The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 36, September 10, 2007, Article 12


I'd been up late packing the night before but rolled out
of bed around 7:30 to get ready for the day and complete my
packing.  Mercifully, everything fit into my bags, but it sure
was a tight squeeze.  My laptop computer was the last to go.
I put a few final touches on yesterday's London Diary and
emailed a copy to John Keyworth at the Bank of England Museum.
By the time my hotel room was squared away I was nearly half an
hour late for my planned departure.  Today's destination was a
morning visit to the Coin Fair at Jury's hotel, just down the
street from the British Museum.  I hustled out the door and as
I walked toward the tube I gave Chris Eimer a call.  We had
planned to meet at the beginning of the show, and I was going
to be late.

Chris had a morning appointment and unless I hustled I'd miss
him.  The tube would get me there in 15 minutes, but first I
had to get on it.  I waved my card at the turnstile and got
a disheartening beep and flashing red light.  My card was
empty.  I'd been running low intentionally, knowing that any
prepaid fare left on the card would be wasted.  I thought I'd
get at least one last day before running out, but no such
luck.  I anxiously stood in the queue to "top up" my card.

I'd lost precious minutes, but I burst thru the turnstile and
bypassed the lifts.  While others waited, I ran down the 122
spiral steps to the tracks, beating the crowd.  Within minutes
I was walking on Charing Cross Road.  I turned onto Great
Russell Street and entered the lobby of Jury's Hotel, a grand
old high-ceilinged building.  I followed signs to the coin
fair and gave Chris a call from my cell phone.  He'd just left,
but said he'd turn around to meet me.  Whew - I'd made it just
in time.   The show was small, with about 25-30 dealers in
one rectangular room.

While I paid the two pound admission fee and waited for Chris,
in walked Hadrien Rambach, and we chatted for a bit.  It was
good to see him.  When Chris arrived Hadrien went off to hunt
for bargains while Chris and I sat down for a chat at an
unoccupied table.  We talked of a number of things - the
updates to his 1987 medal book, my visit to the British Museum,
and the new Adams-Bentley Comitia Americana book.  I had my
copy with me - I've been dragging it around London having people
I meet sign it as a souvenir of my trip.  Chris graciously wrote
an inscription.  While talking about the book we both noted that
it was interesting how the most famous (and expensive) medal
in the book, the Libertas Americana, is actually the most common.

When Chris had to leave for his appointment I walked over to the
Simmons' table, where Howard and Frances Simmons were talking with
David Powell.  David hadn't yet been to the Bank of England Museum
and the Simmons' scolded him.  It's a worldwide phenomenon that
people often don't get around to seeing many of the treasures in
their own backyard unless they're escorting out-of-town visitors.
I'm no different - I'd visited the Imperial War Museum in Duxford
last week but have not yet been to the Smithsonian's Air and Space
museum a few miles from my house.  Chris Eimer had told me that
reading my London Diaries had let him see some familiar London
sights in a new light.  Hopefully I've encouraged some of our
readers to plan on visiting a few of these London sights on their
next trip.

One event that I'm afraid I'll miss is London's Open House Day,
which the Simmons' said was coming up next weekend, 15-16 September.
Some 600 buildings in the city are open to the public for free tours,
including the Bank of England.   Often these tours include behind-
the-scenes looks off-limits to the public the rest of the year.
The Simmons' visited the Custom House last year and greatly enjoyed
their visit.  Long queues of people appear in front of the most
popular places.  They noted that the line at the Bank of England
stretched around the block (but moved quickly).  So if you're a
London native next week's your chance for an interesting outing.
For the rest of us, check for the Open House dates you plan your
next visit to London.  It's a marvelous idea and sounds like
great fun.

When a customer came to their table I left the Simmons' behind
to walk around the show.  A piece of paper money in one dealer's
case caught my eye - it was a Bank of England "Trial Note".  The
note read as follows: "Bank Note Specimen / I promise to Manufacture
Bank Note Specimens which it was Impossible to Counterfeit / 17
October 1858. Made R.D. 1858 October 17th / For the Gov. and Comp.
of the / BANK OF ENGLAND"  The five pound note had a watermark
including "R. A. SPARRE'S PATENT".

