Articles

The sinking of the Titanic

2223 people…
20 life boats…
705 survivors…
The sinking of the Titanic

Excitement, anticipation and naivety lined the streets of Southampton, England, on April 10 1912, little to know that just five days later these emotions would turn to distress, fear and incredible devastation as the vessel that was believed to be ‘unsinkable’ descended deep onto the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

Captivated by mystery and intrigue, the story of the Titanic started in 1907 when J. Bruce Ismay – received authorisation to build the Titanic. After two years, 3,000 men and $7.5 million, in 1911 the Titanic was finally finished and left Belfast, Ireland and headed for Southampton, England to commence its ‘Maiden Voyage’.

Pulling away from Southampton port at 12.00 noon April 10 1912 the Titanic descended on its first and final expedition. With sounds of ecstasy piercing the air - dreams of new beginnings, thoughts of returning to loved ones and the celebration of newlyweds filled the halls of this majestic ship - the Titanic was the largest ship in the world, and with the ability to travel at 22.5 knots, it was the most elite ship that the world had ever seen!

From ecstasy to devastation, on April 14 1912, the believed invincible Titanic struck her fatal iceberg, sparking a series of chain reactions that ultimately lead to the death of 1,518 people and the horrific tales of the mere 705 survivors. Whilst the Titanic carried more lifeboats than was required by the British Board of Trade Regulations based on the ships tonnage, it only had half the amount of boats needed to save the lives of everyone on board. With Women and Children the first to be put onto the limited number of life boats, a horrific 31.7% of the 2223 passengers onboard this floating palace survived.

One of the most renowned events in history, the sinking of the Titanic has captivated global audiences for 100 years. Ultimately the truth behind this devastating voyage was lost in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean - leaving many across the world pondering the answers to what will continue to be the unknown.

The Perth Mint Swindle

A 30 year old mystery that is back in the public eye, in 1982 the Mickelberg brothers became the faces of one of the most famous gold robberies in Australian History.

An unsolved crime that involved the disappearance of 49 gold bars from the Perth Mint worth over $653,000, in 1983, six months after the event, the three brothers, Ray, Peter and Brian were found guilty of the conspiracy and sentenced to 20, 16 and 12 years respectively. With all three convictions overturned in 2004, thirty years on, the truth behind the Perth Mint Swindle continues to remain a mystery.

An event that shocked the nation and one that has never occurred again in the walls of the Perth Mint, today, the Mint executes top of the line security for the production of all of their products. Producing a huge amount of gold coins for the global market including the hugely popular 2012 $50 1/2oz Gold Proof 5-coin set and the 2012 $25 Diamond Jubilee 1/4oz Gold Proof, the Perth Mint continues to remain one of the most popular minting authorities across the globe!

Exclusive interview with Ken Downie!

With Downies celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2012, we thought now would be the perfect time for our clients to meet our Managing Director, Ken Downie, and explore the collecting interests of the man who has overseen our rise from a small collectables company into the largest numismatic conglomerate in the Southern Hemisphere.

When did you start collecting and what was your first item?
I started collecting in 1964. With a developing passion for coins and tokens, my first item was an Australian Trade Token.

What was it that drew you to your first token and to collecting itself?
As my father operated the Stamp and Coin Trading company, PJ Downie, I started to work there on my school holidays. With my passion beginning to develop, I joined the Numismatic Association of Victoria, where I was introduced to tokens and from there began my journey as a collector.

What was your favourite token that you acquired in your early years of collecting?
My favourite was actually one of the first tokens that I ever bought that was shown at the Numismatic association. I purchased the 1862 Jno Andrew Tradesman Token in the mid 1960’s, and with only maximum of two known to exist at the time I loved the rarity and uniqueness of it. It was only 20 years later that a second example surfaced and I acquired that as well.

What was a memorable acquisition as your collection developed?
My favourite has always been John Allen Token of Kiama, which I purchased in the mid 1980s. it was a great rarity at the time, and is still considered the King of the entire token series. i believe today there are only 4 examples known and only  2 outside museums and public institutions.

Have you collected anything other than tokens?
No, other than my token collection I have usually only purchased for commercial purposes. I collected some related materials such as printed papers of token issuers, ceramic pots of Professor Holloway ointments, and other bits and pieces related to token issuers.

How have you seen the industry change over time?
Probably the largest change in the industry has been the tremendous growth from collectors to investors. In the past, people collected due to great interest and a surplus of money, however with many areas of collecting seeing long term positive performance on both coins and banknotes, together with the transition to self managed superannuation funds, investors see numismatics as a good place to invest, introducing new markets and interests into the field.
Innovation and technology have also played an enormous part in both the growth of the industry and modern minting.

Do you still collect?
Yes, I still have a small collection of Counterstamped Tradesman Tokens. Upon selling my major collection in 1989 that comprised Tradesman Tokens, I continued to seek out new pieces of Counterstamped tokens that has now taken my interest! Unfortunately time does not allow me to spend much time on my collection today.

Has there ever been a coin that you wanted however you have never been able to acquire?
Yes, I have always wanted to find the De Carle, Melbourne Token that displays the portrait of Lord Raglan. Having been in the industry for almost 50 years, I have only ever seen this token come up for auction once.

Where are some of the exotic places that you have been to in order to purchase a desired coin?
Chicago, London, New York, New Zealand, Switzerland and across Australia

What advice and/or tips would you give to any new collectors?
Research! Start reading books, use the internet, go to auctions and if you can visit either the Royal Australian Mint or the Perth Mint, sign up to mailing lists, visit dealers and seek their advice on starting a collection, but follow your passion! With so many varieties of coins, banknotes and tokens available decide on what you like and go for it.

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