News from Bermania

 Royal Bermanian Consulate, Ulster-in-America, 18 NV 2009. -- 

Sir Mark of the Joyful Countenance 1961-2009


        We are always grateful for the genuinely nice people in the world, as we are for those of notable integrity. It is rare that these two qualities fully manifest in the same person.  Sir Mark of the Joyful Countenance, born Mark Bir, was such a rarity.  Thus it is with profound sadness that We relate his all too premature passing on May 2nd, at the age of 47.  Sir Mark suffered a massive heart attack while celebrating his mother’s birthday with relatives in Indiana.  He expired several days later. 

          Sir Mark was an enthusiastic Bermanian subject, holding a knighthood in the Order of the New World.   As king We felt We had no choice in granting him citizenship after hearing his very strong arguments years ago.  Mark BIR claimed that to be a BERmanian was his BIR-th right.  With such a pun who could refuse?  Bermanian knights are given sobriquets which manifest their spirits.  Sir Mark certainly lived up to his, lightening the spirit of any room he inhabited.  He also held true to the Bermanian principles of responsibility and joviality. 

          Sir Mark was not simply a colleague but a true friend to many in the numismatic world.  He happily and smoothly combined business, numismatic study, and the sociability of the hobby.  His days as a serious student of coinage got a jumpstart when as a teenager he won a scholarship to the ANA Summer Seminar.  After college he worked briefly at a local coin shop, then set out on his own as a Professional Numismatist.  While Sir Mark dealt in all facets of numismatics, there is no question that he excelled in two specialties: Spanish Colonial and primitive money, often called “Odd and Curious.”  There are few in the field of Spanish Colonial numismatics who would not have placed him in the category of expert.  He possessed an astounding knowledge of the nuanced differences between cobs, those crudely shaped pieces of silver or gold so commonly recovered from famous shipwrecks such as the Atocha.  Moreover he was always happy to share that knowledge.   In the field of primitive money he took a particular interest in Africa, which even extended to non-monetary ethnographic items some of which ornamented his home.  He had lectured on the subject, and at the time of his passing he was even considering writing a book on primitive African money. 

           In the spirit of responsibility he was an active volunteer for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, aiding the poor in his community.  He had even considered devoting himself to their work full time.  Even his business card conveyed a caring world view: the quote "Make Love Your Greatest Treasure, And You Will Lack Nothing." graced its back side.  He was one of the few people We know who gave to panhandlers without adding a begrudging edge to the gift.  Such was his faith in the legitimacy of their pleas.  He was no fool, however.  He usually gave them a gift certificate for food rather than just money which could have been used to buy drugs or alcohol. 

           We can never replace Sir Mark in our lives, but when We lamented that we  had intended to take Prince Robert, now just 10 months old, hiking in the mountains around Tucson, a friend told Us: “You’re just going to have to take him there yourself and tell him about the times you hiked there with Mark.”  Perhaps losing such an exceptionally nice person as Sir Mark obligates all the rest of us to be nicer to help make up for the world’s loss.

          Anyone wishing to donate a new stuffed bear to the Bermanian Free Bear Project in honor of Sir Mark should feel free and encouraged, however no monetary gifts will be accepted.