I struck up a conversation with the woman behind the table and
was quite impressed with her knowledge of British banknotes and
the 18th century counterfeiting era.  She was familiar with the
Cruikshank notes and book, and the 1819 Royal Society of the Arts
book on counterfeiting.  She told me the only two modern books
discussing the trial notes at any length were "Promises to Pay"
(which I'd seen at Simon Narbeth's shop) and "As Good As Gold".
I hadn't heard of the latter, but (not surprisingly) one of
the coauthors is John Keyworth of the Bank of England, whom I'd
met the day before.  The other was Virginia Hewitt  - I believe
she is (or was) with the British Museum.

So who was the mystery woman who knew her banknote history
inside and out?  She introduced herself as Pam West and gave
me her card.  She is a banknote dealer, book publisher and head
of the London chapter of the International Bank Note Society
(IBNS).  We had a nice conversation and exchanged email addresses.
Just yesterday I'd seen one of her publications at the Bank of
England Museum gift shop, 'English Paper Money' by Vincent Duggleby.
I'd decided to hold off purchasing it knowing that I'd be at the
coin fair the next day.  I'm glad I waited - I bought a copy of
the book and Pam autographed it for me.  She also signed my copy
of the Comitia Americana book.

She gave me a card listing the London meetings of IBNS and I was
disappointed to realise that I had missed them all - I knew about
IBNS but hadn't known there was a London chapter.  It would have
been fun to visit some of the meetings.  Oh, well - IBNS and Open
House day will have to wait for another trip.

I walked around the fair some more but it was getting near time
to leave.  I had to grab lunch and get back to my hotel before
heading to the airport.  I was going to miss the Mernicks, who
hadn't arrived yet.  I sent them a note of apology later.  Out
I went into the cool London Saturday afternoon, carrying a copy
of The Phoenix, a newspaper-style advertising publication given to
me at the coin fair registration desk.  It was produced by Coincraft,
the dealer shop just a few doors down Great Russell Street.  I'd
not had a chance to visit the store, so I walked by on the off
chance it would be open.  It was, and in I walked.

A few customers milled about and I looked at the diverse displays
of coins ancient and modern, and ancient archeological artifacts.
An older gentleman behind the counter greeted me.  Knowing from
the Phoenix that the shop handles a lot of modern British coins,
I asked if they sold sets of the 50 pence commemorative coins.
He didn't know.  The younger man busily working at a desk behind
him told us that the Mint never sold sets like that, but they
should, since they often get requests for just such sets.

I really didn't have much time left, so I left the shop and grabbed
some lunch, my last meal in London.  I went Greek again - Dionysus
on Oxford Street.  On my way there I came across two workers
struggling to carry a piece of heavy restaurant equipment down the
sidewalk.  I stepped aside to given them room and one said,
"Thanks, mate - cheers!"

To stretch my legs before a long flight I walked several blocks
down Oxford Street, the London shopping equivalent of New York's
Fifth Avenue.  The sidewalks were packed with people.  I took
one last gaze at the beautiful buildings surrounding Oxford Circus
before descending into the dim tube station.

Back at my hotel I called the front desk and asked for a taxi.
I grabbed my heavy bags and waddled to the lift.  I had to wait
outside a good while and complained that I could have walked to
Paddington and back faster.  I was only taking the taxi because
of my luggage.  But my luggage and I would leave London in style
- eventually a stretch Mercedes limo pulled up.  At the station
I wheeled my luggage onto the First Class car of the Heathrow
Express.  My airline had given me a free upgrade coupon, so here
was my chance to see what I'd been missing.  Not much, as I
suspected.  First class has a higher grade of worn-out seats,
free newspapers and, well, that's about it.  Fifteen minutes
later I was at Heathrow.  Going through security the guard noticed
my passport and Washington D.C. destination.  He said "Give the
President my love!"  I laughed and promised I would.

It's been a long summer away from my family, but a seemingly
short time to experience all there is to see and do in London.
I've had some numismatic fun in my off-hours as well as managing
to see many of the tourist highlights.   I've enjoyed sharing
my adventures with my numismatic friends through The E-Sylum,
but more than that I'll treasure the memories of meeting my
London numismatic friends new and old.  Thank you all for helping
make this time as pleasurable as possible.  Thanks mates - cheers!

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address:

To subscribe go to:
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.



Copyright © 1998 - 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster