From the Library of Scale Tales
  The Journey of My Collecting


Hi, I'm Mike Foster,

I am a Canadian electrical engineer and I have been a member of International Society of Antique Scale Collectors (ISASC) for eight years now.

As a child, I was always a coin collector of Canadian pennies, nickels and dimes. Just needed to rifle through my dad's pocket change regularly and avoid getting caught.

As an adult, I got interested in history and graduated to collecting the Roman Imperial silver denarii and antoninianus, also known as double denarii, which I did for about ten years.

I was able to do this because I travelled to England four to six times a year on business, giving me the opportunity to stay in London and attend ancient coin auctions and visit a number of dealers like Spink & Son and Seabys. This is where I started to acquire Roman Imperial silver coins and reference books on the subject. The Imperial coins I was interested in were minted from the time of the first emperor of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, (R. 27 BC - 14 AD), to around 500 AD. They had the portraits of the Caesars, Augusti and their families.

Commonly referred to as rockers, this type of counterfeit coin detector is designed to ensure a coin has not been altered and retains its full value by checking its weight, diameter and width

In 1989 during one of my visits to Spink in London, their numismatic staff told me I should meet Robert D. Van Arsdell, author of a new book Celtic Coinage of Britain that they were publishing. By a fortunate coincidence, he was in the building if I was interested in being introduced to him.

I certainly was, and from this encounter I started to learn about and collect the gold and silver coinage of the Celtic tribes of Britain. I bought Van Arsdell's book and many others on Celtic coinage in Britain and Europe. I proceeded to collect this type of coinage over the next ten years and around 1994 started registering and documenting my collection with the Celtic Coin Index of the University of Oxford. It is there that all ancient coins found in Britain and many public and private collections are recorded.

When I retired twelve years ago at 55, my wife Margaret pointed out that the Celtic coins were getting quite expensive to acquire and keep safe and I should consider another collector hobby.

Looking around my house, it came as an unexpected surprise to notice that I, born under the zodiac sign of Libra, had accumulated several different types of scales and balances. My wife was not impressed, and rightly so, said that with my pack rat collector style, scales in general might take up a lot of space in our house.

Not to be deterred, this is when I had the idea to combine my interest in coins with a new interest in scales and balances. I decided to start to collect coin scales.

I had a couple of sovereign rockers in the house and remembered a booklet I had seen on them in a Portobello Road shop in London. It took a while, but I finally acquired a copy of Michael A. Crawforth's booklet entitled SOVEREIGN BALANCES 1 – Standard Rocker.

This is where my new hobby got very interesting. In reading Crawforth's booklet and looking at the sovereign rockers that I had started to collect, the engineer in me noticed that most of the balances, about 80%, had a crown mark usually on the poise or the base of the rocker.

Above, examples of crown marks on various sovereign rockers

  Above, Shelf-Edge Letter Scale

I started to document the crowns and rapidly realized there were a lot of different ones. Wanting to pursue this further, I decided to contact Michael Crawforth, only to find he was deceased, and I should contact his widow Diana Crawforth. I did, and presented her my theory that the crowns were an early form of maker marks showing who the maker of a particular sovereign rocker was. The theory was based in part upon the fact that makers, who in some cases put their name on a rocker, appeared to use certain crowns found only on their rockers.

The historian, archivist and collector in me took over, and with Diana's encouragement, I started to write a book on sovereign rockers, the maker mark crowns and their makers and retailers which became my eBook: COIN SCALES – English and European Rockers and Balances with Their Markings. I update this eBook every year as information on new scales, balances, crowns and makers becomes known. Today I own about 400 sovereign rockers and have branched out into European coin balances and American coin scales.

My pocket/portable coin scale interest has now expanded to pocket and portable letter scales of which I have about 60 and resulted in a new eBook: 19th Century Shelf-edge Letter Scales. It contains the maker and retailer names and examples of their Bismar, Moving Load Scales and Steelyard types.

Collecting scales, researching and writing about them has become my most enjoyable retirement activity. I encourage you to visit the ISASC website for more information.



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  A side-by-side three-beam three-coin unnamed rocker for the British silver shilling, half-crown and six pence