The Collection of 19th Century Silver Tokens formed by the late Ivor Devereux

The Collection of 19th Century Silver Tokens formed by the late Ivor Devereux

Ivor Devereux (1912 - 1991)

Ivor Francis William Devereux was born in Warlingham, Surrey on 21 October 1912. One of five children and part of a family that frequently moved home, Ivor spent his childhood growing up in a variety of places, mainly across the south of England.

Ivor was always interested in learning about the world around him and was an enthusiastic reader throughout his life. As a boy, his interest in history and geography led to a fascination with Roman and foreign coins. It was this that was to prove the start of his career as a collector and his first collection of coins was created before he left school.

After school Ivor trained as an accountant, qualifying as a chartered secretary and eventually becoming a tax specialist. During the early part of his working life he continued to collect coins, gradually building up a large and varied collection that encompassed a good selection of coins from a variety of periods. His collecting habits reflected his interest in coins as historical objects and, in particular, he was interested in coins that provided an insight into British history and the British economy. It was therefore natural that he had a good collection of silver coinage covering the reigns of mainly 17th, 18th and 19th century British monarchs.

It was in the 1950s that Ivor first became interested in tradesmen’s tokens. No doubt the unique economic environment in Britain that led to the issue of these tokens was a part of the fascination for him, as was the quirkiness of coins issued by individual businessmen rather than the state. Having started to collect tokens, Ivor soon found that these became his real passion. Over the next 20 years his collection was refined with an increasing emphasis on tokens. At the same time he built up a collection of reference books and an extensive network of contacts with other collectors.

It was also at this time that he started to get his family involved in his hobby. His wife, Agnes, spent many hours with him peering through a magnifying glass at tokens not always in the best condition. So, it is not surprising that her enthusiasm for counting acorns on oak wreaths in these conditions may sometimes have been tested. But his daughter, Frances, vividly remembers while still at school writing an article for a local magazine on the subject of tradesmen’s tokens, having been motivated by her father’s collection and the way he was able to bring the subject to life.

Ivor retained his enthusiasm for tokens throughout his working career, but the demands of his work, helping clients, many in the worlds of media and the arts, with their tax affairs meant he did not have as much time for his hobby as he might have liked. This changed in the 1970s when Ivor started a staged retirement, reducing his working week first to three then to two days. The additional time he had at his disposal enabled Ivor to pursue his hobby on a more serious basis. Operating from the flat in Temple Avenue, where he stayed while in London, he became a regular attender at auctions. His trading, which had been conducted purely as a hobby, was now on a semi-professional basis. No doubt, as a good accountant, it appealed to him that such trading was advantageous from a tax perspective as it avoided capital gains.

The need for catalogues and lists of the tokens gave Ivor an opportunity to pursue another of his hobbies, typesetting and printing. All of the materials he distributed were hand-set by him and run off on a small printing press he had in the garden shed of his house in Hastings.

Ivor’s original collection of tokens was largely copper. But during the 1980s he began to increasingly focus on silver and by the end of the decade the best part of his collection was of silver tokens. It was also during the 1970s and 1980s that Ivor introduced me, the third generation of his family, to his passion. At first I was just fascinated by the tokens, their history and my grandfather’s knowledge. In time this led to me helping Ivor to identify and catalogue the tokens he was buying.

Ivor’s interest in silver tokens continued up until his death on 24 May 1991. Throughout this period he took the opportunity to expand and improve his personal collection, replacing specimens in poor quality with better ones and filling gaps where they existed. The result is a collection that can be said to be a worthy reflection of his life-long passion.

Ivor’s ability to enthuse other members of his family with his hobby has continued after his death and now extends to a fourth generation. His great-grandson, Haris, was introduced to the collection as it was being prepared for auction and became an enthusiastic participant in the process once he discovered an interest in the tokens and their history. Although the internet has changed research methods, tradesmen’s tokens and their history remain just as fascinating today as they were at the time of my grandfather’s birth more than one hundred years ago.

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