Most guys don’t wear much in the way of jewelry. A watch and a wedding ring are the traditional staples, with possibly a St. Christopher medal or other talisman worn on a gold or silver chain. You can add a money clip to that short list without too much trouble and many gentlemen, especially stylish gentlemen in years past, did just that.
In fact, when we reviewed the original novel version of From Russia with Love last year, we pointed out Bond’s nemesis Red Grant was so well dressed and accoutered as an English gentleman, Bond was nearly taken in…and done in. Grant's money clip was part of his well rehearsed act.
Of his pile of possessions laid out beside him while sunbathing by the pool when we first meet him, Ian Fleming has this to say:
“It contained the typical membership badges of the rich man's club–a money clip, made of a Mexican fifty-dollar piece and holding a substantial wad of banknotes, a well-used gold Dunhill lighter, an oval gold cigarette case with the wavy ridges and discreet turquoise button that means Fabergé…”
Today you don’t see nearly as many gold Dunhill lighters and Fabergé cigarette cases as you did back in the early 1950s, but money clips are still to be found in fashionable pockets even sixty years later.
And as every hardcore Bond aficionado knows, the money clip association with Bond didn’t end with Red Grant. Daniel Craig flashed a simple sterling silver Douglas Pell money clip in the franchise’s 2006 re-boot, Casino Royale. You see it in the scene where Bond and Vesper get in the car after the train ride from Montenegro.
(The famous train ride where she compliments him on his watch, calling it beautiful and asking if it's a Rolex. His clipped, accented reply — "O-meegha" —has sold many a Seamaster and Planet Ocean in the years since.)
But I digress...
Classic English money clips like the Douglas Pell clip used by Craig in Casino Royale are still available from many sources on Amazon and eBay, made by English firms like the London-based Pell and Carr’s of Sheffield. The Pell has delightful little English hallmarks like a lion’s head for the London Assay Office and a date letter code and the 925 sterling silver mark.
By the way, 925 equates to sterling silver because it's 92.5% silver, the rest being other metals, usually copper. Sterling is what you want for silverware that you plan to use. Pure silver is too soft and easily bent to be very useful for most functional purposes.
Carr’s and others offer similar clips that look very elegant and do an admirable job of holding all your pound notes, euros, and dollars safe and snug and in high style.
My thing for money clips isn't quite as bad as my thing for navy blazers, but I do have a few. My Carr's of Sheffield clip is very similar to the one Craig used in Casino, and it's excellent. (It even has one more hallmark than the Pell example, the little lion with up-raised front leg, a mark that signifies 925 silver. Love that.)
I have a vintage Italian-made clip with some understated-but-still jaunty diagonal stripes that I like very much. The Italians do just about everything style related very well, with a bit of sprezzatura thrown in for good measure, and their money clips are no different.
Mine has a neat pebbled texture or hammered metal finish on the underside that's pretty cool. Hallmarks are fairly minimal and less fussy than found on the English clips: M for Milan and 925 to show it's sterling, and Italy. That's it.
I have several vintage Mexican money clips, though nothing quite as grand as Red Grant’s. My favorite is the one in the header photo. It's made with a 1926 silver Peso. If eBay is any indication, a zillion similar clips were made for tourists over the years. They are usually marked "Genuine Silver Mexico Peso From Old Mexico."
If I had to keep just one, it might well be the little Italian clip. It doesn’t look like everybody else’s money clip, it’s simple and tasteful, and I don’t have to have the exact same money clip that 007 used.
Enjoy the quest for the perfect money clip, and the stuff that goes in them.