18th Century Tokens from the Collection of the Late David McDonald
David McDonald (1950-2019)
David McDonald, from Westminster, Maryland, began his interest in coins in 1959 when his mother tasked him with seeking out coins of Newfoundland for a distant relative - his father, a career naval officer, was then based at the US Navy facility at Argentia, in south-east Newfoundland.
The collecting bug sparked, David started his own collection of the coins of Canada, Newfoundland and the USA. By profession a pharmaceutical salesman for the past 32 years, David augmented his income by starting to buy and sell North American coins in 1979. Subsequently, when he found the prices of US coins moving beyond his pocket, he became interested in British-related material, specifically Scottish, Irish and tokens. In the intervening quarter-century he has built up a numismatic business to include trading in maps and documents, while selectively putting together and upgrading a collection of Scottish coins and tokens, always with the emphasis on quality.
A glance at the following 117 lots will demonstrate how successful he has been in acquiring pieces from a variety of sources on both sides of the Atlantic. In his frequent visits to the UK David augmented his acquisitions from auctions and dealers here with purchases from the principal US dealers in Scottish material, including Alan Davisson, Jim Elmen, Andy Singer and Karl Stephens.
Among the rarities, one may mention the Robert Ill heavy coinage lion with an impressive North American pedigree, once owned by John Story Jenks and John Work Garrett (lot 683), the 'Dundee' bonnet piece of 1540 and a superb gold crown of James V (lots 697 and 700), attractive examples of the early Mary Queen of Scots 44-and 22-shillings, 1553 (lots 702-3), one of the finest known James VI 16-shillings, 1581 from the John Dresser collection (lot 723), an unusually fine Charles II dollar, 1679 (lot 750) and last, but by no means least, a William II pistole and half-pistole, 1701, struck from gold of the ill-fated Darien Company (lots 762-3).
In all of his varied interests David enjoys the support of his wife Patricia and their three daughters, Brooke, Melissa and Kelsey.
David McDonald, son of the late Arthur and Maxine Blaess McDonald, was born in Detroit on 3 March 1950. He began collecting coins at an early age, encouraged by his Mother while the family was living in Newfoundland, where his father was stationed at the U.S. Naval Base Argentia. Canadian and Newfoundland coins were soon joined by U.S. coins as the collection grew. David earned a B.A. in political science from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, followed by an M.B.A. from Frostburg State University in Maryland. He became a pharmaceutical representative for Boehringer Ingelheim, retiring after thirty years of stellar service which included winning the company’s sales award an unprecedented five times.
In addition to collecting coins, David was interested in ski-ing, kayaking, and real estate. He also found an interest in historical maps, atlases and engravings, which became part of his business when he founded Westminster Rare Coins in 2005 after his retirement. His efforts always found the support of his family, his wife Patricia, whom he met at Gettysburg College, and their children Brooke, Melissa and Kelsey. Health concerns led to the closing of WRC in 2014.
David also collected Scottish coins and British tokens and medals. In 2004 Dix Noonan Webb had the pleasure of selling his collection of Scottish coins and tokens; he was also a friend and colleague of David Litrenta, whose token collection was offered in four DNW sales in 2005 and 2006. David died after a lengthy illness, on 9 February 2019.
I first met David McDonald at a coin fair in New Carrollton, near Washington, one summer in the mid-1980s. He came bounding up to my stand and asked if I could sell for him a copper Isle of Man halfpenny that he had bought as part of a larger lot. It was long before the days of ‘slabbing’ but as the piece was in mint condition with good red lustre I knew that I could sell it well.
An hour or so later he came back and was surprised to discover what I had achieved in getting for it. I think it was at this point two things happened – his interest in British tokens, coupled with an appreciation of condition, was born and secondly a lifetime friendship between the two of us was established.
A few days later I was invited to his house in Westminster, MD, to meet Patti his wife and their three daughters – young Brooke, toddler Melissa and babe-in-arms Kelsey. I was soon introduced to the McDonald tradition of a crab dinner! Locally caught crabs were steamed in highly piquant spices and once cooked everyone dug in in a sort of frenzied free-for-all. They were without doubt the most messy meals I have ever partaken in – but also one of the most delicious!
From then on I would see David six or seven times a year, using his house as a base during the Baltimore and New York fairs and ANAs, travelling over from the UK laden with tokens. David would buy from me and I from him, and soon he possessed an extensive stock and a good collection of 18th century tokens, in addition to Scottish coins which he was also putting aside.
Throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s we shared tables at the various ANA coin shows. I would arrive at his house and we would set off in his well-appointed campervan to far-away ANA venues such as Milwaukee, St Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago. On the way we would take in rivers such as the Upper Potomac, Youghiogheny or the Ohiopyle where he taught me to white-water raft and to kayak. He had done these sports for many years and even in spite of a back injury was very proficient! David also come to Britain in search of tokens, attending many important auctions here and becoming one of the principal dealers in Conder tokens in the US. In turn I took him to the river Cam in Cambridge and taught him the slightly more sedate activity of ‘punting’!
Dealing in coins was not David’s main occupation – he held down a busy position in the pharmaceutical world. He also expended much energy buying and renovating residential properties around Maryland, as well as a ski chalet just over the state border in West Virginia in which he invested a lot of time and, I am sure, cash. I remember extending my winter trip to the Baltimore coin fair several times to nip down to this beautiful lodge in the Canaan valley for a couple of days’ ski-ing!
These tokens were his speciality throughout his numismatic adventure and at all the Baltimore coin fairs he could be relied to have a large selection. As a dealer he was easy to get on with and was incredibly generous and friendly. Nothing was ever too much trouble. He will be very much missed at the coin fairs in Maryland and by all the numismatic community of the Eastern States. For me it is not just the loss a colleague in the coin trade but also of a very good friend who features so very strongly in the path of my own life.