In my “Isaacs Cabinet” writings, I traditionally highlight a particular coin in my personal collection and the memories surrounding its acquisition. With the passing just over a week ago of long-time friend and colleague Allan Davies, I have chosen instead to highlight a couple memories of the man himself, intricately connected as they still may be to my winding numismatic path of the past 35 years.
As I have written in earlier recollections, Al was the first coin dealer I had ever done trade with. Shortly after settling in the city around 1980, I met Al through the City of Ottawa Coin Club. A knowledgeable vest-pocket dealer – I believe still working for the Federal Government at that time – Al became a trusted source in my quest for interesting early English coins. I recall he would even make house-calls to indulge the collecting passions of a teenage collector, a testament as I now reflect to his patience and accommodating nature.
Anything pre-Victorian captivated me at the time, and one of the earliest items I purchased from Al on my limited budget was a delightful four-piece set of Queen Anne “Maundy” coinage. Held once per year since at least the middle ages, the “Royal Maundy” became a ceremony in the Church of England in which the reigning monarch or his/her representative distributed a small amount of special coinage to selected elderly recipients.
A complete Maundy set consists of the four silver coins, denominations one through four Pence, with the smallest denomination measuring a mere 12mm in diameter (“cute” is a term I am not embarrassed to use in describing these delightful tiny sets). With varying dates of 1708-1710, the set Alan had procured for me was housed in a later, very quaint original Maundy case of the Victorian period.
It remains a prized part of my now eclectic collection, and in the ensuing years I have acquired only one other Maundy set, a 2000-dated example of Elizabeth, with almost 300 years of history between the two Queens. Interestingly, to this day the current Royal Maundy coinage continues to be the only issues of the British Commonwealth to bear the original 1953 portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Although Allan’s much-respected expertise lay in the field of Canadian colonial tokens, in those early days I knew him mainly as my personal purveyor of nice early English coinage.
Later, as a dealer myself, although my travels with Allan were quite infrequent, I do look back fondly on one particular “road-trip” memory. He, Paul Davis and I had traveled to the Chicago Coin Fair, somewhere around 1990 or so, and found ourselves at the iconic Chicago Chophouse for dinner. I don’t recall whether through challenge or simple youthful gluttony, but Al and I found ourselves facing off with absurdly-large 32oz steaks.
Now, Allan was not a small man, but looking back with the objectivity of time, I expect he and I were at that sweet spot of intersecting capacities. Myself, likely at the peak of a 23-year-old’s bottomless appetite, and Allan perhaps on a somewhat tapered trajectory in which the mature male no longer requires the 4,000 daily caloric consumption of youth. At any rate – and as lame as it perhaps is to see myself write this – just about the only memory I have from our Chicago trip was cleanly putting away that 32oz mammoth, and then finishing off the third of Al’s steak that he had left aside. Whether that dinner earned me pride or shame I’m not entirely certain, but the memory still prevails of a great meal with great company.
I would see Al at shows in the ensuing years, and most recently had him over to the house a couple months ago when he kindly offered a new home to our two younger cats, who would keep him company until his untimely passing. Increasingly I find myself wondering where the years truly go, and am grateful for having met Allan in those early formative years.
Rest in peace, Sir. Your memory will remain clear in both our hobby and our hearts.