Laurence Brown 1931-2012
It came to my notice that Laurence Brown died on 18th June. I can’t claim to have known him but I met him socially once in 2008, sitting next to him at a very jolly lunch hosted by Peter Mitchell. He was the author of the three volumes of “British Historical Medals 1760-1960” (referred to as ‘BHM’) and spent most of his working life at B.A. Seaby Ltd from 1947. As we were leaving the restaurant I took the photograph here; Laurence is on the left - can anyone name the others in the photo? No prizes! Full obituaries will appear in the relevant numismatic press in due course no doubt, but certainly all dealers, auctioneers and collectors of commemorative medals owe him a great debt of gratitude for bringing the subject to the fore.
Michael Sharp 1940-2012
Michael lost his battle with cancer on 9th August. I first met him properly when I started working at Glendining in 1990, usually showing him auction lots during a sale as he sat in the allotted Baldwin’s seat to the right of the auctioneer. His numismatic knowledge was great, and his principal interests were the coins of Charles I as well as Jacobite material. He was also a huge supporter of Arsenal football club, and a connoisseur of real ale. He had a keen sense of humour, and could often be heard remarking that an auction price was high enough ‘to scare the cat’. In May 2005 I took the photograph here, which captures him quite nicely I think.
Frank died on Wednesday 1st October after a long battle with cancer. I was shocked to hear of his passing not least that I didn’t know that he had been so ill for so long (he stalled out at the London Coin Fair until very recently). Also he was such a ‘good egg’. Another dealer once said to me (and I paraphrase) : ‘why is it that all the decent guys in our business die too soon, and the ones who ought to die early, don’t’. Memories of Patrick Finn spring to mind. Frank used to have a coin shop in Reading and then operated from his home just outside the town.
Jim King (James D. King) died
Jim died towards the end of 2018, probably in his early 80s. Originally from Pennsylvania he was a longtime resident in Massachusetts and coin dealer for at least 60 years. He was one of the first American dealers whom I met when I started out at Glendining’s (where he was generally known as JDK) and must have been in his 60s compared to my mid-20s. He was a real gentleman and gave me some advice towards the end of his time for which I will always be grateful. Here is a photo taken at the Chicago coin fair in 2015.
Emyr George 1959-2020
It’s with great sadness that I record the passing of my friend Emyr George, a farmer of Pembrokeshire. I first met him in 1992 as he used to buy from Glendining’s where I worked, although his first loyalty was to Spink when Patrick Finn was in charge. From then on I would see him annually when I holidayed nearby in Pembrokeshire. His numismatic interests were the halfcrowns of Charles I and Welsh pub checks – and he was knowledgeable in both. Welsh was his first language and he would often help me when I couldn’t satisfactorily translate a Welsh medal. He had a gentle sense of humour, was extremely kind and always tried to look on the bright side of life, never complaining even when in later years he experienced considerable adversity. His photograph sometimes appeared in numismatic publications by way of acknowledgement, including with one of his cattle in Withers’s British Copper Tokens 1811-1820. Here is a photo I took in 2009. Hwyl fawr hen ffrind.
Peter Mitchell died at home in Surrey, England, on Sunday morning, 14th January 2024 aged 90. He had suffered ill health for a while.
Peter was the longtime managing director of well-known coin dealers A H Baldwin & Sons Ltd of The Adelphi, central London. He joined the family firm fresh out of school aged 15 in 1949 as the ‘office boy’. His father Douglas Mitchell worked there and Peter was a great grandson of founder Albert Henry Baldwin. He only retired from Baldwin’s in 1997 (before joining auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb as a consultant). He was to become one of the great British numismatists of his time, including cataloguing many famous sales for auction at Glendining, Christie, Sotheby and Spink. He will probably best be remembered for his expertise in British hammered coinage and interest in the cut and countermarked series of the West Indies, but his knowledge was much wider than this. He was assiduous in helping clients in the formation of their collections, possibly in the hope that in due course they might sell back to the firm directly rather than go through auction, but more likely that he was an old-fashioned dealer who simply loved assisting collectors. In 1967 on the death of Albert Baldwin, Peter took over the day-to-day running of Baldwin’s. In 1973 the introduction of VAT was around the corner and this prompted Peter and others (notably Patrick Finn of Spink and Peter Seaby of the eponymous firm) to found the British Numismatic Trade Association, of which in due course he became a life member in recognition of his role in its creation. His working relationship with Patrick was close: Peter told me that first thing every weekday morning, Patrick and he would speak to each other on the phone to discuss what they saw as any problems or issues of mutual interest facing the coin business, such was the trust between the heads of Baldwin and Spink’s coin department at that time.
In the absence of a definitive history of Baldwin’s, we have Peter’s “Some Reminiscences of the Coin Business I joined and of some members past” (British Numismatic Journal 2003, pp197-212). From this, as if any reminder were needed, we see that Peter had an encyclopaedic knowledge not only of coins, but also the major collectors of his day (although in the article he only covers those who were members of the British Numismatic Society). He also had many good stories to tell, but as someone once said, the best tales can never be retold in print! There is also the reminder of old Baldwin traditions, such as naming major clients by just a three figure number, to ensure confidentiality in the office in case others should overhear.
My own memories of PDM, whom I first really got to know in 1990, are without fail good ones. He had a good sense of humour, although by his own admission it could be ‘perverse’ and was good for a drink in a bar or pub, although when he got carried away he had a habit of punching one’s arm so that at the end of the evening it felt as though you’d spent it in a boxing ring. From 1994 I worked in a junior capacity for Baldwin’s at Adelphi Terrace and saw first-hand how well he treated the staff (which was not always typical of some other management there at that time, unfortunately). In midlife, rather curiously, he took up competitive rowing at Molesey Boat Club, an interest which extended to attending Henley Regatta every year in the Stewards’ Enclosure. In recent years I’ve had some enjoyable correspondence by post with Peter, in which he expressed forthright opinions about certain individuals – but almost certainly these will not be for publication!
Peter made an immense contribution to numismatics in the United Kingdom and beyond, as well as adding to the gaiety of life. He was one of the key numismatists of his generation and will be long remembered by all who knew him. With his passing it is not a cliché to say that it is the end of a numismatic era. He will be missed. Here is a photo taken in 1978.
Others remembered in passing but without commentary: Iain Murray, (the lovely) Patrick Finn, Dmitri Loulakakis, John Whitmore, Hiram Brown, Bill Murray, Irene ‘Neddy’ Allen, Brian & Paul Dawson, Noel Cox