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Voting For Collectors

R Repub denarius. Citizen votingTimeLine Auctions supports the rights of private citizens to own and collect historical artefacts. Indeed, our very existence depends on individuals exercising that right by bidding on, and buying, the thoroughly vetted lots we list in our catalogues. At TimeLine we believe – as our bidders believe - that a fundamental democratic right is upheld every time an auction hammer falls. In countries ruled by authoritarian dictators the sound is rarely, if ever, heard. At a time when elections and voting procedures in the world’s democracies; and the lack of them in undemocratic regions; grab media headlines, we have browsed our archived catalogues, the PAS database, and other sources, where we stumbled upon images that foreign autocrats would prevent you from owning, if they could. Look at the illustrations, and read the descriptions shown here; then continue to exercise your freedom to collect items such as these ..

Republican denarius issued by L. Cassius Longinus in 60 BC.
The obverse carries a veiled bust of Vesta, with a kylix (drinking cup) behind; and a control letter L to front. On the reverse, a standing togate male drops a voting tablet inscribed V into a cista (ballot box); legend LONGIN III V around. (The coin was a lot in the December 2012 TimeLine Auction. Sold for £112 inc bp)

Athens ostraca (Public Domain image)Ancient Greek ostraca voting for the ostracization of Themistocles in 482 BC
These ostraca, dating from 482 BC, were recovered from a well near the Acropolis at Athens. The ostraca inscriptions read THEMISTHOKLES PHREARIOS (Themistocles from Phreari), and THEMISTHOKLES NEOKLEOS (Themistocles son of Neocles). The Athenians had a particular voting technique to remove an erring citizen from the community: Every eligible citizen would scratch the name of the person to be exiled into a suitably sized pottery chard and hand it in to be counted. For some of the major ballots, thousands of named pottery pieces have been discovered. Once ostracized, the named person was exiled for ten years. With his sentence served, he could return and have his property restored. Following his own ostracism, Themistocles opted for defection to Persia where he soon rose to become governor of Magnesia. The ostraca used to name him now fill a display cabinet at the Musée de l'Agora antique d'Athènes.. (Public domain image)

Egyptian Hieratic OstraconUnpublished Egyptian Hieratic Ostracon with Extensive Hieratic Inscriptions;
Late New Kingdom, 1300-700 BC; 5½ins.
A substantial limestone ostracon with several lines of hieratic writing to both sides; (This ostracon was a lot in the February 2022 TimeLine Auction. Sold for £5,460 inc.bp)

Votes For Women Penny. Picture courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge UK (Public domain image)Votes For Women Countermarked Penny.
During the closing years of Victoria’s reign; and throughout that of Edward VII, a group of women activists who campaigned for the right to vote, formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which became popularly known as the Suffragette Movement.Their struggle aimed at securing for women the right to vote in all public elections throughout the United Kingdom. The word suffragette was in fact created by a journalist on the Daily Mail, who wanted a name that belittled the campaigners and encouraged men in particular to chant the name when banner-waving young ladies joined in protest marches in public parks, and later at sports venues. The women seized upon the term and used it proudly to describe themselves. They also thanked the male reporter for providing a memorable name for their own newspaper, The Suffragette.

Crowded places provided opportunities for the campaigners to use another weapon in their armoury. Often working in their father’s and husband’s garden sheds and garages, they stamped the message VOTES FOR WOMEN onto the surfaces of the dozens of bronze and copper pennies and halfpennies carried in their purses and handbags. They slipped the countermarked money back into circulation as they shopped, or paid their bus and tram fares. Men who had indifferently ignored the slogan up to that time, soon encountered it lying in the palm of their hand whenever they received change. The coins, eagerly collected as Suffragette souvenirs today, performed an excellent job in promoting the cause.

By 1903 several years of vociferous speechmaking had achieved no more than vague promises from grey men in Whitehall. When other grey men informed WSPU leaders that yet another all- male committee would, at some unspecified time, consider women’s suitability for involvement in running the country, a militant group within the WSPU broke cover. “Deeds, not words!” they declared and flung themselves into violent campaigns of direct action and civil disobedience. Shop windows broke; policemen’s helmets fell to the ground; buckets of whitewash daubed public buildings; chains fastened militants to government office railings. The authorities responded with bolt cutters and Back Marias that carried the offenders to magistrates courts and to prison. In reply to hunger strikes, prison staff force-fed inmates. Beyond prison walls, WSPU members across the land fought back with arson attacks and homemade bombs, until 1913 when Suffragette Emily Davison attempted to disrupt the Epsom Derby by running onto the racetrack at Tattenham Corner. She fell under the galloping hooves of the king’s horse, and died shortly afterwards. That shocking incident might have brought victory for the WSPU; but World War One intervened, and the movement halted its campaign for the duration. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to women aged over thirty. Finally, in 1928, the Equal Franchise Act gave all women aged over twenty-one the right to place an X on a ballot paper. Little wonder that modern dictators deny collecting rights to those they rule .. for fear of what might come to light.

Brett Hammond, TimeLine Auctions, 21st June 2024