Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Communion Token Catalog - Now Available in PDF Format

The auction catalog for the Merchant collection of Canadian communion tokens is now available in PDF format at http://gbellauctions.com (you may need to refresh your browser, then scroll down to the bottom of the page). The communion tokens are in part 1. There are many more images shown on the auction web site.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Communion Token Auction Announcement

The Bob Merchant collection of Canadian communion tokens will be auctioned by Geoffrey Bell Auctions at the Toronto Coin Expo on April 21-22, 2016. There are hundreds of extremely rare communion tokens included, from many famous collectors of the past. The communion tokens are in lots 323-to-493. To view the auction catalog and to place bids, go to the following web site, and click on the catalog cover. You can also order a printed copy of the catalog from the auction house if desired.


Bob Merchant

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When did Communion tokens start?

The origin of the Communion token is a matter of some conjecture. There is a standard belief that the Communion token begins with John Calvin, reformer and father of the Reformed family of churches.

In a letter to the Council of Geneva, dated 1560, Calvin wrote, “…[Il] serait bon que pour éviter le danger de ceux qui profanent la cène, lesquels on ne peut tout connaître, il serait bon de faire des marreaux et que, advenant le jour de la cène, chacun allât prendre des marreaux pour ceux de sa maison qui seraient instruits et les étrangers qui viennent ayant rendu témoignage de leur foi en pourront aussi prendre et ce qui n’en auront point n’y seront pas admis.”

Translation: “It would be good, to avoid the danger of those who profane the Lord’s Supper, of which one cannot know everyone, it would be good to make tokens and when the day of the Lord’s Supper comes, each [member] would go and get tokens for those in their households that have received instruction, and the strangers who come, having given witness to their faith, would receive them as well, and that those who have no token should not be admitted to the Supper.”

The reference to the tokens (marreaux) is the earliest written record, and as such has been regarded as the beginning of the Communion token.

Certainly there have been signs (the Latin word for token is ‘signum’, from which we get our word ‘sign’) and tokens used in the church prior to 1560. An early sign was in the days of persecution of the church. A Christian meeting someone whose faith was in doubt would make a curved sign in the dirt and the other, if a Christian also, would know to make a corresponding curved sign completing the simple picture of a fish. Why a fish? Because in Greek the first letter of the words for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour” ΙΧΘΥΣ is the word ‘fish’.

Tokens were used for special purposes in the middle ages. I have an example of a centuries old clay token of the True Cross. These tokens were made of clay which held shavings purportedly from the true cross of Jesus and distributed to crowds when the true cross was paraded for all to see. Some say that the vast number of tokens made would have whittled the cross to a very small size.

The Communion token, however, was a later addition to the exonumia of the church. Did it begin with Calvin, or did he simply mention a practice that had already begun in some congregations?

I tend to prefer the latter explanation, specifically because of a token I have that is dated 1553. I bought this token many years ago in an auction in Canada. It was simply listed as a French Communion token dated 1553. The cross radiate on one side and the chalice and dove on the other make this almost certain. To be certain, I have had the token viewed by Museums in both Britain and France that have large collections of Communion tokens, and they agreed with the original designation: a French Communion token. Neither said anything about the date.

So the question is this: Is the date 1553 accurate or is the token antedated to the founding of the issuing congregation?

There is a single clue. As a former collector of Scottish coinage and having seen corresponding French coinage, I know that a regular feature of coins of both countries from the 1550’s is the use of annulets (circles or haloes) over the royal initials and dates. This is a feature of this token as well, suggesting to me that the date is accurate.

Unfortunately, the congregation is not named and the exact origin of the token must remain uncertain, but it remains for me a piece of evidence that the use of the token preceded Calvin’s letter, at least to a limited degree.
The token measures 37.3 x 32 mm, is 3.4 mm thick, and weighs 17.6 grams.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Auction Announcement: Merchant Collection of Communion Tokens (Part 6)

Auction Announcement:

Featuring the Bob Merchant collection of Communion Tokens, Part 6.

SIMMONS GALLERY - MAILBID 74 - Closing Wednesday 14 January 2016

The sixth part of the Bob Merchant collection of communion tokens is set to be auctioned on 14 January 2016 by Simmons Gallery. The PDF catalogs (and images of all tokens) are ready for download at the Simmons Gallery web site:


For additional information:

EMAIL: info@simmonsgallery.co.uk
WEB: http://www.simmonsgallery.co.uk

Friday, September 25, 2015

Many great CTs are coming on the Market but I have a Mistress

CTs for sale at the Baltimore Expo.
As many of you know, many great CTs have been coming on the market. And, the marketplace is hot despite few bidders. Nonetheless the serious few seem to be paying attention.
   How about that Mariners' Church token (BZ4192) that sold for $255 on September 13th! I almost jumped in, but the waves were too rough and white-capped.
   A nice Inveresk CT (BZ4844) also sold for big money. This is the third one sold in the past few years according to my records. This time it went for a record $202. Very cool piece!
   Many CTs from the W.J. Noble Collection (previously of the Norweb Collection) that sold on 11 July 2000 are coming back on the block, as Steve Hayden has been selling those pieces that were acquired by Steve Tanenbaum. Over 7000 CTs were sold at the Noble auction (plus an impressive collection of coin weights).
   The auction catalog is available to those with the persistence to hunt it down. It has many nice pictures. By the way, the CTs were sold in group lots, so individual valuations are not available from this sale. But now, we are seeing sale prices. As most serious collectors know, many pieces are quite rare and only the lack of bidders hides the true rarity.

I have cut back on the Market Watches for a while. Other interests have pulled me away for now. I just like collecting too many things. I admit to some guilt about this, as if I had a mistress or something. But these things have been germinating for a while. For example, I have been quietly collecting a few ship coins here and there; but now, I have become more involved -- I jumped in the water so to speak. Other stuff, like cobs and relic coins, have also pulled me farther afield. I started another blog to explore these realms: it is called Coin Collecting Necromancer. Check it out. Nonetheless, I still love the CTs, so I hope some folks will add some comments and/or submit an article.

My Communion Token guidebook is still available. I noticed that there are six or seven ebay sellers hawking the book. So, grab one if you are reading this. I also have a listing on ebay since I have a few left. Most folks have liked the book -- you can read more about it elsewhere on this blog.

Good hunting everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Simmons Auction: I have sorted the prices realized

I have sorted the prices realized (in a spreadsheet) for the recently completed Simmons Gallery communion token auction. Here are the results by price group:

Price Range      Number of Tokens
-----------      ----------------
       $170           1 (lot 802)
 $50 - $100          12
 $25 -  $50          52
 $15 -  $25          60
 $10 -  $15          88
  under $10          36
  unsold              6
-----------      ----------------
  total             255

Bob Merchant