British Tokens from the Collection of the late Bill McKivor
William Jon McKivor (1940 - 2021)
Bill McKivor, a very well-known figure in the world of tokens on both sides of the Atlantic, was someone who threw himself wholeheartedly into whatever he did, in a long and interesting life. Seattle-born and bred, Bill was an inveterate collector of, in no particular order, cars, coins, tokens, medals, historical memorabilia – you name it, Bill had an interesting story to tell about some aspect of objects that in turn had fascinated him over many decades.
As Jeff Rock’s admirable online obituary states, Bill started his 50-year career in the newspaper business at the tender age of 9, selling papers on a street corner until he was old enough to have a route of his own, then as a teenager, more routes. Joining the staff of the Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he rose to become district manager and then branch manager in the paper’s circulation department. At the city’s younger title, the Blethen- controlled Seattle Times, he directed the renegotiation of the joint operating agreement between it and the Post- Intelligencer from an afternoon circulation to a morning run in 1999. The following year, 2000, saw workers at both titles go on strike and, at the age of 60, Bill sensibly opted for retirement – from newspapers at least.
My first recollection of meeting Bill was at a coin show in the Pacific North-West in the mid-1980s. Back then he was, and continued to be, a staunch supporter of the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association (PNNA), as a dealer, board member and chairman. From the PNNA he received the prestigious Bob Everett Memorial Award in 2014. He was also closely associated with the Boeing Employees Coin Club and the Seattle Numismatic Society.
He went on to become one of the founding members of the Conder Token Collectors’ Club in 1995, along with Wayne Anderson, Joel Spingarn and others. The club’s membership literally, to quote Bill, “took off, Boeing- style” and within a few months he had roped me and over 200 fellow enthusiasts into the fold. This following soon had important token auctions to enjoy and participate in – Robbie Bell and Jim Noble to name but two from those days.
I believe he made his first numismatic trip to our shores in 2002, for what were to become regular annual visits to the UK to take in Coinex and whatever token-related auctions were taking place at the same time but, most importantly, for the Token Congress. At the auctions he is remembered for sitting prominently in the front row, head always facing the auctioneer so he would miss nothing, and for his spirited participation. What went on behind him, and who was bidding against him, was of largely secondary consideration. He wasn’t one for avoiding lesser-quality pieces in the quest for top quality – indeed, he quickly recognised that there is a considerable market for tokens with a pleasing appearance and attractive patina among collectors without a bulging wallet. His printed, and later online lists were much anticipated and he handled many interesting pieces, including groups from the late Dick Doty and others. His own collection centred around, but was not exclusively limited to, the products of Matthew Boulton.
Bill’s enthusiasm for the Token Congress made him a popular visitor to our shores, and it wasn’t long before he had persuaded some of his fellow countrymen to join him in a UK token ‘vacation’. In turn, in May 2009, he boldly ventured where no-one had been before or since and organised a British-American Token Congress at what was then the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Seattle. It wasn’t an easy venture to organise on a cost-inclusive basis, but such was Bill’s enthusiasm and appeal that about 20 Brits made the trip, congregating in the downtime in the Elephant & Castle pub in the hotel’s basement. My wife and I drove down from Vancouver and Bill met us in the car park, scoffing at my rented Chevy Lacetti and asked where was the 6-litre Corvette I had told him was my last set of hired wheels in LA and Palm Desert two months before!
To say Bill loved cars is to underestimate the lifelong connection that he (and I) have had with them. Over the years, he drove an ever-changing variety of what we would call American classics – Kaisers, Studebakers, Willys, Buicks, Corvairs and even London FX3 and FX4 black cabs. I recall one time he kindly offered to meet us off the BA from London at SeaTac international airport with his FX4 “you won’t miss me at the pick-up area” but unfortunately a mechanical problem put paid to that and he showed up in a 4x4 SUV that he constantly apologised for!
I last saw him in Seattle on 11 March 2020, he drove into the city in his much-loved Studebaker which is as close to a family heirloom as it is possible for a car to be. We met up for lunch and a chat when Seattle was on the verge of going into lockdown. I was so pleased that I got the chance to see him again, perhaps I was the last Brit to do so.
The thoughts of the token world are with his wife June, daughters Kelly and Kristen, and their three grandchildren. R.I.P. Bill.