The Preston-Morley Library of Token Books

The Preston-Morley Library of Token Books

Peter Preston-Morley

My family's connection with the county of Buckinghamshire, 5,000 miles away as I write, dates back to 1915. It was then that my paternal grandfather, Alfred (1865-1950), mindful of the threat posed by bomb-laden Zeppelins over London, moved his young family from Bloomsbury to Dunsmore, a hamlet nestling in the Chilterns, three mile south of Wendover.

My own early recollections, though, are of Buckingham, the market town to which we moved when I was six years old. For Christmas 1960, my father, whose collecting interests always lay in philately, gave me one of the new crowns ostensibly struck to commemorate the New York Exhibition that year. That coin began an interest that is with me still. I began to collect English coins, joining the fledgling Buckinghamshire Numismatic Society in 1962 and peppering the school holidays with visits to Baldwin, Seaby, Spink, Stewart Ward, EHW and others. The pre-decimal boom in English coins drove prices out of my reach by 1968, so I auctioned everything off and started again.

The start-again point was 14 August 1969, when a trip to Spink yielded my first Bucks token from Andre de Clermont, the Chesham halfpenny for 75p (lot 1037). A Slough halfpenny bought from 'Dougie' Mitchell of Baldwins on the same day was later traded for a better example, but I still retain my first 17th century token, the Aylesbury farthing of Edward Cope (lot 905), bought from Seaby's Monica Bussell the next day. In those days there were, of course, many more tokens to be had from the dealers than there are now. Prices were fairly static and it wasn't until the mid-1970s that there was significant movement.

By then, the collection had grown significantly, and George Berry and I had co-authored a new standard reference for the county, which was published in 1974. Thanks to Douglas Mitchell, between 1972 and 1974 I got first pick of the 18th century Bucks tokens bought by Baldwins at the Longman sale back in 1958, the highlight being Longman's Stowe farthing (lot 1055). I had also begun to develop the non-token side of the collection, with the acquisition of an important gold medal of Wolverton Park and four specimen banknotes of the Tring, Aylesbury & Chesham Bank in 1971. English provincial banknotes were seldom seen in the numismatic trade 30 years ago, in pre-Stanley Gibbons days, but some of the few notes I managed to acquire then came from a large collection bought by Colin Narbeth.

In October 1977 Francis Baker (t1979), a retired bank official from Henley on Thames who I had first met at the Oxford Numismatic Society in 1969, decided to sell his important collection of 17th century tokens. He gave me first refusal of the Bucks element, 22 pieces, as long as I bought everything. I didn't need to think twice because Francis told me I shouldn't! In more recent times, the dispersal by auction of the John Maitland [1994] and Ambrose Heal [1997] collections of Bucks tokens allowed me to add selectively to the acqusitions being made from a much wider range of sources than I ever envisaged back in 1969. In the 1980s and 1990s pub checks, co-op checks and other paranumismatica began to surface on the market, although never in large numbers as far as Buckinghamshire was concerned.

My long-time friend George Berry once wrote, "Buckinghamshire folk have always been noted for independent thinking and strong convictions." Now, as my thoughts turn to selling a collection that has given me immense pleasure to form, to study and to write about for more than 30 years, I know that these pieces will go on to be prized by a new generation of collectors. In 2002 I intend to publish a fully-illustrated record of all three parts of the collection, of which this catalogue forms Part I.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico, 29 May 2001