The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 51, December 15, 2013, Article 7


Many thanks to Dan Gosling, Editor of The Canadian Numismatic Journal for sending at my request this article from their December 2013 issue about a book on Crystal Palace Medals and Tokens. -Editor

Reprinted from The Canadian Numismatic Journal, Vol. 58 No. 10 (December 2013), the Official Publication of The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, Used with permission.

World's Show 1851-1936 Coincraft Ex Libris: The World’s Show: Coincraft’s Catalogue of Crystal Palace Medals and Tokens 1851–1936 by Leslie Lewis Allen

The book’s title originates from London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and its innovative Crystal Palace edifice. The book’s contents lead to a catalogue array of the official and sundry medals from that early event followed by sections with similar medallic groupings from subsequent exhibitions and other significant events in the relocated Crystal Palace or its counterparts.

Arrangement of the book divides its catalogue and text into four major sections of Crystal Palace ventures:

  • The Palace in Hyde Park, 1851, site of the Great Exhibition of Works of Industry;
  • after the building’s relocation to Sydenham, 1854–1936 where it was reassembled to serve as an education and recreation facility;
  • the surrogate Palace in Manchester, 1857, for the Exhibition of Art Treasures, and
  • the Palace’s substitute building in South Kensington, 1862, for the International Exhibition.

Each section begins with an Introduction to give its reader the historical background and generalities of the event described or the series of activities held. Following that, the section has a catalogue of the Official Medals, Unofficial Medals, Trade Tokens, and Associated Pieces related to its venue.

The 1851 Exhibition building with its cast iron structure and glass enclosure, akin to a massive floral conservatory, quickly attracted its public moniker: Crystal Palace, a name the public associated with the building and the Exhibition as well. This sentiment continued with the subsequent locations and events that derived from the Great Exhibition. Allen acknowledges this in his choice of title. That habitual use of the Palace name explains the segmented catalogue and also the length of time defined for this series of medals.

The entire catalogue has over 800 medallic illustrations; these include nearly all of the entries. Pictures are of excellent quality in full-size greyscale. Items are catalogued and numbered by section. Each numbered item shows: subject; maker; metal; size; design; references, and rarity. Many of the Exhibitions’ important prize medals, and medals for dignitaries or officials, have added explanatory information. The author includes pictures and descriptions of specially prepared sets of some Official Exhibition Medals; he also adds comments that help distinguish the souvenir medals, trade tokens, advertising checks, and associated pieces listed.

Leslie Allen, a long-time collector and London resident, who developed a serious interest in Crystal Palace medals, discovered that no single reference for this material existed. He set out to rectify that shortcoming by researching and cataloguing these medals. His quest awarded him a surprise: the existence of many obscure Palace tokens and checks known to some few specialist collectors, but mostly unknown to others. These pieces, together with the official medals and souvenir issues he first encountered, form the content of his definitive work. Allen’s catalogue accomplishment attracted the generous support of Coincraft, London, as its publisher.

The World’s Show: Coincraft’s Catalogue of Crystal Palace Medals and Tokens 1851–1936 (2000) serves as the authoritative guide to the numismatics of the Palace in its time. The accompanying text complements the catalogue material by including a historical context and offering reference sources. An Index ends the catalogue, and a nominal price guide follows it with suggested valuations for many of the example medals. The book is 8" x 11½" hardbound with a lithographed cover. It has 276 pages on glossy paper. Your RCNA Library has this book for loan to members.

I contacted CoinCraft, and Carol Benton responded that they "nearly out of stock". Sounds like a great book if you can get one. -Editor

To contact CoinCraft, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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