An Oxford student who died in a climbing accident left a poignant reminder of his life – a schoolboy cabinet made out of matchboxes, one of which contained a American half cent piece worth an estimated £30,000.
Despite its value, the coin will not be sold by a numismatist, but by an auction house more used to handling antique oak pedestal desks and Victorian balloon backed dining chairs . It will include the 1796 piece in their silver and collectors auction on 22nd – 23rd January 2013, listing it as the Mark Hillary Specimen in memory of its owner.
Hillary tragically died in a climbing accident in 1963, aged just 20. His family sold most of his adult collection some time ago, but retained the coins he had collected as a schoolboy, together with the matchbox ‘cabinet’ he made to put them in. This poignant reminder of the past remained hidden until it was uncovered during a recent household clearout by the family. Initially, they believed it to be junk, but the auctioneer quickly discovered it held hidden treasure. Now, the entire collection, including the cabinet, is to go under the hammer, with the Mark Hillary Specimen sold as a separate lot.
It is by no means unusual to find colonial coins in Lancashire; in fact, some of the best specimens ever minted have turned up in Britain. Collectors should remember that buying coins at auction can often work out dearer than buying from a high street specialist. In the same way, it is often cheaper to buy a Victorian oak pedestal desk from a Preston antique dealer than from an auction house.
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