As regular readers will know, Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria consistently sources the most marvellous historical items for us to feature. However, although this blog has featured some really quite remarkable treasures over the last few years, in my view none of them have been either as poignant or as precious as these: letters written by an inmate of Dachau concentration camp.
A very fitting post for Holocaust Memorial Day, they are a haunting reminder of one of humanity’s lowest points. There are four letters in all, dated 14-2-194, 7-6-1941, 1-9-1941 and 12-4-1942. Written by Johann Jaworski to his wife Maria at an address which appears to be No.(/Apptment?) 37, Horst-Wessel-Strasse, Litzmanstadt. Litzmanstadt was the Nazi name for the Polish city of Łódź, part of which had been turned into a ghetto following the invasion of 1939. It was the second largest ghetto in the whole of occupied Germany.
As for the street name, this was one of thousands of streets which were renamed after figures revered by the Nazis. Horst Wessel was a brownshirt leader who was assassinated by two Communists in Berlin. Goebbels subsequently used his death for propaganda purposes and the Horst Wessel Song became the party’s official anthem.
It is rare indeed to find such letters but even more unusual to have the envelopes which held them. Few people who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis wanted to keep the envelopes bearing a stamp with either his image or former President Hindenburg. Both letters and envelopes bear the camp name, the terms and conditions of use and have been stamped by the camp censor.
It would be a terrible omission to mention collecting banknotes (as we did on last week’s blog) without a follow up post one of the most collectable aspects of notaphily: serial numbers. Significant sums have changed hands for the rights to own notes which are considered to bear statistically significant numbers. Take the example of the (then new) £10 note issued in 2017 featuring Jane Austen. Because one eagle eyed opportunist spotted that the serial number began AH (a rare prefix) and contained 1775, the year of Austen’s birth. It sold on Ebay for £3,600.
Several online articles appeared in the wake of the sale, speculating that serial numbers containing the exact date of her birth or death might also fetch “thousands”. Readers were also advised to be on the lookout for notes featuring the prefixes JA01 and JA75 but reports of how much money could be made were certainly exaggerated and haven’t been borne out by events.
It’s generally accepted that sound advice is to watch out for the lowest serial number for any new note. There is a queue since convention dictates that number AA01 000001 is always given to the Queen and the next few are often distributed to the heir apparent and leading figures in the government. However, any number below 200 could fetch good money at auction so it’s almost worth seeing every banknote as a potential lottery ticket. Good luck!
While coin collecting, or numismatics, is the more common specialism of anyone with a penchant for currency, banknotes have their own equally dedicated, if not quite so wide, following.
The first banknotes made their appearance in China as far back as the seventh century. Although Marco Polo returned from his travels with some examples in the thirteenth century, the concept would not be widely adopted in Europe for a further four hundred years.
Just as with stamps, the variety is so great that the budding collector is best advised to find a theme in which they have a natural interest. Perhaps you have a penchant for animals, portraits or the banknotes of a particular country. More specialised still are the notaphiles on the lookout for certain serial numbers or notes featuring signatures.
As might be imagined, factors affecting the value of a note include its overall condition and, above all of course, its rarity. A case in point is the world’s most valuable banknote: the US 1890 Grand Watermelon $1,000 Bill. Only seven are known to exist in the world – and only three of them will ever be held in private hands. It is known as the Grand Watermelon because of the plump zeros on the reverse. Forget face value though. The last time one came up for auction in 2014, it went for a cool $3.3 million.
It was six years ago that Her Majesty became the longest serving British monarch, overtaking her illustrious great-great grandmother Victoria. Of course, since then she has been gloriously breaking her own personal best on a daily basis.
She will celebrate her next regal landmark in a month’s time. Although she wouldn’t be crowned until 2 June 1953, she became the British Head of State de facto on the death of her father, George VI. On 6 February this year, she will therefore have been our queen for a full seventy years.
At a time when any number of commercial brands are trumpeting about their own anniversaries (World Nutella Day anyone?), it is reassuring to know that we can still rely on the Royal Mint to focus on matters of substance.
And so we have this series of really stunning new coins to mark her Platinum Jubilee year. Available through the Royal Mint’s own website, they include what is, perhaps surprisingly, the first fifty pence coin celebrating a royal event. This year’s annual set also includes fitting tributes to Dame Vera Lynn, Alexander Graham Bell and this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
If you’ve ever wondered about what draws so many people into the magical world of collecting, why not come down and join us for the first Charing Cross Collectors Market of 2022 this New Years Day!
With knowledgeable traders to help you find your niche and tables full of bargains, you’re sure to find something which will spark your imagination. Whether it’s militaria, stamps, coins, banknotes, ephemera, antiques, postcards, autographs, football programmes…on any given day this is just a sample of the treasures for you to browse through. And you’ll always be sure of a warm welcome from Bridget, Jim and, of course, Dougal the Market Dog!