Collecting is a pastime for some, while for others, such as National Seniors’ WA member ‘Ted’, it’s a thirst for knowledge about their chosen field, writes Rosemary Desmond.
Ted – who prefers to use another name due to security concerns – has been a self-described ‘compulsive collector’ since his childhood in England.
Living in the countryside, he and his friends collected birds’ eggs, as well as military paraphernalia acquired by British servicemen in World War II and later given to their children.
But it was coins that sparked a life-long interest.
“I had every Victorian penny from 1837 to the year Queen Victoria died in 1901,” Ted said.
“They were in circulation when I was a kid but when I was 14, I traded them for a pack of Woodbine cigarettes. The things we do!”
In 1968, Ted was a qualified carpenter when he emigrated to Australia as a ‘Ten Pound Pom’.
“When I got to Fremantle after four weeks at sea, I walked down the gang plank with a toolbox in one hand and a suitcase in the other and $20 in my pocket, but within two days I found work.”
Ted’s father later visited him from the UK, bringing with him his coin collection, including Georgian pennies and a gold half sovereign dated 1788.
“Recently, I read an article about a fellow like me who had some coins his grandfather gave him when he was a boy playing ‘Pirates and buried treasure’.
“Last year, he got his collection valued and it sold at auction for £265,000 ($A427,127). It included a gold half sovereign dated 1702 that came from a Spanish treasure ship captured off the Americas. Only 10 were known to exist.
“I thought all my Christmases had come at once, but mine was the wrong year.”
Ted has made five trips to the Middle East, driven by a fascination with the ancient history of the Bible lands. In the year 2000, he went to Jordan and Israel and hired an Arab to take him to some archaeological sites.
“He (the Arab) sold me four ancient coins, including two copper coins from the Byzantine period, one silver Roman diadumenian, dating from 217 AD, and a smaller copper coin about the size of an Australian 10 cent piece with the ruler on one side and on the other, an angel or a god with wings.
The silver coin, minted on the Aegean island of Kos, was named for Diadumenianus, the son of Roman Emperor Macrinus. Diadumenianus was born with a caul (amniotic membrane) around his head like a ‘diadem’, a type of crown.
Ted said ancient coins often carried the name of the place where they were minted.
“It (the copper coin) is very thin and it’s probably been buried for some time.
“I had no idea how old it was until two years ago when a friend bought me an old coin book from the local op shop for 20 cents. When I opened the book, there was my coin, which dates from 450 BC and was minted in Syracuse (a coastal city in what is now Sicily).
“That’s where (Greek mathematical genius) Archimedes used to live (287-212 BC). The Romans conquered it and knew Archimedes lived there and they wanted him alive.
“However, a soldier came across this old man drawing circles in the sand and gave him an order. He either didn’t hear him or ignored him and the soldier ran him through with a sword. It was Archimedes. It’s an amazing story.”
Ted hopes to visit the Middle East again, with his next trip planned tentatively for 2018 or 2019.
“I’ve sort of got the (travel) bug now,” he said.
“In the past 17 years, I have visited about 130 archaeological and historical sites.
I have been on two digs and visited over 20 museums.
“If they lock me up and throw away the key, and I hope they don’t, I could live on the memories of it all.”
This article by Rosemary Desmond originally appeared in the April/May 2017 edition of 50 something magazine.