Sir John Evans Centenary Project - image background is marbled paper from one of John Evans's books John Evans Numismatic Society Medal 1899

Evans the Numismatist

gold coin
Gold coin of Allectus (293-296 AD) (Heberden Coin Room)

While still quite young, Evans developed an interest in coins which led him to start collecting them. Even on the small amount of money paid to him as an allowance by his father and the income he gained from working at the paper mill of his uncle John Dickinson (which was very little), he acquired a significant collection. 'He hunted pawnbroker's shops for coins and bought a new cabinet to house them in' (Time and Chance). In 1848 (aged only 25) he read a paper to an archaeological society at St. Albans on the existence of gold coins in Britain before the Roman invasion. He was described then as no mere amateur collector. His first book, The Coins of the Ancient Britons was published in 1864, for which he was awarded the Prix Allier de Hauteroche of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris.

Evans was the first person to devise a systematic classification of British Iron Age coinage, based on a descriptive corpus of all types then known. He organised the material by geographical region rather than tribal attribution. His major works were based largely on his own extensive collections; he took a close personal interest in the accompanying illustrations.

His contributions to the study of later British coinage were no less significant. He set out a simplified classification of English Short Cross coinage in 1865, consisting of a sequence of five classes. This important publication was submitted as a paper to the Numismatic Chronicle in 1865.

50th Year of Numismatics

Cover of the Numismatic Society's booklet commemorating completion of 50 years membership of the society and 25 years as President

click on the photograph to see a larger version

Evans was highly respected as a numismatist. By 1887 seventy papers has been submitted by him to the Numismatic Chronicle, the journal of the Numismatic Society. He had joined the Society when it had existed for only about ten years. In 1887 the Society awarded him its Medal, struck in gold instead of the usual silver. Also in 1887 the Society struck Evans's image for its 50th Jubilee medal, by Pinches. In 1899 a large cast medallion with his image was presented to Evans in recognition of his fifty years as member of the Society, executed by Frank Bowcher; the medal also marked the 25th year of his presidency. He remained president until his death in 1908. A long obituary appeared in the 1908 Numismatic Chronicle and in the Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, 4th ser, 8 (1908).

Further References / Links:

Joan Evans, Time and Chance: The Story of Arthur Evans and His Forebears (1943)

See also the chapters by Philip de Jersey, Cathy King and Lord Stewartby in Sir John Evans 1923-1908, ed. Arthur MacGregor , (2008)

Numismatic publications by Evans - see the Bibliography of Work By Sir John Evans

John Evans coin collection

A selection of coins from the collection