Friday, 12 March 2010

Obituary : Dr J S "Stoffel" Vogelaar

It was with great sadness that I learned that Stoffel Vogelaar had passed away unexpectedly, aged sixty, on the 2nd January this year. I had not known him long; in fact I had known his books and coins longer. In September 2007, whilst on a visit to Spink in London, I was able to buy a few books from the “Vogelaar Library” that had recently been purchased and was also given the opportunity to inspect his Romano-British coins that were being prepared for sale. I left that afternoon hoping to be able to buy some of these coins and wondering who Dr J S Vogelaar was.

Over the next eighteen months, I managed to acquire a few more books from the library and a few coins from the various auctions at which they were sold but I still knew very little about the man. Then in early 2009, Dr Vogelaar contacted me to ask if I would be prepared to write an article about his coin collection. Over the next few months we had regular contact, mostly by email, mostly about the article but increasingly about the Romano-British London Mint coinage that is a particular study area of mine. I became used to having Stoffel there – I would email him in the morning and the reply would appear later that day. Always useful, but also challenging where necessary, backed up by his heavily annotated RIC.

Stoffel was born in a small village, Puttershoek, just south of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where his parents owned a farm. He was an only child with a talent for languages, studying Latin and Greek, as well as French, German and English, he also acquired a basic knowledge of Russian and Spanish. He disliked cities and preferred life in the country; having been to Ireland on holidays he fell in love with the West of Ireland. Stoffel and his wife Ann decided to sell their home in Holland and move to Mulranny in 1977. He enjoyed the rural life and kept busy reading, writing and extending his knowledge of history and economics. In 1980, their daughter Ann was born, and Tom three years later. When his father died and left his farm to him, Stoffel decided to sell the farm and stay in Ireland, buying a farm in Liscarney.

Stoffel was a great collector, he did not publish, but amassed a large collection of Romano-British coinage in its widest sense. The backbone of this collection were the coins of the period 287 to 325 AD; the coins of the breakaway empire of Carausius and Allectus and subsequent issues of the Tetrarchies and Constantine at the London Mint. He began collecting these coins in the 1980’s and managed to combine this interest with another passion – computers. Computers were the future, he believed, and he quickly became quite expert, using the internet to expand his collection and knowledge. He was a member of both the British and Royal Numismatic Societies and was appreciated for his expert knowledge, advising collectors and dealers alike. Stoffel was a quiet, private person though and was happiest at home, with his family, books, coins and his computer.

Following a period of ill-health, Stoffel decided to dispose of his numismatic collections and from 2007 to 2009 there was a series of sales that will be detailed in the forthcoming article in “The Celator” magazine along with the interview conducted with Stoffel in the months preceding his death.

Stoffel had a deep knowledge of Romano-British coinage and it is to be regretted that this is no longer available to students of these series. It was Stoffel’s dream that, one day, a formal catalogue of his collection would be published. That now seems unlikely, but as Stoffel said to me, “Never say never”.

(This obituary was first published in the March 2010 edition of Spink's Numismatic Circular)