Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Hoard of CTs from Mearns

Here is a posting from one of our blog members, Bud.
   As a novice communion token collector, not only am I always learning new and interesting things about my hobby, but I’m also continually defining and redefining my collecting goals.  Initially my interest was borne out of mere curiosity about these relics of which I’d never heard.  As I read more and more about CTs and the circumstances of their use, I came to feel connected to the communicants who presented them at the Supper and to the church leadership that felt compelled to issue them.
   I am a church pastor and have occasionally used biblical coins as touchstones in sermons or children’s messages, so the study of communion tokens was an understandable progression.  I am also a member of the American Numismatic Association and have attended several national conventions, at which I’ve been fascinated by the educational exhibits, so when I saw that this year’s ANA Summer Seminar included a course on building competitive exhibits, my wheels started turning.  Here was an opportunity to do something I loved and share my faith in a new and wider format.
"I saw a CT hoard for sale ... and I thought,
that would make a wonderful part of my exhibit."
   As I began conceptualizing my yet-to-built exhibit (I know, way ahead of myself!), I saw a CT hoard for sale on eBay.  And I thought, “That would make a wonderful part of my exhibit,” not really believing it would be within my reach on my modest budget.  I put the hoard on my watch list, wondering what exorbitant amount it would finally sell for.
   My wife, although perhaps not completely understanding my passion for CTs, supports it.  As the keeper of the family budget, she sets aside a monthly amount from our discretionary spending for me to purchase tokens.  On occasion, when special opportunities present themselves, I’m allowed to splurge a bit.  In the months prior to the hoard appearing for sale, we had agreed on a special one-time amount for me to buy a sizable (for me) and important (to me) portion of another collector’s treasures.  However, a fortunate error occurred: she somehow budgeted more than I had requested.
   We had a friend at our home for breakfast on the morning the hoard auction was ending, and during our meal I was describing to my wife and our friend my surprise at how little activity it had created.  I had estimated that the hoard would close at $1,000 (a reasonably educated guess, I thought), far beyond my means.  It was then that my wife reminded me that she had already budgeted an additional--and unused--amount for the month, and she encouraged me to bid on the hoard.  So as she and our friend settled into conversation, I got online, and after two or three bids I was the proud—and surprised—owner of 138 tokens of Mearns Parish of Renfrewshire (Burzinski #4706), Scotland.
   The tokens are of tables 1 through 4, with #4 more heavily represented.  My assumption was that Mearns had issued tokens for those tables only, and tables 1 through 3 most frequently, hence greater numbers of table 4 pieces had survived.  This theory was dashed when I noticed that Burzinski pictures a token of table 7.  Remember, I said I was a novice.
   Beyond what’s inscribed on the token, I know nothing about Mearns Parish.  The token is dated 1849 (in Roman numerals), with the name of Minister Donald Mackellar, both on its obverse.  The reverse is the common 1 Corinthians 11:24; “This do in remembrance of me.” In his reference, O. D. Cresswell lists the token as #4155; and Kerr & Lockie, #963 in theirs.
   If any reader can further enlighten me about Mearns Parish or Reverend Mackellar, I’d appreciate it.  Beyond the basics, I’ve not been able to discover anything.
   My Summer Seminar class is in late June.  My wife will be enjoying several days with a high school friend at a spa in Arizona while I’m in a stuffy classroom in Colorado Springs.  We’re arguing about who has the better vacation plans!
   Perhaps I’ll see you in the exhibit area at an ANA show in the future.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Market Watch March

