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Record 24 of 51

18th century tokens

The copper coinage issued by the crown, begun in 1672, was only ever issued grudgingly - because of the cost involved - and was never plentiful. Production was spasmodic and, as in the preceding century, exasperated tradespeople once again demonstrated their commonsense by issuing small change of their own - the 18th century tokens. For instance, as many as 250 tons of pennies and 50 tons of halfpennies were struck by the Parys Mines Company, Anglesey, alone at its own mint in Birmingham.

The tokens, in spite of being illegal, were extremely popular and accepted locally as a regular medium of exchange. They were of good weight and material, equal at least to that of the genuine regal coins, and most bore the name of the issuer who 'promised to pay' (ie to redeem) them in exchange for their value in coin of the realm. Unlike the tokens produced in the preceding century, the 18th century tokens were machine milled rather than being hand struck.

As well as genuine trade tokens, issued by manufacturers, merchants, shopkeepers, workhouse officials and the like for the specific purpose of providing small change, some tokens were issued for advertising purposes. These bear the name, address and nature of the trade of the issuer, often at some length, and there is little doubt that these were frequently accepted as change. Some examples are included in the selection.

All these issues attracted the attention of collectors and sets with portraits of popular heroes, buildings etc, never intended for circulation, were struck to meet the demand.

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