In my two most recent columns I told about nice times in London in
the 1960s where I went to buy American, British and other coins.
At the time, the British coin market was vastly different from that
in America. The British market had no equivalents to Whitman folders,
and collecting coins from circulation was not a popular hobby.
Even among specialists in British coins, little interest was shown
in 20th century coins. Some stopped with the last issues of Queen
Victoria in 1901, and others stopped with King William IV in 1836.
As a result many really rare 20th century coins were available that
had few buyers. Of particular interest to me were the silver crowns or
5-shilling pieces. These were minted in 1902, following by a long jump
to 1927 when 13,030 were struck for Proof sets issued this year — the
making of Proof sets being very intermittent (the next set was
produced in 1937).
Minting of crowns, depicting King George V, continued through 1936
with these mintages: 1928 (9,034), 1929 (4,994), 1930 (4,847), 1931
(4,056), 1932 (2,395), 1933 (7,132), 1934 (932), 1935 (714,769
commemoratives, including 2,500 raised-edge Proofs), and 1936 (2,473).
I advertised in Exchange & Mart, in a magazine published by
Barclay’s Bank for its employees, and in other places — and bought
from bank tellers and the public more than a thousand of the
lower-mintage crowns for just a few pounds (a pound was about $3.25 in
American money) each.
Among the dealers, Doug Liddell, manager of Spink’s, was my main
source for coins, from copper to gold. I liked the Proof 1935
raised-edge crowns, and Spink’s had nearly 100 in stock, in two flat
drawers in a wooden cabinet.
Each coin was in the square red box of issue and was priced retail
at £10. I asked how many I could buy. “I need to limit you as these
will be advertised in our next magazine,” he told me. I was allowed to
buy 10 pieces at a courtesy 10 percent discount.
“How many can I buy at your full list price?” I asked.
“How many beyond that can I buy at 10% OVER your list price?”
“Ten more, and that is all.”
Today one of these gems would sell for over $1,000.
In 1953, the Royal Mint issued a commemorative crown for the
coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Doug Liddell happened to remember that in a store room he had many
thousands of unsold pieces each in its original wood box. Would I like
to buy them all? The answer was yes, at face value (5 shillings) plus
sixpence (half a shilling) each.