Spring weather is finally here! But do not get too distracted by the butterflies, as the CT market continues to reward those who patiently wait for rare and curious items to surface. That is what happened this past month: two rare hearts, an unusual CT variety,  plus some mysterious items.
   All told, there were 221 CTs that traded hands in March. As is typical, most CTs were hammered down inexpensively in the C range with 149 pieces trading below $20. Sixty-six CTs sold just above that in the B range: this seems to be the "sweet" spot, as many great tokens were sold in the upper $20s and into the $30s. Above the the $50 mark were only six pieces. Three of them sold below $75 in the BB range, whereas three others sold for $88, about $118 and about $185 respectively -- the latter two pieces sold at BO prices that were below the initial asking prices, so we can only guess how good the deals were.
This 1762 heart from Kirkurd is a rare one. A small d can be seen squeezed
against the rim of the upper right lobe of the heart. It is distinctive and has
a specific meaning that we can only guess what it is. Any ideas?
   Two of the top three CTs were small hearts from Kirkurd, dated 1762. They were well-worn pieces, each with an ashen patina that appeared free of damage -- solid and attractive pieces. Both were listed by cobwrightfortishe. The hearts did not last long.
   The first one sold quickly at the $88 BIN price. I have not seen this CT for sale before: not at Simmons and not in previous collections sold on ebay; needless to say, it is a rare piece (cataloged as BK691/BZ3938).
   The second heart sold at less than the $185 listing (usually dealers will allow a ten to twenty percent discount on BO, so $150 seems about right). The second heart was a variety that is listed in Burzinski (BZ3939), but according to cobwrightfortishe, it was missing from his (and many other) collections. The variety is interesting, as it includes the addition of a small, lower-case, d that is squeezed into the upper right lobe of the heart. What does this mean? Off-hand, I do not know of any other CTs that have this kind of deliberate addition. Thinking loosely, I am reminded of the Albany Church pennies with and without a small script, capital D; the these pieces were for the collection plate as far as we know, so the D has been interpreted as a monetary unit. Certainly, the Kirkurd KKd piece is rare. I was able to find one other in the W.J. Noble sale catalog from July 2000.
   Both Kirkurd pieces sold for big money. Both were well bought, and hopefully, they went into the same collection. If you got one of them, let us know. And, if you have a theory about the small d, let us know that too.
   The other top CT to sell this month was a cut-rectangle of relatively late proportions (27x21) with the inscription: For a Friend of Jesus. Burzinski listed similar pieces that are oval (BZ7486 & BZ7487), but he did not know about this rectangle. Burzinski suggested that the other pieces were used at Roslin (BZ7486) and Edinburgh (BZ7487). It is said (by BZ) to be a stock token design. Perhaps this outlier is from a third church, or it is a pattern piece. Either way, it sold quickly at a BO price that was lower than the initial $118 offering. As before, cobwrightfortishe was the seller.
   There were several other remarkable items that were sold this past month. An old copper piece (described as being from Mexico) with a chalice counterstamp sold cheaply at $29 with 16 bids. That's a lot of bids for only a $29 piece. Also, a triangular CT that was unattributed sold for a healthy $67 with 9 bids -- I was unable to find this piece in Burzinski. Maybe one of our readers can identify it. Also of interest, three St. Louis 1850 Canadian pieces (BZ6487-89) sold for low prices ranging from $21 to $36; these are neat pieces that come in many varieties.
   And so, it was an interesting month with some very nice CT going to happy owners.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Kingston NY Communion Token

I have been digging up some info on this CT from New Kingston, NY. It is amazing what is available on the Internet, but it takes some sleuthing.
This CT comes from Steve Tannenbaum via Steve Hayden.
It dates to the latter half of the 19th century.
     First, I looked up Kingston, NY -- not the same as New Kingston -- but there is a connection. The town of Kingston was established in about 1651. It was located in the southeast part of the state about two miles west of the Hudson River. The town was burned by the British in October, 1777. The town was of strategic importance as a granary for much of the area. It was also the capital of the region.
     After the burning of the town, a land speculator named Robert Livingston made a gift of 5,000 acres in the Platteskill Stream area to the "Kingston Sufferers" who were displaced by the fire. Livingston had purchased many shares of the Hardenburgh Patent in eastern NY and wanted to stimulate settlement there. This patent originally represented the largest land grant in the colonies -- many parcels had been sold to speculators hoping to attract settlers.
     The piece that Livingston had gifted was located just 50 miles northwest of Kingston. Although few of the "sufferers" chose to settle in this place, some of their descendants moved there in the years to come. The earliest settlers represented Dutch, Scottish and Yankee pioneers.
     In 1848 a small store was opened by Swart & Birdsall, providing a market center for the small settlement. By the mid-1850s, there was a post-office, blacksmith shop, and a shoe shop with several fine houses clustered along the main road. A water-powered woodworking mill was constructed in 1869 -- many barns were built, plus a few houses, and the Presbyterian Church. A wagon shop and several dairy farms were also part of the economic history of the town.
     The New Kingston Presbyterian Church was established in 1853 with the first building constructed in the following year. A new church was built in 1900 -- a small, one-story frame building. Since it was a small town, the congregation was not likely to be a large one.
     If anyone knows more history from this church, please add a comment.
     I got the NK CT from the last Baltimore Expo -- the high price of $297 is what I paid for it. As you can see, the picture shows the token in its original holder from the Steve Tannenbaum collection. I do not know if there are really only two known, but I liked the attractive script on the obverse. The reverse is blank but for a pair of concentric circles. It appears that this CT was not used -- or used once.
     The script is challenging to make out, but it says: UPC. The trick to reading it (in my opinion) is to recognize that the letters do not connect, but overlap.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Market Watch

