Rodney Bolwell 1934-2021

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of the market’s founder, Rodney Bolwell.

For many years a significant figure in London’s coin and stamp collecting world, Rodney started his first market in 1974 under the arches on Villiers Street. He quickly became known as a man with integrity and someone who could be counted on to act in the best interest of everyone involved as, for instance, when he charged traders nothing at all for the first three months to help get things off the ground.  This certainly seemed to work and word spread quickly – at its peak, there were 150 stallholders there every week. The Charing Cross Collectors Market became a mainstay of the coin and stamp trade across the whole of the South of England and it was not uncommon for dealers from Europe and the United States to arrive at Heathrow on a Saturday and head straight there.

While he would go on to set up other offshoots in Hays Galleria and Tower Bridge, the trading forum at Charing Cross was always closest to his heart. Unfortunately, in the mid eighties, new development forced Rodney to move the operation. His bid for a place in the nearby shopping arcade was thwarted by an – ultimately baseless – counter bid and, well, that seemed to be that. Fortunately, the station master at London Bridge railway was sympathetic and his help was key to the market’s continuation on the station concourse in 1989. Yet he never gave up hope of returning to its original home in Charing Cross and in 1991 he began negotiating with the new managers of the Villiers Street site, Greycoat Accountants. Citing the Royal Charter enacted by Charles II that there had to be a market in the vicinity, he successfully argued that this was a legal entitlement and by April he, and his loyal band of traders, was back. 
And they’re still very much there.

Through rain and shine, the good and the bad, Rodney’s collectors market has survived. Now under the forward looking stewardship of his daughter, Bridget, the ranks of the coin and stamp dealers have been supplemented by traders in militaria, postcards, autographs, ephemera and antiques. It continues to be a place where deals are struck, old acquaintances renewed and the passion for collecting ignited. There is no better tribute to him. RIP

The 2p Coin Worth (Much!) More Than Its Weight In Gold

It’s just possible that the shrapnel at the bottom of your wallet, pocket or purse could be hiding a small windfall. If there’s a 2p coin in there from the year 1983 with the words ‘New Pence’ on the other side then put it someone you won’t spend it. While there aren’t many still around, prices regularly exceed £400 – more depending on the condition. That’s because the Royal Mint had inscribed all 2p coins with the words ‘New Pence’ until 1981. It was decided that this should subsequently become ‘Two Pence’ instead but in 1983 a small number were released with the old ‘New Pence’ inscription. It’s unlikely you’ll get a coin like this in your change but it might be worth checking old piggy banks or the back of the sofa!

Easier to spot is an undated 20 pence coins which entered circulation in 2008. An error at the Royal Mint saw the first undated coins for over three centuries entered circulation. Usually worth over £200, it’s thought that there are anywhere up to 200,000 out there somewhere…

Pre-digital Picture Messaging

While the advent of email and social media has inevitably displaced picture postcards as most people’s default way of communicating with friends and relatives back home, interest is growing in the medium partly because of its value as a window on the past. While most collectors are primarily interested in a postcard’s rarity or the image it shows, one man is specialising in the personal micro-histories they reveal.

Through his Twitter account, Tom Jackson posts a classic postcard from a half century ago which shows just how much, or how little, we have changed. His book of the same name is a compendium of some of the best and is in some ways as good a social history of who we were as you are likely to read. His website is at

In the same spirit, we’ve sourced a few classics of our own….

“Lovely lunch by the seafront – although the rock buns lived up to the name.”
“Bruce Forsyth was a hoot – Glad nearly wet herself!”
“Funnily enough, we had quite a little drama of our own with a theft overnight.”

Sovereign State

One of our traders recently had a couple of superb coins to show off so we were keen to show them off on the blog.

First up is this beautifully preserved gold sovereign from 1872. Sporting William Wyon’s ‘young head’ portrait of Queen Victoria on the obverse and the classic shield design on the reverse, it is rare to see one in such excellent condition. Prices for such a coin usually begin at around £425.

A counterfeit detector using two tests (weight and fit) to determine authenticity. A fake might pass one test but fail the other.

Also particularly noteworthy is this mint condition Isaac Newton fifty pence from 2018. The design was produced throughout 2017 before being changed at the end of the year. However, the Royal Mint offered visitors the chance to strike their own Newton fifty pence and take it away in a display pack. This promotion only ran for the first three months of 2018 so, with a maximum of just ten of these being produced an hour, numbers are therefore very limited.

The Enduring Charm of Antique Advertising

As modern advertisers come up with increasingly creative ways of driving ‘brand awareness’ among a savvy 21st century audience, there is something undeniably quaint about their early forays into the medium. Print ads had long been used to wax lyrical about a product’s virtues but signs you might see in the street were often much more to the point. Often the ad was nothing more than a high contrast rendering of the company name.

These enamelled metal signs were ubiquitous in towns and villages around the country but many were melted down during World War II. They are now highly sought after and often sell for hundreds of pounds because of their ability to add charm and character to homes and businesses. A battered vintage whisky sign on the bare white brick wall of a minimalist loft apartment might be just the thing while a Shell one behind a garage desk suggests that this has been a family business for generations.