Most trade tokens date from periods where there was a lack of small denominations circulating in the country. Over time coins began to disappear (they still do) – lost in the fields (which is where metal detectorists tend to find them!), down cracks in shop floors or rooms in houses, in the muck of the stables and so on. People took much more care with silver or gold coins, for obvious reasons. Thus a situation could arise where the working people, or indeed anyone buying everyday items, such as bread, buttons, anything of little value, had nothing to pay with. There was no change available to be given for the larger denomination coins. Local businesses would, at that point, begin to make their own low value ‘coins’ or tokens, perhaps intended to be used in their own shops, to maintain customer ‘loyalty’, but locally they would eventually be accepted anywhere. Early examples were lead but by the sixteenth century they were usually of copper alloy, as small change coins are today – ‘coppers’.
Here we have some examples from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, processed by our Volunteers at The Salisbury Museum.
1 A Post Medieval copper-alloy trade token, dating to the period AD 1652-1670. It was issued by John Hancock, an apothecary in Salisbury. Obverse reads I H surrounded by stars and pellets in the centre of a beaded circle, and writing encompassing it, stating IOHN.HANCOCK.IN.NEW. The reverse depicts the bust of a Turk, encompassed by SARVM.APOTHECARY.
A better image from the British Museum is here:
2 An early Post-Medieval copper alloy 17th century halfpenny trade token of Salisbury. Measures 16mm, weighs 1.28g, die axis 6. The coin is exceedingly worn, legends all but lost, very small flan, appears to have been filed down. Obverse: Double-headed eagle displayed [FOR THE MAIOR OF THE 1659] Reverse: Crowned shield with the arms of the city [CITTY OF NEW SARVM]. This is a different example from the others on this page, having been authorised by the Mayor, not by a tradesman.
3 A complete Post-Medieval copper-alloy trade token farthing issued by Henry Mattershaw at Salisbury, dating to AD1658. May have been vintner.
NO PICTURE AVAILABLE
4 A Post-Medieval copper alloy trader’s token halfpenny issued by Edward Fripp in Salisbury, dating to AD 1668. The lettering on this example allows us to see most of the words clearly.
5 A copper alloy farthing trade token dating to AD 1659 of George Godfrey a rat catcher in Salisbury. GOERGE . GODFREY on the obverse depicting a rat, IN SARVM 1659 on the reverse with G G in the centre. It looks a little like a rabbit, but we must assume it is a rat!
6 A copper alloy grocer’s arms halfpenny token dated AD 1796. CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF SARUM obverse depicting Salisbury Cathedral in relief. FINE TEAS &C 1796 reverse depicting the grocer’s arms with supporters. The legend around the edge is PAYABLE AT I & T SHARPES SALISBURY.
7 A copper alloy Post-Medieval farthing traders’ token issued by Richard Minife of Salisbury. Avid followers of this blog (!) may remember we have a snuff box belonging to the Minifie family. Click here.
8 An early Post-Medieval (1666) copper alloy halfpenny trade token of Thomas Haytor of Salisbury, measuring 20mm in diameter. It is worn and the edge damaged. Obverse: The Cordwainers’ Arms THOMAS.HAYTOR.OF.SARVM Reverse: T H HIS.HALFE.PENY.1666.
This is a lovely way to get into local and family history. Collecting tokens has become an expensive business these days however….