The Collection of Victorian Bronze Pennies formed by the Late Laurie Bamford

The Collection of Victorian Bronze Pennies formed by the Late Laurie Bamford

Laurence John Bamford (1947 - 2005)

Laurence John Bamford was born on 27 October 1947 and educated at Whitgift Trinity School, Croydon. His younger brother, Richard, recalls that Laurie's interest in coins probably began when, as a boy of about 12 or 13, he went on a family holiday to Herne Bay and was captivated by the old pennies in the amusement arcade machines on the seafront. Edinburgh Coin Shop proprietor Hiram Brown is on record as accompanying Laurie to Cutler Street, the Sunday morning coin market in East London, as long ago as 1961, by which time Laurie had become a committed collector. Certainly by the time I first went there in 1966 Laurie was part of the established Cutler Street bonhomie, where change-checkers and serious collectors rubbed shoulders at the stalls of Ted Swift, Ted Barnard, Eva Hardy, Jim Hardiman Sr, Ken Lovell, James Leonard, the poet David Nash and many other characters now gone from the scene. On one occasion I remember standing next to Laurie while he was wheedling a very presentable 1869 penny out of Louis 'Aby' Rosner, the market's oldest trader, for 25 shillings-and cursing myself because Laurie had beaten me to a date I needed!

In those days Laurie was a young computer programmer for Prudential Insurance, where he was one of the first users of COBOL, augmenting his income by dealing in coins in the evenings and at weekends. After eight and a half years with the Pru the boom in coin collecting gave Laurie the impetus to establish himself as a full-time dealer, while adding to his collection of Victorian pennies from the likes of James Leonard, the Australian-born dealer who lived near Laurie in Streatham and who made something of a speciality of the series, and David Ryder, formerly of Stewart Ward in Great Portland street. A well-known figure at the London salerooms, Laurie also frequented those of the general auctioneers E. Reeves Ltd in Croydon, whose familiar white catalogues often contained a wealth of numismatic material deep in the small print of anything up to 1,000 lots. With the retirement of Will Reeves in 1982, Laurie teamed up with Graeme and Linda Monk and the late john Hooper to establish Croydon Coin Auctions and the business staged its first sale on 4 March 1983. Laurie remained a partner until his untimely death in mid-December and, over the years, oversaw the dispersal of a number of Victorian penny rarities-even buying some of them himself!

Away from coins Laurie had many interests. A member of MENSA in his youth, he was also keen on the art of magic. But the two great passions in his life, apart from bun pennies, were music and good beer. A devotee of comedy jazz, Laurie occasionally promoted concerts at the Gun Tavern in Croydon featuring the likes of Tatty Ollity and Bill Posters Will Be Band, a jazz vaudeville collective offspring from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band, for whom he acted as unpaid publicity manager. Laurie was also the unofficial booker for the notorious lvor Biggun and the Vulgar Band and even appeared as a vocalist (Laurie preferred the term heckler) on the band's album released last October. Even his cost code on his coin tickets, SYNCOPATED, demonstrates the influence jazz had on his life. He was a regular at The Cartoon, Croydon's principal venue for up and coming bands yet to sign for a record label; on the other hand, his musical tastes also extended to Gilbert and Sullivan, especially the Mikado, of which he was a huge fan. Always jovial and unconventional, Laurie was a founder member of the very unofficial Croydon Real Ale Preservation Society, which held a 'session' in his honour after his death; Anthony Dowie, his numismatic near neighbour in Thornton Heath for 25 years, recalls that they shared the same 'watering hole', the Lord Napier, and for a couple of years were also in another local pub's quiz team. Laurie's collection has been catalogued using Michael Gouby's 1986 reference as the primary source, in which many of the illustrations are of these coins; the cataloguer would like to acknowledge Mr Gouby's assistance in this respect. The currency issues which comprise the first 150 lots are an incredibly complete run which, taking into account the discoveries made in the series since the dispersal of Michael Freeman's coins in 1984, form the best such group ever to be sold at auction. Indeed, with the exception of three variants of the retouched obverse die G for 1860 (Gouby P, R and V), and the 1860 penny with the 'ONF' error (Gouby X), the Bamford collection is complete; it even includes two coins not recorded by Gouby at that time (1861 Hf, lot 37; 1881H Mp, as currency, lot 111). The opportunity has been taken to record the weight and die-axis of each coin in the collection, which will help to pinpoint pieces from it in future years. Apart from the majority of the proofs and patterns, there are relatively few surviving provenances; however, the cataloguer suspects that, apart from a few coins directly attributable and recorded here as such, many pieces may once have been in the Freeman collection, or derive from those formed by Peter Smith and the veteran variety-spotter Major-General Eric Cole, CB, CBE (1906-92).

Laurie was constantly upgrading his coins and the last time I spoke to him, on 5 December, he was weighing up the possibility of putting in a telephone bid on the 1863 penny with die number 4 in our auction a week later (see footnote to lot 65 in this catalogue), having confirmed that it was the best example he had ever seen. Sadly, he never did; but a glance at the illustrations, both in the catalogue and, more particularly, the high resolution images on the DNW website, will demonstrate that he achieved an overall breadth of quality unparalleled in recent years. Virtually everything here outgrades comparable pieces in the Colin Adams collection, admittedly of more recent formation and dispersed in 2003; at that sale Laurie concentrated his budget towards some of the unofficial patterns by joseph Moore, adding selectively to acquisitions made at the David Magnay sale in 1999.