The Collection of 18th Century Tokens formed by Dr David L Spence

The Collection of 18th Century Tokens formed by Dr David L Spence

David L Spence (- 2003)

David Lee Spence, M.D., was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School, he served in the US Navy, first at the Naval Research Institute in Endocrinology and then aboard the USS Jason based in Sasabo, Japan, during the Korean War. Following discharge from the service he toured the Orient before returning to his native city. He completed his residency in psychiatry at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh and went on to found the first community mental health clinic in the area at Beaver, Pennsylvania.

Subsequently, David founded the Staunton Clinic at Sewickley Valley Hospital, where he served as Medical Director and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry for 30 years. During this time he also served as consulting psychiatrist at both Harmarville Rehabilitation Center and Woodville State Hospital, while maintaining a private psychiatric practice which included serving as an expert witness in personal injury cases. A long term member of the board of directors of Compunetics, Inc., a Pittsburgh technology company, David was the proud parent of three sons and a daughter, and the proud grandfather of nine. He was an avid traveller, active in numerous hobbies and ventures besides being a member of the Sphinx Society, a Pittsburgh numismatic group, for over 30 years. In all these pursuits he was supported and encouraged by his companion and wife, Mary Anne.

David appears to have become seriously interested in numismatics in the mid-1960s. Like some before him and many since, the basis for his introduction to 18th century British trade tokens as a collecting field lay with the contemporary American colonial series. He put together a superb and select group of colonial coins, tokens and paper money, auctioned by Stack's in New York on 15 March 1975; a list of the American-related 'Conder' tokens in it was appended to the catalogue for Part I (DNW 8 October 2004).

The nucleus of the British token collection was provided by what was touted by the original vendor, James Fawcett, of Waltham, Massachusetts, as a 'rare and maybe unique opportunity'. Back in 1967 it certainly was: no less than 3,349 tokens put together between 1945 and 1965, along with literature on the subject, were to be offered as a group for $10,000. Fawcett's 15-page circular, detailing his estimated values for groups of tokens, was apparently sent to known interested parties in the membership of the Token and Medal Society (TAMS) and Fawcett was in negotiation with a collector in California when he received a telephone call from Charles L. Litman of Pittsburgh. Having ascertained that the collection was still available at a reduced price of $8,500 for a quick sale Litman didn't waste any time, driving up to Boston with his wifeand completing the deal on 23 February 1967, less than a week later.

Litman, who ran the Coin Exchange on Sixth street, Pittsburgh and was a long-time customer of Monica Bussell (1906-74) at the London dealers B.A. Seaby Ltd (as indeed was Fawcett), appears to have retained the collection intact and passed it to David Spence within a short space of time. From the provenances quoted in the succeeding pages one can readily see the pre-eminence of the Fawcett/Litman group, many of the pieces in it emanating from the somewhat unheralded but remarkable collection formed by the London coin dealer Frederick William Lincoln (1857-1928) and dispersed anonymously by his son in February 1936 after the Lincoln business ceased trading. The majority of Lincoln's tokens were acquired in the later years of the 19th century from the dealers James Henry (who issued his own tokens in 1879), Baldwin and Spink, and in the provinces, James Daniels, James Verity and William Weight. A handful of pieces can be traced to the famous Thomas Lloyd collection, a holding of over 4,400 pieces auctioned as one lot in May 1878, and one token in the previous auction was originally owned by Samuel Birchall (t1814), the Leeds issuer (lots 1834-5), part of whose collection was sold in 1869. Other acquisitions by Fawcett from the London market include a significant number of pieces from the important collection formed by the publisher William Longman (1882-1967) and auctioned in 1958, and tokens that had been in one of the collections of the enthusiastic London numismatist Albert Jan (1899-1967).

After acquiring the Fawcett/Litman group, David put together a wants list and circulated it to dealers on both sides of the Atlantic. Over the next twenty or so years he made a few select additions, mostly from Baldwin and Spink, but which also included a group of rarities from the collection of Dr Robert j. Hudson of Pittsburgh, who incidentally issued his own parking tokens! During the late 1980s and through most of the 1990s the collection remained static, but towards the close of the last decade David's interests were rekindled with the dispersal of the huge jim Noble collection in Melbourne in July 1998, which brought a number of rarities that had eluded him in earlier years back on the market, and the offering of the top quality collection formed by Wayne Anderson (1941-99) in April 2000, just four years after Anderson had founded the thriving Conder Token Collectors Club. David's most recent purchases, before his untimely death on 13 October 2003, were from Alan Davisson and Richard Gladdle.

This is the most significant collection of tokens to have been offered by auction in London for 20 years, with a broad appeal to collectors and county specialists alike. The following 130 lots represent Part Ill, to which are added Dr Spence's duplicates; all are numbered in sequence to Parts I and II. The token books in the Spence numismatic library feature in the back of this catalogue and include several works seldom seen on the market these days.

View the Lots in this Collection