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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