The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 34, August 26, 2007, Article 18


It was another busy week at the office, and with travel home
to the U.S this weekend there wasn't much time for numismatic
adventures, all of which had to wait until after an important
Wednesday deadline.  At lunchtime Thursday I paid another
short visit to Simon Narbeth, whose shop is just five minutes
from our office.

I stopped in to ask "What's New" and the ever-gracious Simon
pulled out a number of tempting items.  I passed on not one,
but two nice examples of the Jacob Perkins siderographic sample
note.  Of most interest to me was an item I had to pass on due
to the price, but it would have been an interesting addition
to my collection of books related to counterfeiting.

Bound in green cloth, it was a nicely preserved copy of an
1819 London publication titled "Report of the Committee of the
Society of Arts &c. together with the approved communications
and evidence upon the same relative to the mode of Preventing
the Forgery of Bank Notes. Simon explained that members of the
Society (and many of the general public as well) were growing
uncomfortable with the high incidence of prosecutions against
people for the crime of merely possessing a counterfeit banknote.
On my first visit I'd seen a satirical note on the same subject
by illustrator George Cruikshank.

The purpose of the Society's report was to encourage the government
to require higher standards in producing banknotes, making them
much harder to counterfeit.  Pictured in the book was a sample
note produced by engraver Thomas Ranson who at the time was serving
a prison sentence for possessing a counterfeit.  Simon pulled out
a copy of the book 'Promises to Pay' - the book was published
by Spink and covers the Bank of England banknotes.  The note
in the book was illustrated on page 63.

I noted that the Society's publication was printed in the same
year as Jacob Perkins' rare book - 1819.  Perkins' book was in
a similar vein, calling for more sophisticated anti-counterfeiting
measures and putting forth a system for remedying the problem.
Simon said that Britons at the time were loathe to consider an
invention by some upstart Yankee; this wasn't long after the
War of 1812.

Simon noted the Perkins book's rarity and said he had a customer
who'd been asking for one for years, telling Simon to call day
and night to reach him should he ever locate a copy.  I’d love
to have the book too, but I guess I’ll have to settle for my
Fuld reprint.

It was a delight to talk with someone who was familiar with
such rare and interesting numismatic items. Simon was the only
dealer I’d talked to who was familiar with the work of J.S.G.
Boggs.  When I asked if he had any notes of Emperor Norton of
San Francisco, he not only knew about Norton but he was very
familiar with the notes’ rarity.  While there may be some
bargains to be found in his stock, don’t expect any great
rarities to sell too cheaply.   While I’d walked away empty-
handed this time, I truly enjoyed our conversation.  I’ll
miss having his shop so close by.

Thursday evening was my first chance in weeks to get out of
the office as a decent hour.  At 6:15 I met John Andrew in
the building lobby. John is COIN World’s London correspondent,
and he’s a managing editor and regular columnist for Britain’s
Coin News magazine.  We walked a block to Kettner’s for dinner.

Coincidentally, we both ordered the Kettner’s salad, a specialty
with chicken, aubergine and almonds. We talked of many things,
only some numismatic.  John gave me a copy of the September 2007
issue of Coin News, which has some nice articles by John including
his regular Market Scene column commenting on recent auction
results, one on Inhuman Traffic, an exhibit on the slave trade
at the British Museum which incorporates related banknotes,
coins and tokens; and finally a profile of Richard Beale of
the Warwick & Warwick auction house.

It was a wonderful, civilized dinner, greatly beating the Subway
sandwiches which served as meals while working late the previous
three nights.  We went our separate ways sometime after eight o’clock.
I made my way back to my hotel and stayed up late dealing with laundry,
receipts, email and packing.  On Friday at the office we put some
finishing touches on work to be used be our client over the next
two weeks.  At mid-afternoon I left the office wheeling my suitcase
behind me.  Not finding an available taxi, I walked to Piccadilly
Circus and took the tube to Paddington Station.  Reversing my steps
from a couple weeks ago, I took the Heathrow Express to the airport.
While waiting for my plane I read that celebrity rocker Amy Winehouse
and her husband had argued in an expensive hotel on Regent Street,
spilling onto the streets at 3:30 in the morning.  I’d walked the
same street late Wednesday night catching a bus to my own hotel
after a long night at the office.

Offering my boarding pass at the gate I had a start when the machine
rejected it with a loud beep and a bold red light.  What was the
problem?  Was I flagged by the authorities for some infraction?  I
swear, I just forgot to turn off my cell phone on the last flight –
it wasn’t my fault!  And that mass of metal in my checked luggage
is four pounds worth of pennies and two pence coins destined for
the Coins4Kids program run by the Pennsylvania Association of
Numismatists.  Was a body cavity search in the cards?  As it turned
out, I’d been upgraded to Upper Class.  How’d they know it was my
birthday (August 24)?

It was a nice comfy seat, and of course now I’ll be too spoiled
to ever be comfortable in steerage (I mean, “Economy Class”) again.
The comfy private reclining seat was convertible into a bed.  The
tray was large and a power source was available for my laptop.
The wine flowed.  At 38,000 feet I worked for a while on The E-Sylum,
getting caught up with a week’s worth of editing chores.  The meal
was top-notch, opening with a great carrot soup.  For my main course
I chose a potato and cheese pie, which was very tasty, followed by
a strawberry tart.  No candles or singing, but it sure hit the spot.
And did I mention the wine?  God bless the flight attendant, who
guessed me to be well over ten years younger than I am. Thanks to
John Andrew as well, who also thought I was younger.  But grey hairs
are starting to appear, so I won’t get away with the act much longer.

Anyway, for a nearly eight-hour flight, first class has a lot going
for it.  But I’m still puzzled why the Heathrow Express train has a
First Class car.  Exactly how does one enjoy a comfier seat on a
fifteen minute train ride?  Lap dancers?   Unless I get upgraded
sometime I’ll never know.  When I got tired I put away my computer,
watched a bit of a movie, then rested.  The last two weeks were
exhausting.  I looked forward to getting home to my wife and family
and celebrating my son Tyler’s seventh birthday (August 20).

I couldn’t sleep and ended up reading my copy of the Clara Semple
book ‘A Silver Legend: The Story of the Maria Theresa Thaler’.  It
was a nicely illustrated book that does a great job of presenting
centuries of history around this interesting trade coin.  Eventually
our flight landed at Dulles Airport and I stepped out into the hot
and humid summer night to grab a taxi, a welcome change from the
cold and rainy London weather.  My son Tyler greeted me at the door
with a Happy Birthday message and a handmade birthday card.
Home, Sweet Home – it was great to be back.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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