowed loupe to view the details.  When I asked Phil
why the words "One Pound" were backwards, he politely informed me that I
was looking at the coin upside down.   OK, no more Cobras for me tonight.

We exited the restaurant after a great meal and walked toward the Russell
Square tube station.  On July 7, 2005 a train traveling to Russell Square
from the next station (King's Cross's St. Pancras) was violated with the
explosion of a terrorist's bomb, killing 26 people.  Built in 1906, the
station has many interesting original architectural features, including
mosaic tile signage.  Harry pointed out to me the blast doors, large
heavy safe-like doors used to seal the tunnels against Nazi bombs in WWII.  
Life goes on.  We boarded a train and said our goodnights as we exited
at our stops.

By Thursday the pace of work cooled down a bit and I was lucky to be able
to go through with my planned dinner with John Andrew.  Numismatists in
the U.S. know him as the London correspondent of Coin World.  We met about
6 pm in the lobby of my building.  I had my laptop open to check a phone
number and offered to show him the draft of this week's issue.  It's not
necessarily a pretty sight - like software and sausages, one is better
off not knowing how it is made.

The draft is a very long conglomeration of unedited and unformatted
text.  Since Monday morning I'd been plopping in emails from subscribers
and the entire text of newspaper articles from the web.  To keep things
straight every item is separated by a draft headline in the same format
as the finished product.  If you think the final issues are big, you
should see a draft.  But disk space is cheap, so everything under the
sun gets thrown in to the pot.

I was shocked, shocked! to learn that John was not already a subscriber.
Sacrebleu!   But we remedied that quickly and walked down Shaftesbury
Avenue in the London drizzle to Bali Bali, an Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai
restaurant.  We had a wonderful dinner, sharing tales of our collecting

John has over 30 years experience in banking and has published over
twenty books on topics ranging from personal finance to Faberge, and
has contributed to all of the major U.K. newspapers including The Daily
Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Financial Times
and The Scotsman. He has written extensively on numismatics in numerous
countries and is Consultant Editor of the U.K.'s Coin News.

He has a healthy numismatic library and offered to make me a copy of
the item Bob Neale recommended - Eric Newman's 1959 article in the British
Numismatic Journal on "The successful British counterfeiting of American
paper money during the American revolution."  Two thousand miles away
and I'm still trodding in Eric's footprints on the numismatic landscape.

John doesn't actually collect coins anymore, just books and information.
He decided to stop collecting when he began writing about numismatics
professionally.  His collecting passion is post-WWII British silver and
gold.  Not coins, but tableware and decorative pieces.  A few years ago
he sold a collection of Faberge pieces he'd assembled over the years,
including elegant gold cigarette and match cases set with precious stones.
 The collection included a number of pieces in their original
presentation boxes including gifts from the Tsar of Russia.  Walking
into a London jewelry exhibit recently he spotted a piece on loan from
comedienne Joan Rivers and exclaimed "That's my brooch!"

A good friend of John's is Gerald Hoberman, known numismatically for
his beautiful 1981 Spink publication, "The Art of Coins and Their
Photography".  Hoberman has published scores of books of photographs.
John wrote the text for one on London which he showed me at dinner.
The photographs of London landmarks and quintessential sights (local
pubs, cheesemongers etc) were stunning.  A number of shots of palaces,
parks and gardens were taken from the air, offering a heavenly
perspective.  Having spent time around London I could really appreciate
the book's charms - it's highly recommended for non-numismatic reading.

Our conversation lasted throughout our long dinner which included
appetizers and dessert.  We talked about Stephen Fenton (who lives
near John) and the 1933 Double Eagles, and my collection of J.S.G. Boggs
material.  At John's request, back at my hotel I emailed him citations
for some of the books on the topics.  It was a delightful evening and I
look forward to visiting him again before my time in London is done.
Together we'll work on a piece about The E-Sylum for Coin News.

Friday morning I had to be up bright and early for a breakfast meeting
with Tom Patterson, CEO of my company, Command Information.  Tom is a
pioneer in Internet security and formed the company to jumpstart
commercial use of the next generation of the Internet (IPv6).  He had
with him a new T-Mobile phone which can switch from the standard cell
phone network to faster Wi-Fi connections.  The phone uses IPv6, as
does the new iPhone from Apple.

The meeting was at the Savoy Hotel.  Hopping into a cab at 7am, we
passed preparations for the Tour de France in Hyde Park and Trafalgar
Square.  Once at the hotel we were greeted by a chatty top-hatted
doorman.  The lobby of the Savoy is huge, topped by a large decorative
plaster border unlike any I've ever seen before.  The restaurant was
equally immense and framed in marble.  Our table was at the window,
overlooking the Thames.

