The Lyall Collection of Cut and Countermarked Coins

The Lyall Collection of Cut and Countermarked Coins

Bob Lyall

Bob Lyall has been a cornerstone with respect to research on the West Indies cut and countermarked series for many years. A major achievement was the publication of a very important booklet, West Indian Coinage – Some New Discoveries, by Spink in 1998. This work brought to light a significant amount of contemporary documentation not previously published in the numismatic domain. Additionally, his work covers much more as evidenced by his book on West Indies tokens, and publications on Gibraltar, identifying this colony as the original location for the series of heart-shaped piercings (the earliest examples of mutilated coinage for British colonial use) in 2008, his book on the tokens of Malta, along with a number of articles published in Spink’s Numismatic Circular over the years.

Bob developed a collecting interest at quite an early age, starting off with artefacts and objects of interest given to him by family members. By the age of twelve his interest focused primarily on numismatics. He was already on his way to forming a significant collection of the coinage of Charles I (sold in these rooms in 2015 and 2016) when he had his first exposure to the West Indies (including Bermuda, Bahamas and British Honduras) in 1958, performing his National Service with the Royal Navy.

I was introduced to Bob via correspondence in 1975. We immediately recognised that we had a strong mutual interest in the cut and countermarked coins of the West Indies and began to exchange thoughts and ideas. We met in person when I visited the UK in 1977 and one of the highlights of this visit was a weekend spent with Fred Pridmore in Taunton. Both Bob and I began our interest in the West Indies cut and countermarked series in 1969-70, so our weekend with Fred was truly valuable as we already had a degree of understanding and background in the series. As such, we were able to understand the detailed points that Fred discussed with us. Over the next few years there were a number of visits; I stayed with Bob when I came to the UK and he came to Puerto Rico and stayed with me. These meetings provided an ideal opportunity to discuss and share ideas on the series. Areas where our views differed were few and far between.

While some issues are common (common being a relative term in this series), many are great rarities. Accordingly, the collecting fraternity has been small in number, due not only to the lack of material but also to the limited understanding of the social and economic conditions that brought about the existence of these coins. It is gratifying to see that in the past 8-10 years there has been a marked increase in interest by collectors and students, and a genuine recognition of the rarity of the coins in general. It is not the easiest series to understand, complicated as it is by ‘unofficial’ specimens, ‘contemporary counterfeits’ and, sadly, ‘modern fakes’. With study the first two categories add significant interest to the series and indeed these coins formed an integral part of the day-to-day marketplace transactions for which the various island assemblies took steps to enact this exceptional local coinage. With very few exceptions, study and close examination can usually detect and identify the third category.

Bob, being a faithful student of the series, focused on study and research, writing literally hundreds of letters to museums, historical societies and individuals who might have useful information, and visiting various libraries and museums in the UK and the West Indies.

In order to truly understand these highly interesting coins they must be physically handled. Therefore, it is without hesitation or regret that both Bob and I speak out strongly against the modern practice of ‘slabbing’ cut and countermarked coins. Sadly, we have seen too many modern fakes and concoctions finding their way into slabs and this does not assist the collector, or the reputation of the companies providing this service. This is a specialised series and without appropriate study and knowledge even an experienced numismatist can easily put a modern fake into a slab. Furthermore, it is noted that the authenticating and grading services make no differentiation between official, unofficial and contemporary counterfeits. Again, not surprising in that unless there is a good understanding of the series, these differentiations are likely to be overlooked or ignored. Indeed, until recently, cut and countermarked coins have been slabbed without any indication of the weight (an aspect with a certain degree of value in respect to silver segments, but absolutely crucial with respect to the clipped, plugged and countermarked gold coins). We would encourage students of the series to embrace their collections in the raw form, so as to fully maximise their understanding, knowledge and enjoyment.

The coins now offered in this catalogue represent a dedicated and focused effort over many years. As such, the size and scope of this collection affords bidders a great opportunity to make significant additions to their own collections. Not to be overlooked are a number of very unusual specimens often missing even from major collections.
Ken Eckardt

Cataloguer’s note: Throughout the catalogue there are numerous notes and comments. In many instances these are the studied opinion of the cataloguer. As such, any criticism for errors, omissions or incorrect assumptions should be directed to me. I would welcome any comments or an in-depth discussion on any of the points raised, or on any specific coins listed herein.