I learned several weeks ago that my friend, Bill McKivor, passed away. I have missed him sorely, but I refrained from posting about it until his family released an obituary (you can find that here). Many of you who knew him have likely already heard, but I wanted to post it here for those who have not.
Bill and I did not meet until May of last year, but in the relatively short amount of time that I knew him, he quickly became one of my favorite people. Bill was an unusually kind and generous person who exemplified the type of comradery which often brings new people to this hobby. While talking with another gentleman who was well acquainted with Bill, he described Bill’s ability to carry on a conversation as legendary. This description seems more than appropriate to me. Bill and I initially emailed one another, but eventually, our messages got too long, and with the issues Bill often experienced with his outlook program, we decided to continue our conversations on the phone. We spent hours talking, and on more than one occasion, we had to end our conversation early because our phone batteries couldn’t keep up! I made a point to plug my phone up before our calls, but it never seemed to last long enough.
In line with every other aspect, Bill was exceedingly generous with the information he had. I learned so much about the Soho Mint, Matthew Boulton, antique cars, tokens, and medals in such a short time. It never ceased to amaze me how much Bill knew about seemingly obscure topics, such as the silver-lined brass shells produced at the Soho Mint. I spent months researching the topic on the internet with little luck, but within 30 minutes, Bill had provided me with enough contextual information to provide a solid foundation for a short article. I hope to resubmit that article for publication soon, which I plan to dedicate in his honor. While discussing the silver-lined brass shells, Bill shared his passion for the medals produced at the Soho Mint, and this is the slippery slope that eventually led to my wallet becoming a bit thinner. He talked about the historical context of the pieces, the vast array of the art depicted on them, and the numerous nuances of collecting them.
I eventually found myself pursuing several medals at an auction, and after winning, I quickly realized just how woefully underprepared I was for their arrival. These things were huge and of such high relief in comparison to the coinage. It did not take long for me to realize I was well out of my league insofar as storage was concerned. I called Bill for advice, and he provided some very helpful suggestions. About a week later, I received an unsolicited package from him with cloth holders to help store the larger medals that would not fit my extra-large flips. I offered to pay for them, but Bill refused. In another instance, he sent me a copy of The MCA Advisory (Vol 20, No. 3, May-June, 2017), which detailed his collection of Soho Medals to aid my research. Again, I offered to pay him for it, but he said helping was payment enough. He wanted no further conversation on the topic. That was just the type of guy he was. If he could help, he would, and he did so without an expectation of anything in return.
Beyond Bill’s willingness, if not insistence upon being helpful, he was a thoughtful and genuine person. This was abundantly clear when we talked about politics, religion, marriage, travel, or just about every other topic that one can think of. He had so many extraordinary stories to share that always seemed to highlight the importance of some life lesson. He always encouraged me to grasp opportunities when they present themselves, and in part, this is what motivated me to start collecting medals. He piqued my interest by sharing his passion for them. I could not think of a better excuse for pursuing so many incredible pieces than having the guru to discuss them with!
Had it not been for Bill sharing his passion, I would have almost certainly overlooked the medals and subsequently an essential part of Soho’s history. Any consideration of the Soho Mint is incomplete without also taking into account the role of medal engraving. As such, it seems fitting that his memory should live on in my collection as I pursue the very pieces that he once held in such high regard. I plan to build a detailed custom set, similar to my others, which highlights the rich history of the medals struck at the Soho Mint. I hope that by doing so, I may help others discover the series and perhaps extend the same generosity afforded to me by Bill. I regret to say that I only had the pleasure to purchase two items from him, both of which are pictured here. As you can see, Bill had a real eye for quality!