I chose the buffet.  It was an absolute delight to the eye - the food
was presented meticulously.  There were three kids of marinated smoked
salmon, dozens of types of sliced fruit, and usual breakfast fare of
eggs, sausage, bacon, etc.  The waitress poured glasses of fresh orange-
mango juice.  It was a far cry from my usual breakfast of cereal and
O.J. from a supermarket-brand carton.

After work on Friday a colleague and I walked the few blocks down
Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square where the opening ceremonies
of the Tour de France were being held.  No cars could get near - the
streets were closed.  It was fun to walk down the center of Charing
Cross Road, normally jammed with traffic.  Police were out in force,
but I saw no one being stopped or searched.  Together with throngs
of people we strolled right past the security barriers.

The square was packed with thousands of people on temporary bleachers
and chairs.  From my spot on Charing Cross I could see the stage through
the trees.  The head of operations for the Tour introduced himself and
then the crowd was treated to a history of the bicycle as people pushed
or rode antique bicycles across the stage.  One of the earliest was an
example of the classic Victorian style with no gears and one huge wheel
in the front.

A large video screen made it easier to see the action on the stage,
but where I stood it was all very noisy and difficult to hear, as people
squeezed past us holding conversations and vendors hawked T-shirts from
a truck behind.  We watched a man climb atop a bus shelter to take a
photo - after he was in place someone handed him up a backpack and a
camera with a huge zoom lens.

I didn't stay long and walked back toward my tube stop.  I don't mind
crowds, but my nervous family wants me to stay away from them.  That's
easier said than done in Central London.  I stopped for a haircut and
then walked to my tube stop at Oxford Street.  Had the weather been better
I would have walked all the way home, and that would have made for a much
more pleasant journey.  The sidewalk at Oxford Street was jammed with
people, and officials were turning people away from the entrance to the
underground.  I assume it was because of the traffic generated by the
Tour; this entrance was now an exit only - I would have to cross two
streets to get into the station.

Crossing those streets took a while - there were mobs of people.  Finally
I reached the train platform and it was also quite crowded.  A train
arrived soon but was already jammed with passengers.  Two people got off,
three people squeezed in, and off the train went with me and hundreds of
others still stranded on the platform.  Somehow I managed to get on the
next train which was equally packed nutztobuttz with people.  What was
that about avoiding crowds?

When I reached my stop at the Queensway station I squeezed off the train.
The Central Line is deep underground at that point and to get to street
level riders have to take a lift (elevator) or brave the stairs.  I
chose the stairs.  Normally I'm the only one but tonight there were
dozens of people hoofing it up the 123 steps.  No, I didn't count them,
but there's a sign to warn the faint of heart.  It was a relief to reach
the street and breathe the cool evening air.  While the rest of London
was out and about Friday night, I was quite content to have the hotel
laundry facility to myself to take care of the weekly washing.   While
waiting I read some email and popped a few more submissions into this
week's E-Sylum draft.

Saturday morning brought a strange sight to my windows - blue skies
and sunshine.  It had been at least a fortnight since we had such a
nice day.  I faced the day with mixed emotions, though.  It was the
anniversary of the London bombings which killed 52 people on the
London transportation system.

Checking email at breakfast I got a note from ANS Executive Director
Ute Wartenberg Kagan who was traveling in Berlin.  She writes: "Two
years ago on July 7 I was in London and just about to enter Edgeware
Road, one of the stations where a bomb went off on a train.  Later I
heard that one of my numismatic colleagues from the British Museum was
on one of the trains, but was unharmed.  But in London people expect
this sort of thing, I am sure you noticed."

Although I had been invited to attend, I decided not to go to the
'Currencies in Crisis' conference in Chichester.  I also passed up a
chance to visit Wimbledon for the playoffs.  It had been a long week
and I wanted to complete my E-Sylum chores at a leisurely pace and
take a few casual walks in the warm sun.  I opened the windows wide
to let in the fresh cool air.

After having some lunch I went for a long walk in Hyde Park, home base
of the London leg of the Tour de France bicycle race.  Hundreds of trucks
and buses were parked three deep along one long road.   I soon came
across the People's Village, basically a peddler's fair piggybacking on
the Tour.  There were booths selling T-shirts, all manner of food and
drink and traditional French products.  I saw a few of the racers whiz
by to the cheers of the crowd.  This was only the prologue race - the
official race starts Sunday and goes on and on.  One rider described it
as "the only sporting event in the world where you need a haircut
halfway through."

