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Alfred Chitty Collection

G. & W.H. Rocke Token Penny

Image: G. & W.H. Rocke Token Penny

Source: Museum Victoria

The Alfred Chitty Collection comprises coins, tokens and medals, including a New South Wales holey dollar (five shillings) and Elizabethan coins. The collection was accumulated over many years by Alfred Chitty, a voracious collector.

Chitty was the son of a well-known English lawyer Tompson Chitty, in turn son of lawyer Joseph Chitty. He arrived in Melbourne in 1871 and initially worked as a builder, apparently becoming insolvent in 1882 due to losses on contracts and bad debts. Alfred Chitty was recorded as the builder of 81 Rose Street, Prahran, in 1891. He later became a newsagent.

Over the years, Chitty became a significant collector and a world-wide authority on Australian medals and tokens. His collections also included early Victorian lithographs and engravings, church tokens and china, and hand-made bricks. He also had 50 medals struck himself - all of which he gave away rather than selling.

Chitty was active in sharing his knowledge of coins and medals. For instance, he spoke to the Historical Society of Victoria on Thursday 18 May 1911 on 'Victorian Commemorative Medals'; he mounted a display of coins of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I at the State Library of Victoria in December 1925; and in January 1926 he gave a series of public lectures at the Library on coins.

From around 1912 to 1917 he worked at the South Australian Museum, classifying coins (and adding 5,000 more to the collection). In 1914 he was also described as the 'board's numismatist'at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Late in life, Chitty donated a significant numismatic collection to the National Gallery of Victoria, and in 1922 he created a catalogue of that collection. In 1976 the collection was transferred to Museum Victoria.

Chitty, a 'unique personality', was remembered fondly in his obituary: 'There are few men who will leave behind kindlier recollections? I like to remember him best at home by his fireside, surrounded by the results of so many years of patient searching?, wrote 'A.W.G.' in The Argus, 8 June 1929.

References:
The Argus, 26 October 1882, p.7: 'New Insolvents'
The Argus, 20 May 1911, p.22: 'Victorian Medals'
The Argus, 10 1925, p.8: 'Display of Coins'
The Argus, 20 January 1926, p.9: 'Early Australian Coins'
The Argus, 8 June 1929, p.9: 'Alfred Chitty: a True Antiquarian'

Further information:
Biographical details of Alfred Chitty, Register, 2 March 1917, page 6h
Interview with Alfred Chitty, The Mail, 20 June 1914, page 8e

Publications by Alfred Chitty:
Early Australian coinage (1908)
Outline catalogue of Australasian tokens : including surcharged and cast tokens (1912)
The Australian gold coins struck at the Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth mints (1912)
Report of lecture entitled Incidents in the life of E.W. Cole and a collectors' guide and catalogue to his medals / by Alfred Chitty and Henry Williams (1924)
Fire insurance offices and fire-marks in Australasia (1925)

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