World Coins from the Collection of the Late John Weibel

World Coins from the Collection of the Late John Weibel

John Weibel (1914 - 2009)

John Weibel was born in Berne on 25 January 1914, the son of Hans Weibel, a restauranteur, and his wife Maria, nee Koerner. His grandfather, a potter by trade, moved to Berne from Waldenburgh in the mod-19th century. A sickly child, John studied a variety of subjects at school, including Latin, French, German and English. In the school holidays he stayed with an uncle who was a chemist in Zurich, who gave him his first coin.

Matriculating from school in 12 subjects in 1934, including folk history and woodworking, John was rejected for army service because it was considered that his chest measurement was not up to the required standard. Maybe it was this rejection that led to him undertaking several long walking tours around Europe.

In 1938 John travelled around Germany, Denmark, Austria and Hungary, stoically facing the difficulties experienced by those travelling across frontiers in mainland Europe at that time. On attempting to enter Germany he was questioned in depth at the border and later entered the SS weapon testing establishment. Everyone was showing brown passes, so John showed his brown Swiss passport and was allowed in, although later summarily ejected! A proposed trip down the Rhine from Austria into Hungary had to be cancelled because the Germans suspected that Czechoslovakia had planted mines in the river.

On 11 December 1938 John entered England for the first time, staying at a hotel in London frequented by his mother and sister on trips to the city. He spent much of the next few months walking around the British Isles, wearing stout leather Swiss walking boots and a leather rucksack in which he carefully packed a suit so that he could emerge smartly dressed when the situation demanded. He stayed often at the invitation of total strangers in their houses, or in pubs or small hotels, or in barns. His travels formed the topic of local newspaper articles at the time and in southern Ireland, on 1 August 1939, celebrating Swiss national day by singing while walking from Mellary to Lismore, a party of lady motorists heard him and gave him a lift to Cork!

John had almost completed his walk round Britain when, as a Swiss national, he was recalled to London by the Swiss Embassy on the outbreak of War. He began working for UBS in London in late 1939 and retired from his post as Chief Inspector in 1974 after 35 years’ service. In 1941 he met his first wife Mae, who, under her stage name Myla de Yongh, was an exotic dancer who worked with pythons. Born Anna Camilla Furtsch (1887-1963), in Hungary, she had been previously married to Ernst Boehm, son of the sculptor and coin designer Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-90). John kept his relationship with Mae from his mother for a while and they lived in a flat at Clare court, Judd street, Bloomsbury, eventually marrying in 1958.

John’s early days in London was the time when he built up the bulk of his coin collection and he kept diaries recording his visits to coin dealers and auctions in the 1940s and 1950s. His knowledge of coins, particularly European issues, was formidable and, as the following lots from his collection readily attest, he only collected pieces in the very best condition. His role with UBS ensured that he had prior access to new issues from government mints around the globe. A member of the Royal Society of Arts, he joined the Royal Numismatic Society in 1940 and the British Numismatic Society in 1950, remaining a member of both until his death at the age of 95 on 28 December 2009 at Uplyme, Devon, to where he had retired some years previously. He was also an early member of the London Numismatic Club and was a frequent attender at meetings of all the societies to which he belonged. Throughout his long life he never lost his deep interest in coins from that seed planted by his uncle so many years before.