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The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 19, May 10, 2020, Article 9

COLIN NARBETH (1929-2020)

Kavan Ratnatunga alerted me of the passing of Colin Narbeth, Founder and Life member No, 1 of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS). I've added images from the Colin Narbeth and Son web site. -Editor

Brian Ascroft of IBNS writes:

"I would just like to send my condolences to all to Colin Narbeth's family for their loss of a great man who started the IBNS along time ago that was life member No:1 which has given us all so much pleasure in our life with our collecting hobby, I had known him for such a long long time now and was a really very nice man. May he rest in peace."

From the IBNS site:

Colin Narbeth with dog "Colin Narbeth, IBNS Life Member No. 1, was the founder of the IBNS in 1961. More than 50 years ago, Colin was one of the few enthusiasts scattered around the globe who were devoted to the collection of world paper money.

Colin began collecting banknotes (and many other things as well) as a schoolboy in the 1940s. During seven years in the Royal Navy he added a few pieces to his collection from his ports of call. After he left the navy, he became a newspaper reporter and began collecting paper money seriously, buying from the infrequent paper money offerings from the likes of Spink Limited and B.A. Seaby Limited in Britain and Jolie Coins in US. He was also busy writing to anyone whose name came to his attention as sharing a similar interest in paper money. In this way he became friends with other banknote pioneers like Dr. Walter Loeb, Dr. Arnold Keller (who proofread and corrected Narbeth’s first book on banknotes), and often swapped notes with them.

He helped launch “Stamp Weekly” and then moved to become a director of Stanley Gibbons International, where he started Stanley Gibbons Currency Limited, the first major British business dealing in paper money. He later left Gibbons to start his own banknote business, Colin Narbeth and Son Limited, which continues as a family business today. Colin has written numerous articles and some 20 books on a range of collecting subjects. In July 1961, Colin produced the first IBNS Journal on a hand-operated Gestetner printer, mailing it out to around 20 people. In addition to the IBNS, Colin [was] a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Philatelic Society, London."

From a May 9, 2020 IBNS email:

"In early May 2020, we learned of the passing of 90-year-old IBNS founder and Life Member #1 Colin Narbeth. While Colin was a consummate world paper money collector, it was just one of his many collecting interests. Colin passed on from age-related declining health and not from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Colin held many roles within the IBNS over the years. He was the inaugural Journal Editor from 1961 (Volume 1 Issue 1) through to 1970 (Volume 10 Issue 1) and took over the Editorship again from 1975 (Volume 14 Issue 1) through to 1979 (Volume 17 Issue 4). As the founder, he was also the first treasurer, secretary and auctioneer, although he quickly found others to take on these roles. He was also the IBNS President (1990-1992) for the 30th Anniversary of the International Bank Note Society.

"He also contributed a number of articles to the journal on as varied topics as "The Bank of England" and "Turks and Caicos" and wrote a number of books on collecting whether that banknotes, bonds and shares or stamps.

"The IBNS sends its heartfelt condolences to his two children and other family members and will dedicate the next issue of the IBNS Journal as a tribute to Colin Narbeth."

Colin Narbeth and Son shop

Richard Lobel of Coincraft submitted these thoughts. Thank you. -Editor

Colin ‘Mr. Banknote’ Narbeth

I was told today of the death of my very good friend Colin Narbeth. He was the founder and member number ‘1’ of the International Banknote Society and one hell of a nice guy. His death was not unexpected, as the last time I saw him he was at his 90th birthday do, rather frail looking, never-the-less, he still wanted to know ‘when were the drinks being served’. My kind of guy!

I had the honour of knowing him for about 50 years. He was honest and kind, something you don’t always get in dealers. I knew him when he set up Stanley Gibbons Collectables, backed by the mighty Stanley Gibbons name and cheque book. He revolutionised banknote collecting and dealing in this country. He brought banknote collecting into the light. He made banknotes reach a price level that attracted collector’s attention. He had been a journalist amongst other areas of expertise, so he knew how to get a journalist interested in a story and he used that ability to promote the hobby.

We did so many deals together over the years that it is hard to remember them all, some of them which come to mind are: the Rothman’s banknote promotion, the sale of the unique Philippines under Spanish rule banknotes that were thought to exist but were unknown until we found them. In the end they were sold to the Central Bank of The Philippines Museum. Or perhaps the time he sold me all the old 1930’s gambling chips that his boss Mick Michaels had bought from the Casino at Monte Carlo. Colin had sent the chips to Scotland Yard to have them tested to see if the early plastic was poisonous, they were not. But I stored them in cardboard boxes in my warehouse. When we came back, the chemicals in those early plastic was so strong that it had peeled the paint off the walls.

It was always fun to deal with Colin you never knew what was going to happen. But it was always a fair deal to both of you.

We used to go to IBNS meetings together, when they were held in Horseferry Road.  He would come back and stay the night with us, sleeping on the sofa, as all the beds in the flat were taken. I was young and brash and he became my mentor, he taught me about business and about people. There are many dealers in coins and banknotes today, that at one time or another worked for Colin, at Stanley Gibbons. When Gibbons closed their collectable side and I must say they treated him abysmally. Colin wanted a job, so he joined my company, after all, his son and daughter were already working there. He was so knowledgeable and so willing to share his knowledge with everyone. After a while he left my company and opened his famous store ‘Colin Narbeth & Son’.  With he was his son Simon and daughter Vanessa. The store is a London landmark for banknote collectors. Simon is still running it.

It has been a quite a few years since Colin was really active in the banknote business, but he always turned up for the IBNS Fair in the Autumn and it was nice to see and have a natter with him. Colin had so many other collections to keep him busy that banknotes were pushed aside. I am honoured to have known him and to have been able to call him a real friend of mine. I and the whole banknote business are going to miss this gentle giant we owe so much to him.

Richard Lobel, founder Coincraft, London, England

John and Nancy Wilson write:

"When we were in London in 1989 we visited his store. He was a very nice person who contributed greatly to the numismatic and world paper paper money field. His hard work in the International Bank Note Society was huge."

For more information on the International Bank Note Society, see:
https://www.theibns.org/

To visit the Colin Narbeth and Son web site, see:
https://colin-narbeth.com/

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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