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British Colonial collecting

Old to New - Book Review

I had a call yesterday from a collector who wanted to know what books were available for specialists in British Colonial coinage. That really made me think. Back in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's this was quite a popular collecting field, and there were several books produced, but today the emphasis is much more on broad catalogs like the Standard Catalog series from Krause Publications or country specific guide books like Coins of England and the United Kingdom from Spink.

To build a nice working library for British Colonial coinage today, you would have to buy between ten and twenty books. First I would recommend tracking down one of the two major older catalogs on British Commonwealth and Colonial coins:

  • The Guidebook and Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins by Jerome Remick, last published in 1971
  • Spink's Catalogue of British Colonial and Commonwealth Coins by Andre de Clermont, last published in 1986

Next it would be wise to acquire a set of The British Commonwealth of Nations series by F. Pridmore. Spink published these in various bindings over the years. Some volumes are difficult to find and none are cheap, but the information compiled by Pridmore stands up to the test of time. The series had volumes covering the West Indies, European Territories, India, Asia and such. The West Indies volume has always been very useful, coupled with a few cut and countermarked auction references and the classic West Indies Countermarked Gold Coins by Ralph Gordon.

The third step would be to purchase a pair of the basic catalogs on England - United Kingdom and Scotland - Ireland. There are two available options. Spink produces the annual Coins of England and the United Kingdom, plus the sporadic Coins of Scotland, Ireland and the Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, Man and Lundy), while Coincraft has compiled Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins 1066 to date and Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of the coins of Scotland, Ireland, Channel Islands & Isle of Man. I like the Coincraft books for ease of use, but the Spink books are more current. Either set will do the job.

To cover what may have been missed in the above group I would also suggest filling in with two major world catalogs from the KP series:

Another option would be to pick up the type based Official Krause Guide for the Coins of Northern Europe & Russia, which includes Great Britain from 1838-2006, plus Guernsey from 1830-1971, Jersey from 1841-1971, Isle of Man from 1839-1971, Ireland from 1822-1823 and Ireland Republic from 1920-2006. At $24.99 it's a bargain for the scope of coverage, so long as you collect by type and don't need to know the rare dates.

Image of book

Finally I would recommend at least two classic auction catalogs be added to fill out your British Colonial library:

  • Spink Coin Auctions No. 79 from October 1990
  • Spink Coin Auctions No. 88 from October 1991

These two sales offered parts one and two of the R. J. Ford Collection of British Colonial coins. Part one was comprised of coins from Europe and the West Indies, while part two offered coins from Africa and the Indian Ocean countries. Together these sales offer a great deal of market information and illustrate a wide spectrum of British Colonial coinage. While there are many other worthy auction catalogs for British Colonial, I know of no others, which offer so much in such compact form.

So there you are, at about a dozen books and auction catalogs, with a good working numismatic library for British Colonial coinage. Of course I have stayed with those references, which are most cost efficient and have the most coin coverage. There are many more expensive references which can give the collector more historical perspective, but that is a pursuit for the more advanced. Also I have excluded British tokens and Colonial America, since those are each strong individual collecting areas on their own, which can be covered in future postings.

If you find yourself wanting more for your British Colonial reference library, check out some of these peripheral titles.

Other moderately priced books you might consider adding to your British Commonwealth library at some future point, as your interests become more specialized would include:

  • Rennicks Australian Coin & Banknote Values
  • The Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes by Greg McDonald
  • Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins
  • A History of Currency in the British Colonies by Robert Chalmers
  • The Coinage of British West Africa & St. Helena 1684-1958 by David Vice
  • Illustrated Catalogue of Hong Kong Currency by Ma Tak Wo
  • Standard Catalogue of Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei Coin & Paper Money edited by Steven Tan
  • The Scottish Coinage by Ian Halley Stewart
  • The Crown Pieces of Great Britain and the British Commonwealth by Howard W. A. Linecar
  • Rennicks New Zealand Coin and Banknote Values by Dion Skinner and Alistair Robb
  • The Coins and Tokens of British Oceania by Robert L. Clarke

Other auction catalogs you might consider adding to your library as your interests become more advanced would include:

  • Spink London No. 184, October 2006, The Jerry Remick Collection of Colonial and British Commonwealth Coins, Part I - Australia and Asia
  • Whyte's of Dublin, April 2000, The Millennial Collection of Irish Coinage
  • Bowers and Ruddy Galleries in conjunction with Spink & Son, Ltd., February 1976, The Dundee Collection of Scottish Coins

Some inexpensive older books, which may still retain some usefulness to British Colonial collectors, include:

  • Coins of the British World - Complete from 500 A.D. to Present by Robert Friedberg, which really covers British Empire from 1600-1962 and British Isle from 500 A.D. to 1962 by coin types.
  • A Guide Book of Modern British Commonwealth Coins by Robert P. Harris
  • British Colonial Coins and Tokens by J. Verner Scaife, Jr.
  • Coins of the World - British Colonies and Dominions in Asia and the Pacific (except India) by Wayte Raymond
  • Coins of the World - British Colonies in Africa, Union of South Africa, Independent African Countries by Wayte Raymond