The Collection of Oxford City 17th Century Tokens formed by the late Harrington Manville

The Collection of Oxford City 17th Century Tokens formed by the late Harrington Manville

Harrington Emerson Manville (1929 - 2015)

Harrington Manville, known as Harry to his many friends in numismatics on both sides of the Atlantic, was born in New York on 6 September 1929, the son of Arthur J. Manville, proprietor of a book and curio shop. Educated at Mount Hermon in Gill, Massachusetts, and at Amherst College from which he graduated in 1951, he served in the US Army Counter-Intelligence in Germany before undertaking an MA at the University of Colorado. In 1957 he joined the US Information Agency, responsible for that government’s overseas education and information programmes, serving in Karachi, Madras and in South Korea. From 1961 to 1965 he was Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos, where he met and married his wife, Joelle Urquhart, in June 1962. From 1968 to 1972 he served successively as Cultural Attaché and First Secretary at the US Embassy in Oslo, and as Public Affairs Officer in Montreal and Quebec from 1972 to 1976. He took early retirement from government service in 1980.

Harry’s interest in numismatics centred on British coinage, rather than that of the USA, and an early purchase from the North American collector David Brown in July 1951 was a Northumbrian styca of Æthelred II (DNW Auction 131, lot 227). On leave from Germany, he had visited the premises of B.A. Seaby Ltd in Great Portland Street on 13 October 1952, acquiring a small group of Anglo-Saxon and Norman pennies from a collection listed in that month’s Bulletin (DNW 131, lots 56-7, 60-2). Those coins, picked for their quality, helped to form the basis of a collection that began to grow once he was back in the US and studying at Boulder; indeed the subject matter of his 1956 MA thesis was British coinage.

However, the emphasis of the collection soon became focused on the regal milled silver series prior to 1816. Harry’s goal was to obtain a run of dates and types, with particular emphasis on condition and rarity, and he used his contacts at the principal London dealers, especially Douglas Liddell and Mark Rasmussen (Spink), Alan Rayner and Frank Purvey (Seaby) and Peter Mitchell and Michael Sharp (Baldwin), as well as the likes of Randolph Zander in Virginia, Christian Blom (New York), James Risk (Stack’s/Coin Galleries, New York), Richard Margolis (New Jersey) and David Bowers (Empire Coin Co, Johnson City, NY), to put together a collection that, for the period 1658-1800, was almost unrivalled for quality in private hands. To provide him with additional resources for his retirement years Harry decided to sell this part of his collection and it went under the hammer at Spink on 4 June 1980 in 362 lots. Prior to the auction I well remember Harry was wary as to the outcome, because the market had only recently absorbed the Lord Hamilton collection, but he need not have feared as the mixed quality of the Hamilton material paled in comparison with the Manville pieces and, unknowingly, he caught the top of the market for British coins at that time. When lot 1, a virtually mint state Cromwell crown bought from Spink exactly 15 years earlier for £250, was acquired by Jim Noble for a client for £4,400, it set the scene for a spectacular dispersal, headed by the Pembroke specimen of the original Cromwell sixpence, acquired from the British Museum in 1972 in a private treaty arrangement and a coin which Harry remained vastly proud to own - and which sold for no less than £10,000, a record price for any sixpence at the time!

Prior to this, Harry had anonymously disposed of a collection of Bank of England countermarked Spanish dollars, mostly acquired from the Howard Gibbs and Sam Whetmore sales of 1960-1 in a Glendining auction on 19 June 1974 (lots 384-412). However, he continued to build a superb collection of similar material countermarked for British (principally Scottish) concerns, most of which was acquired by the British Museum in a private treaty sale in 1998. A lengthy research project resulted in a magnum opus, Tokens of the Industrial Revolution: Foreign Silver Coins Countermarked for use in Great Britain, c.1787 - 1828, published by the British Numismatic Society in 2001.

Flanking this dispersal, Harry also arranged the sale of two further portions of his collection; a series of Jacobite medals, anonymously (DNW, 17 September 1997, lots 709-731) and hammered silver coins of the Commonwealth and Charles II (Spink, 12 July 2001, lots 1-85). The latter included Fr Arnold Mallinson’s exceptional 1659 halfcrown, given to him as a boy in 1908 by his fellow Lancastrian, the artist and philanthropist Sir Cuthbert Grundy and sold by Mallinson in 1984 for £4,200.

From beginnings in the 1960s and ably assisted for over 40 years by Douglas Saville, Harry formed a library of British numismatics that, for its scope, was probably unequalled in the modern era. Encouraged primarily by Douglas Liddell when he was still in Laos, Harry came up with the idea of an Encyclopædia of British Numismatics. The first volume, an extensive listing of numismatic sales from 1710 to 1984, was compiled with the valued help of Terence Robertson and appeared in 1986; for the writer, this and the others listed below are never more than a foot away from my desk, ready to be consulted at a moment’s notice. They remain a testament to a numismatist to whom every last detail mattered and they will be consulted by serious numismatists for decades, if not centuries, to come:

Vol. 1. British Numismatic Auction Catalogues, 1710-1984. Baldwin/Spink, 1986
Vol. 2 (1). Numismatic Guide to British & Irish Periodicals, 1731-1991 (Archaeological). Baldwin/Spink 1993
Vol. 2 (2). Numismatic Guide to British & Irish Periodicals, 1836-1995 (Numismatic). Baldwin/Spink 1997
Vol. 3. Numismatic Guide to British and Irish Printed Books, 1600-2004. Spink 2005
Vol. 4. Biographical Dictionary of British and Irish Numismatics. Spink 2009
Vol. 5. Dictionary of English Numismatic Terms. Spink 2014.

Harry much enjoyed the social side of numismatics. For the best part of 50 years he made regular visits to Britain, normally coinciding with meetings of the British or Royal Numismatic societies (he was elected a member of both in the autumn of 1963, becoming an honorary member of the former in 2009), or with the annual BANS Congress. He wrote the official history of the first 50 years of BANS, published in 1999, and often lamented that some past Congress organisers had failed to note this detail or that fact - such was his desire to have the record correct. He drew enormous satisfaction from being able to attend the Diamond Jubilee BANS Congress in Greenwich in 2013 with Joelle, his last visit to our shores.

Since 1976 Harry had lived in Washington DC, but in recent years failing health necessitated a move to Seattle, to be close to his son and grandchildren. I visited him there last November and was pleased to find that, despite privations, Harry had lost none of his enthusiasm for coins and was happy to talk about how he acquired some of the pieces in this catalogue, as well as the contents of a box of “Maundy odds and sods” (his words) sold by DNW on 10 June 2015 (lots 201-223). He was looking forward to being closely involved with the cataloguing of his Scottish milled coins (as indeed he had been with Mark Rasmussen for his main collection of English milled 35 years ago), even from almost 5,000 miles away, but unfortunately it was not to be and he passed away on 18 February 2015 at the age of 85. He leaves Joelle, their children Tina and Duncan, and Duncan’s family, who together hope that his remaining coins will continue to give as much pleasure to their new owners as Harry derived from them.