President’s Review of the Year, 2019-20

Roger Bland

For the first half of the Society’s year, our business was able to proceed pretty much as usual. Down to February we were able to have our regular ordinary and council meetings and then, in March, the Coronavirus crisis changed everything. We have been unable to have meetings in March, April and May, nor can we hold our AGM in June, but we will be experimenting by having the Presidential address online via Zoom. If that is successful it seems probable we will be holding meetings via Zoom for this autumn at least. We have held our April and June Council meetings on Zoom. 

The RNS, like the rest of society, has had to adapt to completely new ways of working at short notice. I’m confident that we can continue to carry out many of our core activities in these very difficult circumstances, even while some things, such as holding physical meetings, are not possible at present. One casualty of the emergency has been our AGM, which we would normally have held in June. As this is not something than can be switched to a digital platform, we are postponing it until such time as we are able to hold meetings again. I’m very grateful to our Officers and Council who have agreed to stay on in post for the time being.

As ever I would like to thank the officers of our Society, as without all their very hard work, the Society’s affairs would not run as smoothly as they do. Our Honorary Secretaries Megan Gooch and Henry Flynn not only organise the meetings but also look after the membership, meetings, grants and many other things. 

Peter Knapton has continued to look after our financial affairs with his usual efficiency and we are very grateful to him for that. He has, however, decided he needs to focus on his other voluntary and charitable commitments and is stepping down in June. Our thanks for all he has achieved for the Society over the last three years. Thanks too to Stefano Mazzola for continuing to act as the independent examiner of the accounts and to Tristram Hillgarth for his wise advice on the Finance Committee. We are delighted that Paul Hill, of CNG coins, has agreed to step into Peter’s shoes and Council will be invited to co-opt Paul as our Treasurer at its June meeting. 

Brad Shepherd is Joint Librarian of both our Society and the British Numismatic Society, and has continued to worked very hard on getting the Library into shape for the Warburg Institute. We are delighted that the agreement between our Society and the British Numismatic Society and the Warburg Institute was finally signed in November 2019, thanks to the efforts of Brad and our Honorary Vice-President, Andrew Burnett. The Warburg Institute has been closed since March, but library cataloguing continues with the aim of ensuring that all the Society’s books are visible on the University of London’s online catalogue.

Your Vice Presidents Martin Allen and Helen Wang and our Hon. Vice President Andrew Burnett have all played an invaluable role in advising Council on medallists and honorary members and other matters. 

I would also like to thank the other members of the Council this year: Claire Rowan, Matt Ball, Simon Glenn, Abigail Kenvyn, Stanley Ireland and Jenny Adam. Richard Morel, who gave us really valuable advice on our archives last year, was re-elected in June 2019, but had to step down from Council in the autumn because of ill health. 

For the majority of our members, especially those overseas, the Society’s main publication, the Numismatic Chronicle, is probably the most important benefit of membership. This continues to come out with great regularity early in the New Year and it always contains excellent peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of subjects; it has the reputation of being one of the premier numismatic journals in the world. Richard Ashton, Marcus Phillips and Sue Tyler-Smith have edited the Chronicle very efficiently for many years now (Richard since 1998, Marcus since 2002 and Sue since 2014) and we continue to owe them a huge debt. Council has nominated Marcus and Sue as Honorary Fellows in recognition of the debt we owe them (Richard is already an Honorary Fellow).

The Society’s Special Publications also have a high reputation and, under Sue Tyler-Smith’s editorship, H M Malek’s Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the early Islamic period in Iran and Iraq, SP 55 (in 2 volumes) was published in December, followed shortly after by Antonino Crisà, Mairi Gkikaki and Clare Rowan (eds). Tokens: Cultures, Connections, Communities (SP 57).

Two more SPs are now in proof and will be published this summer: Ken Sheedy and Gil Davis (eds), Metallurgy in Numismatics 6 (SP 56) and Andrew Burnett’s ‘The Hidden Treasures of this happy Island.’ A history of numismatics in Britain from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (SP 58), a monumental three-volume work which we are publishing with the British Numismatic Society. I have edited these two works. Jack Nurpetlian’s Coinage in late Hellenistic and Roman Syria: the Orontes Valley is being edited by Clare Rowan and should be out later this year. The Society had large stocks of old Special Publications in Spink’s warehouse which were about to incur storage charges and we sold 805 volumes to Chris Martin Ltd.

Thanks to the energy of Matt Ball, the Society’s monthly E-newsletter has continued to come out regularly (with a break in the summer), and is proving to be an excellent way of keeping the Society’s members in touch with our activities. We now have e-mail addresses for most Fellows, but there are still some for whom we don’t have an e-mail; please send your address to the Secretary if you didn’t receive this. We also continue to send out the biannual Money and Medals Newsletter to all members for whom we have email addresses. Thanks also to Matt and Megan for looking after the Society’s Twitter account and to Matt for keeping the website up to date.

