Answer: The amount of time each expects to own any individual piece.
Twenty years ago I resigned my tenured professorship at a small but prestigious liberal arts college. Compelled by a passion for rare coins and books, I decided to make numismatics my life’s work. Since then I have had the thrill of handling some of the most exciting rarities in the British series and have seen and studied many more, coins well beyond a faculty salary.
The marvelous Rawlins Oxford pound of Charles I of 1642 with its declaration reverse is one of the great coins that have gone through my hands, it is a companion piece to the marvelous Rawlins Oxford pound of 1644 with its legend in a cartouche on the reverse that can be found on this web site. These silver pounds are the largest silver coins issued in England and dramatic artifacts of the Civil War that raged across the countryside in that grim era.
Other exceptional coins that combine rarity and significance and occupy a rarified plane in British numismatics have been thrilling parts of my years of experience—the Çoenwulf gold mancus now residing in the British Museum; a superb Anglo-Saxon raven penny; the magnificent and finest known Scottish James VI gold twenty pound piece, as well as the finest silver forty shillings of James VI, Scotland’s largest silver coin; a choice example of Simon’s Charles II “Reddite” crown, called “the most beautiful coin in the modern English series,” with a pedigree going back to the Earl of Oxford sale of 1742; and many more.
But it is not just the exceptional coins that create day-to-day satisfaction and even delight. Poring over thousands of coins over the decades has allowed me to explore other times in depth and has required that I continue to learn and expand my knowledge. An inexpensive hammered English penny or Roman denarius or countermarked worn copper piece was designed and made for use by many individuals. Even the seemingly most meager of collectible coins shows the care over the centuries various owners took to preserve these bits of metal.
No small part of the journey has been the people I have met in the process who share this excitement and are generous with their own knowledge. There are two names to head this essay,. Marnie is my wife who not only shares this passion but is expert herself in areas where I am a novice.
Coins are a special part of the human experience and an inspiration, as well as a reminder of our own place in the flow of human history. Coins are public art reflecting the times, values and yearnings of people centuries removed. They touched the lives of everyday people in settings we can begin to appreciate by ourselves holding these tangible objects that they held and valued. There is no other physical remnant of most eras of the past 2500 years that many of us can ever expect to handle ourselves.
Coins are artistic expressions often of the finest artists of their era. They are expressions of political ambition, national pride and personal hopes. Those of us who collect coins, no matter how long we expect to have them, are merely short-term stewards of this history. We help preserve. We help expand knowledge. We discover heretofore unnoted aspects of their production or even of their history or the era that produced them. Anyone who thinks about what these coins represents cannot help but be humbled by the small part we play in this stream of history that we are privileged to be a part of.
After handling thousands of coins, tokens and medals over nearly 40 years of collecting and then professional activity, I am still thrilled to be part of this stream.
Allan & Marnie Davisson
Cold Spring, Minnesota USA
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