It was an active month of auction activity on ebay despite the cold weather just about everywhere in the USA. All told, there were 257 CTs that crossed the block in February.
   Nearly three-fourths of the CTs sold in the C range, that is priced below $20. As I always say, there were (and continues to be) many collecting opportunities out there each month. As compared to other token categories, CTs are a bargain. And with all the guidebooks available and websites that detail the churches that issued these fascinating pieces, it is a great pursuit that does not force you to skip meals. One-hundred eighty-four CTs sold in the lowest range. Next, in the B range, there were 71 sales between $20 and $49; and above that, only two pieces sold above the $50 mark in the BB range. I should add that two of the B category CTs sold for $49 -- very close!
   The top CT was sold by cobwrightfortishe at a BIN price of $62. The piece was a cut-rectangle from Walls Parish on the Orkney Islands, dated 1856 (cataloged as KL42-1290 and BZ7120). Orkney is a small series of about 67 pieces with two from Walls. There is no way of knowing how scarce this piece is except to note that this relatively high price for a late date CT was paid in full with the CT selling quickly after listing.
Here is one of the large size pieces from the
44th Street UPC in NYC.
   The second CT was sold by comtok at auction with a hammer price of $51. This one was a USA piece from the 44th Street United Presbyterian Church (UPC) in New York City, NY (Bason-109 and BZ7033). Three bidders spotted it, casting six bids; the winner waited until the last and cast a single bid to take it home. Wish I had been there, as this was a great deal! There are two sizes for this one according to the catalogs: Burzinski lists one at 28x19mm, whereas Bason has it at 12x18mm. Otherwise, the design is the same with incuse RPC on a rounded corner rectangle with blank reverse. The one that sold was the smaller variety. Here is the link: USA CT from 44th Street NYC.
   Of note, there was a group lot of twelve so-called "antique post-medieval" CTs sold on February 18th for nearly $50, but this was a misattribution. Instead, it was a grouping of eleven jetons (counting tokens) from Nuremburg and one lead piece that I could not decipher. Although they were made in Germany, several of them were produced for use in France, hence the fleurs de lis. They are not CTs, not a one, but they are old (1500s and maybe a bit earlier) and sold for market price.
   Finally, there is talk of a get together for CT collectors in Baltimore, MD -- maybe at the 2015 Fall Expo or the Spring Expo the next year.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Market Watch