As usual, until February members have continued to enjoy a monthly programme of meetings, organised by our secretary Megan Gooch and many thanks to our speakers Susan Eberhard, Alexandra Magub, our medallist Sam Moorhead, Panagiotis Iossif, Laura Burnett and Ylva Haidenthaller for their papers. We are sorry to have cancelled out meetings in March, April and May and we hope that those speakers will be able to come next year. Laura and Ylva gave their papers in the early-career lecturers’ slot in February, which we advertise through an open call. We have received so many applications for this, that in April Clare Rowan invited early-career researchers in numismatics to give papers at a conference organised in conjunction with Warwick University. This had to be switched to Zoom at short notice, but it was a successful event and our thanks to Clare for organising it.

We have now found a satisfactory alternative venue to the Warburg institute for our meetings, in the Council room of the Institute for Advanced Legal Study, on Russell Square. However, as the IALS isn’t suitable for parties, we have been going to either the Swedenborg Institute or the Institute of Archaeology for the December and June meetings.

In August 2019 the Privy Council, no less, approved the Society’s new bye-laws, which we had approved at our AGM in June 2019. These were last updated in 2006 and it was agreed that they were in need of revision. They are available on our website (https://numismatics.org.uk/about-the-society/bylaws-of-the-society/). 

The main changes are intended to reflect the current way in which new fellows are elected and to give the Council greater flexibility in the when and how often we hold council and ordinary meetings, while also giving the Society’s membership a greater opportunity to be involved in electing officers and council members at the AGM, bringing them into line with best practice as laid down by the Charity Commission.

In particular, the new bye-laws:

• simplify the method for recruiting new Fellows and bring it into line with current practice, as formal elections are no longer held;
• bring in simplified way for recruiting young and student Fellows at a reduced subscription;
• mean that Council will not need to meet ten times a year and will give Council flexibility over the frequency of these meetings;
• give Council flexibility over the frequency and timing of Ordinary meetings;
• bring the procedure for examining the Society’s accounts into line with Charity Commission guidelines;
• give greater flexibility over the roles of the Society’s officers;
• modify the procedures for electing Council at the AGM in line with the Charity Commission’s best practice.

Last year Council decided to it was time to commission a new medal and we are very grateful to Council officers Abigail Kenvyn, of the Royal Mint Museum, and Henry Flynn for helping us through this process. Council agreed to invite Natasha Ratcliffe and Robert Elderton to produce drawings for a medal. We look forward to choosing a design from their submissions in the coming year.

The Society has also given grants from the Casey, Lowick and CNG funds totalling £10,100 to Andrew Burnett, Vesta Curtis, Sam Moorhead, Victoria Stopar and Connor Sweetwood.

We also awarded the Shamma prize to Dorota Malarczyk for her contributions to the Islamic sections of the Polish 5 part Inventory of Early Medieval Coin Hoards and the Parkes Weber prize to Sophie Hemmings for her essay, ‘Imperial identity and the production of gold coinage in the Carolingian world’.

Congratulations to Keith Rutter on receiving our Society’s medal for this year; we look forward to hearing him speak in 2021.

Lastly, I am sad to report the loss of six Fellows who have died over the last year: 

Simon Bendall (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bendall), who died in June 2019 at the age of 81 was an Honorary Fellow of our Society and well-known to many, having had a career in coins at Spink’s and Baldwin’s. He was an expert in the coinage of the later Byzantine Empire and published important books on the Later Palaeologan Coinage and the Coinage of the Empire of Trebizond.

Jay Galst (https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=jay-galst&pid=196007602&fhid=14893) died of coronavirus in April 2020 at the age of 69. Hewas a leading ophthalmologist in New York and also a keen collector of coins who combined his career with his hobby by becoming an expert on ophthalmology on coins. He was aleading member of the numismatic scene in New York and a kind and generous man.

Peter Gaspar (https://www.coinbooks.org/v22/esylum_v22n33a07.html), who died at the age of 84 in July 2019, was professor emeritus of chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He combined his profession as a research chemist with a passion for medieval English coins and was an expert in the technical aspects of metallurgy and coin production. He was a regular visitor to London and served on the Council of the American Numismatic Society.

Terry Hardaker (https://www.oxfordcartographers.com/in-memory-of-terry-hardaker/) died at the age of 79 in October 2019 was a distinguished cartographer by profession (he founded Oxford Cartographers) with interests in archaeology and numismatics: he wrote a number of books on the punch-marked coins of India.

Colin Narbeth (https://coinsweekly.com/colin-narbeth-1929-2020/), who died in May 2020 at the age of 90, was the founder and driving force of the International Bank Note Society.

Ulla Westermark (https://coinsweekly.com/ulla-westermark-1927-2020/) died in February 2020 at the age of 92 received our Society’s medal in 2001 and was co-author, with Kenneth Jenkins, of The Coinage of Kamarina, our Special Publication no. 9 (1980). She was an authority on ancient Greek coins, especially those of Sicily, publishing a monograph on the coinage of Akragas, and co-ordinated the series Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum from 1976 to 1986. Her career was at the Royal Coin Cabinet in Stockholm, where she was Director from 1979 to 1983.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: