Monday, July 21, 2008

Seventy Years Ago Today

My grandfather had a large collection of miniature bottles, and it is now in my possession. I really like them, and would like to keep collecting, but you know I’ve got this pencil thing going, so…........anyway, amongst my grandfather’s collection there’s no doubt as to which bottle is the premier piece. The decanter is handmade baccarat crystal. It stands 9cm tall and 8 cm wide (3½ x 3¼ inches). As you can see a small stopper and a label are attached by ribbon around the neck. The ribbon is red, white and blue – like the French flag (and the UK too!).

The label tied on by the ribbon reads,
“This Cognac Grande Champagne was served at the Royal Banquet given to their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Chateau de Versailles on July 21st 1938.
It is the finest Brandy procurable.
E. Remy Martin & Co”

So, seventy years ago today, the big-wigs socked this stuff back. I imagine a Cuban or two was set on fire to help that cognac slide down.The small label on the bottle states “Tres Vielle Age Inconnu” which translates as “Very Old Age Unknown”. I guess the casks were so old that even back in 1938 their records had become lost or confused, so they were already many decades old, maybe even a century or more.

One thing I like about many old advertisements is their emphatic statements of fact which are obviously totally subjective or just plain untrue. The number of old pencils and fountain pens that boldly proclaim themselves as the best in the world, totally eliminating writing fatigue, 100% leak-proof, etc is just mind-boggling. Somehow though, considering who this brandy was served by, and to whom, I am tempted to think that the bold statement “It is the finest Brandy procurable” might just actually be true.

Whilst writing this article, I did a little research online and amongst other things found a very helpful Japanese collector of miniature bottles who had one of these bottles in his collection. He informed that on a good day, my little fellow in the middle might get me 30 or 40 of his normal-sized cousins standing next to him. Technically the British Empire ceased a little before George VI came to the throne, but its dissolution was a slow thing, and thus in many respects he could still consider himself the sovereign of “an empire upon which the sun never sets” and his image was on official objects used around the globe.

I don’t really collect coins, but I have a few passed down to me by family-members. Since George’s brandy is worth a pretty penny or two, here’s a few images of George VI and others on penny or two. I’m afraid I only have relevant UK, NZ & Australian coins, so my apologies to those of you from places like the former Dominions of Newfoundland, of Canada, etc that your coins are not pictured.

First up then, some New Zealand silver coins. When I say silver, this is back when there was still some attempt at having intrinsic value in coins, so there is a reasonable percentage of real silver in these coins. Note the change in his title after the independence of India and Pakistan (+Bangladesh), no longer an Emperor, just a King. Simple bronze pennies. From father, to son, to the son’s daughter. Three monarchs and three of their realms.Three faces of George, from the same three realms. Now, don’t worry my pencillish friends, there is a pencil link to all this, and we are finally here!

Look, a George VI Souvenir Coronation pencil. I bought it specially to go with granddads cognac. If I ever open the stuff, I’ll be sure to jot down some tasting notes with this pencil :-). This pencils in pretty good condition. Not much brassing. The printing is still good and clear – two UK flags and the wording “Coronation, May 12th 1937, King George VI. & Queen Elizabeth”, “Made in England” – although there is no indication of the manufacturer. It’s a simple twist mechanism. Despite all this royal stuff, I’m not really a monarchist, just a neutralist if there is such a term. But the royalty aspect does often make for an interesting angle on collecting things.

1 comment:

Germ said...

what good are coins not minted by the US gov? hehehehe can't spend em here. :)

interesting little bottle. i like the mini stuff like that,. used to have a collection of cordial glasses..... it was sweet. the exwife got it. grr......