2015 started out with a bang. The marketplace is Hot!
     Many CTs traded hands in January: 754 tokens were sold, plus a lot of 138 tokens from an old church hoard. These figures compare strongly with the combined total of 500+ CTs sold for the last two months of 2014.
A communion token?
     Of note, the ebay seller scotscalder reported that he was selling off a large collection of 522 CTs. The sales started straight-away on Jan 1st and continued off and on all month -- about 200 tokens sold thus far. Another major seller was richardigr, also a scottish dealer, who sold half, or more, as many.
     Most of the CTs sold for under $20 in the C range -- a whopping 596 tokens! Moving up in price, there were 145 CTs to be had under $50 in the B range. Only 13 CTs were hammered down above this: nine in the BB range, three in the A range, and only one soaring above $100 in AA territory. As mentioned in this blog many times before, there are many good deals to be had in this series. A nice collection from all over Scotland can be built for little money.
     Some of the bargains available for low prices included a CT from Truro, Nova Scotia (NS304), that sold for a  meager $38 on Jan 19th. This is the first CT made in Canada and only the second one reported in the blog. Another interesting token was an unidentified lead round from Boxtel -- only four bidders took the risk with the winner spending just $20. Is this a CT? Let us know if you have an answer. There is a town of Boxtel in the Netherlands -- a Dutch piece?
Regimental CT from Edinburgh.
     The top four pieces included two Scottish and two Irish pieces. The first one was perhaps the most interesting of the lot: a regimental CT from Edinburgh (72nd Regiment). This round token (BZ6200, KL52-69) attracted four bidders with two of them battling it out, casting six bids overall. The piece was hammered down at $75 -- a reasonable price for a token that is rarely seen on the market. This particular one appeared new with some with dull gray toning and a few scratches.
     Next up we have a stock token design: a cut rectangle from Saltcoats Gaelic FC, dated 1843 (BZ6147, KL44-640). This is a collector's token, as the token design type is common.  Tokens from Gaelic churches are not so common, however. Two bidders were toying with this one when a third bidder entered the room at the very last instant to win it at $77.
     The other A range token was an Irish one from Belfast PC, County Antrim. It was a simple rectangle -- as are many Irish pieces -- with just a 2/CC on the obverse (BZ1365, M256D-E?). Six bids were cast by four bidders to produce $87 at the hammer.
     Finally, the only CT to reach the highest AA designation sold for a heathy sum of $150. It was another rectangle from Ballycopeland PC in Millisle, County Down (BZ763, M30A). This one attracted five bidders with the sixth bid winning the prize.
     Did I mention a church hoard? Yes, I did. There were 138 pieces from Mearns Parish in Renfrewshire (BZ4706) that were offered. The cut rectangles looked new in the pictures; Tables I through IV were represented. The bids started slowly -- folks were probably thinking: Do I need all of these? -- but then it took off with two bidders competing in the last hours. The lot sold for $436 -- about $3 per token! Here is the link: CT hoard of 138 tokens. Hopefully, there is a good story behind these CTs. We would all like to hear it, so if you know something, shout it out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What makes for "Desirability" in CTs?

Here is a post that comes from our newest blog member. Welcome David.

I have been stimulated to give some thought as to what constitutes 'desirability' in this field of collecting. Apart from collectors who pursue a thematic approach, such as collecting tokens of a particular region, 
religious denomination or diversity of scriptural quotations, that which determines the acquisitive drive for the generalist collector is probably a combination of rarity, aesthetic appeal and an associated interesting 
history or story. Rarity, as has been noted before in the blog, is often uncertain, as it is a judgement usually based on the frequency with which a 
token appears in the market place, knowledge very much dependent on the experience and vigilance of the collector. The regular market reports of 
this blog assist in making such assessments. Aesthetic appeal is a composite of design, shape, metallic composition, condition and legends. The stories connected with a particular token or its church form the other component of this trilogy. Individual collectors will give their own weightings to each of these elements.

Two nineteenth-twentieth century Scottish tokens already noted by previous contributors may serve to illustrate these issues. There is general agreement that the two St Kilda Free Church tokens are rare. This assessment 
is based on the knowledge that they served a very small population for whom church attendance was virtually mandatory. They are seldom offered for sale: BZ 6482 has appeared rarely, an example fetching a high price when sold on ebay in July 2014, but I have not seen BZ 2277 (with legends in Gaelic) 
offered for sale. The latter token reflects the native language of the St. Kildans - very few spoke English. The tokens were the subject of a brief paper by Henry Garside published in Spink's Numismatic Circular in 1916 
(Vol. 24, pp. 37-38), where they were described as "two very rare communion tokens in the National Collection, British Museum".

A fine example of a token with much aesthetic appeal is that of Glenapp (BZ 2896).  This token, while not of the same order of rarity as the St Kilda tokens, is nevertheless scarce and eagerly sought. It is one of few tokens 
struck in bronze, its singular design was created by the architect who also remodelled the picturesque Glenapp church, and its symbols of Paschal Lamb on the obverse and Celtic Trinitarian trefoils on the reverse, offer scope for religious reflection.  I recall reading that a minister of the church used its iconography for a sermon. The style of trefoil on the token is reproduced on the Celtic decoration of the Church's lectern.

