Coins (39), Halfpenny / Half crown, copper / silver, New Zealand, 1933-1963
Coins, banknotes and medals provide important insights into the issuing government's values and how it wishes to be perceived. Nationalistic in character, they are frequently admired for their artistic and technological merit. Indeed, the critical importance of security has meant that their production methods are generally cutting edge. While some coins, banknotes and medals are valued for their rarity, most are commonplace. They are a tangible reminder of changes in nation states, deposed and long-dead rulers, disputes over borders, political events and wars and provide a direct link with up to 2,500 years of world history.
For thirty years (1976-2006), William Dudley Bush sent the Museum a steady stream of rare and valuable coins and banknotes. His first association with the Museum was in the mid 1960s when he donated a table whose top was filled with Australian 1937 and 1938 Crown coins. An American citizen, living in Vancouver, Washington State, Bill Bush's interest in Australia dates from his time in the Merchant Navy during and after World War II. Many of the coins and banknotes donated to the Museum were collected on his travels around the world. In some ports, such as Sydney, friends working in banks set aside unusual notes for his attention.
Beginning in 1976, donations of numismatic treasures regularly arrived in the mail, in large padded envelopes covered with a myriad of stamps, eagle-headed airmail stickers, and his distinctive scrawl. Bill Bush also embarked on a regular correspondance with the Museum's Director and Curator. These highly personal letters allowed insights into his life, the changing seasons and the reasons behind his extraordinary generosity to an Australian museum: 'My purpose has been to give all my life stuff to a museum for educational purposes for children to hopefully learn some history . . . and not to put a value on any of my properties (Office file F95/372/-04 letter dated 14 November 1993).'
Bill Bush was born in Skiatook, Oklahoma in 1925. Descended from a Cherokee father who was raised on a Reservation, Bill married a number of times though his great love was Peg, who died in 1987. In recognition of his generosity, Bill Bush was made an Honorary Associate of the Museum in the field of numismatics and, in 2003, a Life Fellow. He continued corresponding with the Powerhouse until his death in November 2006.
Dr Paul Donnelly
Curator, International decorative arts and design
Bill Bush developed an emotional attachment to Australia through his many visits here as a Merchant seaman during and after World War II. During his visits to ports around the world Bill Bush collected banknotes, even managing in some such as Sydney to arrange with friends working in banks to set aside unusual notes that he would later exchange for face value. Bill Bush's association with the Powerhouse Museum began in the mid 1960s when he donated a table decorated with Australian 1937 and 1938 Crown coins. This was followed in 1976 by rare examples of Cocos Island ivory-currency. These initial gifts are indicative of Bill Bush's collecting and his delight in unusual and rare numismatics. Over the next thirty years, the Museum received a steady stream of rare and valuable coins and banknotes that now form an important part of the Powerhouse numismatic collection.