In August 1932 my father, who spent his early working life in a shoe factory, had
the rare opportunity to change career by opening a small newsagent and tobacconist
shop. However, he needed to find a considerable sum as a down payment to secure the
newly built premises. My grandmother, being ever a shrewd business woman, didn’t
offer the money (£300) as a gift but agreed to lend the cash, to be repaid on an
agreed rate of interest.
The next few weeks were spent frantically stocking the shelves and preparing window
displays ready for the grand opening in October. When my father took over the building
on completion he decided to leave the family home and sleep at the shop – even though
he didn’t even have a bed. The morning of the ‘grand opening’ duly arrived. Everything
in the shop would have been checked and double checked, windows cleaned, counters
polished and newspapers laid out in an orderly fan ready for the first expected customers.
On making a final inspection of the shop floor my father noticed that a number of
dead leaves and other small litter from the street had blown in under the shop door.
He quickly sprang into action with a brush to clear up the mess, which included a
screwed-up piece of newspaper. When the brush head made contact with the piece of
newspaper it became obvious it was wrapped round something small but quite heavy.
Despite the opening time looming ever closer (5.30 am for newsagents!) and with a
dozen things still to do my father’s curiosity was aroused so he picked up this puzzling
I can only imagine the look of astonishment on his face when out of the newspaper
rolled a gold sovereign! No letter or note was attached, no message of good luck
or goodwill, just the sovereign. It could have easily been swept away with the other
intruding street debris and was only discovered by pure chance.
The opening of the shop was a great success and my father and mother ran the business
for over thirty five years. I spent a happy childhood living in the house behind
and above the shop and on a number of occasions was treated to a glimpse of this
enigmatic treasure with the story of its discovery being related to me many times
with much gusto. Back in the 1930s, with the country in economic recession, a gold
sovereign represented a considerable amount of money and probably had purchasing
power in excess of its bullion value of today. The anonymous friend certainly made
an extremely generous gesture.
In 1997 my father died in his ninetieth year. He’d had a good working life and enjoyed
a happy retirement but went to his grave never knowing the identity of the mysterious
well-wisher. Through my father’s will I inherited the sovereign, an Edward VII 1906
London mint in about GVF condition. Numismatically it’s not an important coin, grade
is a bit on the scuffed side – but personal and sentimental value? – absolutely priceless.