Its 1745. The Kingdom of Hawaii has just been formed. British forces have retaken Capetown from the Dutch. Royalist riots in Paris are quelled by a young up-and-coming artillery officer named Bonaparte. The Royal Navy makes lemon juice compulsory to combat scurvy. Residents of Wold Newton in Yorkshire get a bit of a shock when a meteorite falls on their hamlet. John Keats was born. Daniel McGinnis discovers the infamous ‘Money Pit’ on oak Island, prompting over two hundred years of treasure hunting.
And Peter Ratley owns a curiosity shop in Duke’s Court, London.
Running a curiosity shop in 1790’s London must have been quite a rewarding experience. With the world changing, there was undoubtedly much that could be called ‘curious’, and it’s a pretty safe assumption that Mr Ratley did a decent enough trade.
One wonders at what Ratley’s reaction would have been on hearing of the reported buried treasure beneath a remote island in Nova Scotia, for example, or whether his eyes lit up as an eager assistant whispered in his ear rumours of a star falling from the sky in Yorkshire!
No doubt then, some things that were happening in the world were exciting. As Keats would later say, “Athing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases, it will never pass into nothingness”. Peter Ratley’s Copper Halfpenny token definitely falls into Keats’ category, although it’s design suggests that not all that passed through his shop was as thrilling as a fallen meteorite or treasure from a mysterious shaft in Canada.
The token (distributed along with many others by shopkeepers and industrialists up and down the UK as a substitute for small coinage or as political and advertising tools) depicts a ‘yawning man’ holding a picture, with another dismissing it with a wave of the hand. Perhaps not everything could be called a ‘curiosity’ after all.
(Incidentally, if anyone does ever recover from the mysterious ‘Money Pit’ whatever ‘treasure’ may lay beneath that island, we would most definitely be very interested!).
Type the number ‘2500’ into Google and the first thing that appears in the little suggestion box is ‘the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire’. It immediately seems that, throughout the history of the world, few things have lasted that long (except for, perhaps, some episodes of reality television).
The anniversary in question took place in 1971, when the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi threw the world’s biggest, most lavish and most expensive party. And at the same time, some would say, managed to make the world’s biggest political statement.
IN 1971, Islamic revolution in Iran was barely eight years away, but the country could not have been different from the State as it is today. At the time, the Shah was keen to cement his relationship with the West by proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran was indeed a major player on the world’s stage.
For those of us who fancy making young Jennifer’s Christening Party go with a bang, recreating this extravagance might seem like a good idea. To do so, you’re going to need a guest list of royalty (including our own Prince Phillip and Princess Anne), enough food for six hundred people to eat for five hours (with a menu including fifty roast peacocks and quails eggs stuffed with Caspian caviar), as well as three tents big enough to be called ‘mini-cities’. Also some significant infrastructure changes such as new monuments being built and some major changes to the local airport in order to accommodate the sudden influx of celebrities and royalty.
Oh, and a budget of around $516 million and more than a decade worth of planning.
In these days of austerity, young Jenny may well have to do with some nice marquees and a posh-do at the local golf club.
The days of these sort of parties may well be gone, but we can still own a part of that momentous occasion from forty years ago. The Proof Set, created to mark the celebrations, is estimated at £1,500-2,000 – a wonderful and scarce item that maybe, just maybe, will be the first thing that comes up when you Google ‘2500’ in the future….