Unattributed tokens have collector appeal, not only on account of their probable rarity, but because they also offer scope for research and reverie. If they are also unpublished, there is scope to make a small contribution to 
the corpus of knowledge. It is not uncommon to come across unattributed tokens of the eighteenth century or earlier, but quite unusual to find one of a later period.  I include images of a token dated 1837 (see token picture above) that I have been unable to locate in any published reference. In style it is similar to a Free Church of Scotland token of St Luke's Church, Edinburgh, dated 1852 (BZ7596), although the rectangular shape accommodates the design horizontally rather than vertically. I understand the congregation that became St Luke's had its origins in 1836, their church being known originally as the Young Street Chapel. I am wondering whether this 1837 issue may be a surviving token of Young Street Chapel. Perhaps the majority 
of tokens were destroyed after the presumably later but undated issue came into use, these new tokens being stamped 'St. Luke's Church, Young Street, Edinburgh' (BZ 2342).  When the congregation joined the Free Church after the Disruption in 1843, tokens picturing their new church building resulted in the attractive issue dated 1852.  Only two rectangular shaped Free Church tokens are noted by Kerr and Lockie (PSAS, LXXIX, p. 27), one being that of St Luke's Free Church, perhaps lending some support to the possibility that 
this last issue may have reverted to the prototype provided by the 1837 tokens, perhaps for sentimental or other reasons. The 1837 token is of white metal and measures 28 x 18 mm.  Identifying the building it portrays, or 
some documentary evidence, would clearly be of value in attributing the token to a particular church.

A very large print of the whole city of Edinburgh, circa 1860, drawn from an elevated perspective, shows a building on the southern side of Young Street, very similar to that portrayed on the token. I reproduce a small segment of the print (see above) greatly magnified. The building in question is that in 
the centre of the image. 

I would value any help in confirming or dismissing this tentative 
attribution of the token to Young Street Chapel.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Communion Token Guidebook in Coinage Magazine

I was pleasantly surprised to see a full color review of the guidebook Communion Tokens in the January 2015 issue of Coinage magazine; the review was written by Mike Thorne, Ph.D. -- one of their regular contributors (and book reviewer). I spoke with him earlier in the year; he is a very interesting fellow who is also a psychologist. His numismatic writing is a natural extension of his coin collecting interests plus a distinguished career in textbook writing. In any case, it was quite an honor to have the CT guidebook featured along with other mainstream books -- on one side was David Bower's Buffalo Coins: America's Favorite, and on other side was Beth Deisher's Cash In Your Coins. The CT guidebook won a Numismatic Literary Guild award for Extraordinary Merit, so that is nice too.
     The book is still available from me on ebay at the list price of $14.95 with free shipping in the USA. If you are from overseas, you can get the book on or from other large book distributors (e.g., Amazon).
Masthead from January 2015 Coinage Magazine
written by Mike Thorne, Ph.D.
     For a couple of months, the book was unavailable, as I did not renew the online book contract. Consequently, a few used book sellers stepped-in the marketplace -- one of them was offering the book for $1000 on Amazon. I hope no one needed it that bad! I like to think of this book as a gift to the collecting community: It was the book that I wanted to read, as there was nothing out there to get me started -- although, I must say that Brook has stood the test of time as a must-have guide with an excellent introduction.
     I still have about 15 books left (saving another five for gifts), so this guidebook is near the end of its run. There is no way to break even on this project, but at least I am over half-way there (my wife is happy about that). I encourage others (maybe some on the blog) to tackle a project like this. There are other books that could be (need to be) written on CTs -- personally, I would like to see a Top 100 Communion Tokens book with nice photos and church histories.
     I am working on a second CT book that will be more of a gazetteer that profiles regional variations and trends (a type set/varieties collecting approach) -- sort of a continuation of the CT by shapes idea. This will be a useful book (I hope) that aligns neatly with BK, K&L, and BZ. As before, the true reason for writing is to give me something fun to do. Nonetheless, this project is on-hold at the moment, as I am going off in a new direction right now -- that is why my user name has changed from Token Hunter to SCD. What can I say? The SCD reflects my love for relic coins and tokens -- and readers of this blog know that I particularly like the primitive, rough-hewn CTs.
     In the meantime, I think blog readers would like to hear about and see pictures of any new CTs you have acquired. The Market Watch postings have noted many nice pieces going to new homes -- Did you get one? As for me, I have a new one from New Kingston, NY that I will profile later this month -- I got it last year. It is a nice one: shiny, not primitive -- but it is a USA piece, and rare as such.