On Sunday I worked some more on The E-Sylum in the morning and after
lunch set out on another journey.  My cross-town destination was Sotheby's,
to view lots in their 12 July sale of English Literature and History.
It was a quiet afternoon.  I checked my backpack in the cloakroom and
entered the book room for lot viewing.   There were only three others
viewing lots.  I filled out a lot viewing sheet, but was never asked
for identification. Viewers are not allowed to copy or transcribe any
part of the documents in their notes, but the staff was quite helpful
and I had free reign to handle the items.

I was particularly interested in just one lot, and only for viewing
since it would be too expensive to buy.  Here's the lot description
(estimate 2,000-3,000 GBP):

"Newton, Sir Isaac. Collection of documents relating to the Royal Mint
including a receipt for plate taken from three ships, subscribed ("recd
the plate above mentioned ... by me") and signed by Newton as master of
the mint, 1 page, folio, 28 May 1703, endorsed on verso, tear resulting
in loss of half of signature, professionally restored.

"[together with:] a group of 16 documents relating to the Royal Mint
including: letters to and from various correspondents, some being copies,
on such subjects as the use of an iron screw press "that may be used for
forginge or Counterfeiting the current monies and coyne of this Kingdom",
the discharge of goods seized from a pirate by the Hull mint, building
work at the Chester mint, and a patent held by Sir Talbot Clarke for
the smelting and refining of copper; receipts including sums received
in taxes by various county receivers, the costs of assaying and
transporting plate brought from Vigo, and the salaries of officials at
the Exeter mint; in total 22 pages, various sizes and locations, 2
December 1682 to 23 December 1712, professionally restored and
strengthened, waterstaining (17)"

That the document is missing part of Newton's signature is a shame.
Only "Isaac" remains.  An interesting group, particularly the pirate
item.  I recall the spelling as "Pyrate".  They're not for me at that
price level, but I hope they find a good home.

While I was there I took a peek at a few other items. Lot 15 is a very
nice large autographed photographic portrait of inventor Thomas Edison,
suitable for framing.  Lot 44 is a two-volume, first edition set of
Adam Smith's 1776 treatise, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
the Wealth of Nations."  It was a treat to hold the first edition of
this landmark work. Chapter IV is titled "Of the Origin and Use of Money".

Lot 92 is a two-volume first edition of Charles Dickens' "Sketches by
'Boz'" with sixteen wood-engraved plates by George Cruikshank, known
numismatically for his famous "hanging" satire note.  Lot 105 is an
1849 edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's "Frankenstein: or The
Modern Prometheus".

Not all of the lots were centuries old.  Lot 282 is a 1997 first edition
of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone", estimated at 1,000—1,500 GBP.  The book carried
a marking from the Portsmouth City Council Library Service and a date
of 8/97.  The original cover price was 10.99 GBP.  My neighboring lot
viewer questioned why the book didn't been marked as a discard, since
"a lot of these get nicked from public libraries."

Leaving Sotheby's I continued walking down Bond Street, London's 
upscale shopping district comparable to LA's Rodeo Drive or New York's 
Fifth Avenue.  Since it was a Sunday the shops were closed.  I turned left 
on Piccadilly and wandered into the Royal Academy of Arts.  Situated on 
a beautiful plaza together with the Astrological and Geological Societies 
and the Society of Antiquaries, the setting is similar to the American 
Numismatic Society's former home on Audubon terrace, only in a civilized 

I had seen my fill of Impressionist Paintings and passed on the summer
exhibit, "Impressionists by the Sea".  I was disappointed that the
library was closed - I would have liked to ask the librarians about
works pertaining to coin designers.  Established in 1768, the Academy's
library is the oldest institutional library in the U.K.

I walked through the public galleries viewing paintings and some
interesting artifacts such as Sir Joshua Reynolds' palette.  Making
use of my E-Sylum vocabulary, I recognized the word "Tondo" in the
exhibit guide, and made my way upstairs to view what the Academy
considers its greatest treasure - the marble sculpture the Toddei
Tondo: The Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John by Michelangelo

Leaving the Royal Academy I walked through Mayfair past Shephard's
Market and other landmarks, making my way into Hyde Park near Apsley
House at Hyde Park Corner.  The park was still full with the Tour de
France, and I climbed up a temporary staircase and bridge to cross
over the racecourse on Serpentine Drive.  Stopping to buy some water
(1.65 GBP for a 500ml bottle), I continued along the far side of
Serpentine Lake, past the Diana Memorial Fountain and Round Lake back
to my Bayswater neighborhood.  It was about a three mile walk in all
- time to rest my weary feet.

To visit John Andrew's web site, see:

To read more on the Llantrisant Longbowmen, see:
Full Story

To view images of counterfeit British one-pound coins, see:
Images of Counterfeit Pounds

To learn some diagnostics of fake one-pound coins, see:
Full Story
Full Story

To view Sotheby's lot description: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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