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.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Market Watch for November & December

Happy New Year: 2015!
     Last year went out with a bang! The CT marketplace has heated up a bit with 517 CTs sold in the past two months. As I write this, there are over 550 CT listings on ebay. Several big collections are being dispersed, and collectors have noticed.
     In November, 244 CTs were sold on ebay. This number went up to 273 in December. Totals like this have not been seen since the start of last summer. Most of the CTs sold inexpensively: 330 CTs sold for under $20 in the C range (64% of the two-month total). In the $20 to $49 B group, there were 175 CTs sold (34% of the total).  Only eight CTs brought BB prices above $50.  In the A range ($75 to $99), there were two sales, and there were two sales in the AA range above that. Consequently, only 2% of the total sold for over $50. These figures show that CT collecting is still very reasonable.
Here is the listing from Brook for the CT that sold for $190.
The loaf is similar to that found on BK272 Dalmellington
and BK275 Dalrymple; this is probably a regional feature
that comes from the same hand (or brain). On the reverse
the reference is to Psalm 116 (as on BK272 obverse).
     Twelve CTs sold above $50. Topping this group, a round piece from Carsphairn (BK173) was hammered the day after Christmas for $190. This is a whopping price, but it is a rare piece not seen for sale in at least a few years. Six bidders competed for it, casting 30 bids. The top bidder knew it was rare and had entered a high bid early on -- a fury of bids only led to frustration among the rest. It is a nice piece that comes with a loaf of bread!
     A Kirkton heart (BK689), dated 1761, brought a healthy $109 on 12/20. Five bidders vied for it, casting 12 bids; it came down to three at the end. This is one of the more available hearts (only BK336 is more common -- and maybe BK187), as several have sold in the past few years -- all for strong prices.
     Two bidders provided spirited competition for a cut-rectangle dated 1845 from Fairlie FC in Ayr (BZ2496). They went back and forth a dozen times before the piece was hammered down for $97 on 11/15. Prices like this do not come from type collectors: these two were working on an Ayr, FC, or larger set.
     The popular Forgan rectangle, dated 1774 (BK434), brought $79 on 11/23 with seven bidders casting ten bids. The winner showed up with all the money in the last hour. This piece has been up and down in the marketplace -- I have seen prices range from $30 on up to A category dollars. This was a nice clean piece purchased at the top.
     An interesting lead token that could be a CT (or a seal) was placed on the block in late October, selling for $70 on 11/2. The piece was roundish with rough edges; it was styled in the form of a market token (or Glasgow square) with two concentric circles framing the legend: S.Botolphs with WH in the center. The listing suggested that the initials could stand for Willam Hutchinson from a church in Aldgate, London. An estimated date of circa 1590 was given. You decide. Only three bidders took the dare, each entering one bid.
     A trio of BIN sales also brought in $70, $70, and $60 respectively. The first was a cut-rectangle from Popular Grove, Halifax, Nova Scotia (NS-236). The second one was a round CT from Rathillet (Fife), dated 1782 -- the latter token is a common one that typically sells for C money; as such, it over-sold by a wide margin. The listing stated that it was "rare" -- not really. The third was a cut-rectangle from Earlton in Nova Scotia (NS-214) that sold for $60.
     Rounding out the top twelve CTs: a worn Airlie round piece (BK19) sold for $59 with four bidders showing; a very nice round CT from Ardclach (BK53), dated (16)91 sold for $53 with seven bidders showing -- this is a popular one with the Love/Love reverse; a cut-rectangle from Ferrintosh FC (BZ2542) brought $53 from two bidders; and a round piece, dated 1786, from Meigle (BZ4708) just slid over the BB category mark, selling for a BIN price of $51.
     On balance, the holiday season was good for CT collectors. The marketplace seems strong and 2015 appears to be off to a good start with many listings posted.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

CT Museum at the Presbyterian Heritage Center

I recently received several photos from Claude King who visited the museum at the PHC located in Montreat, NC. He has been collecting CTs and visiting the blog for the past year or so.
     The pictures he shared will be of interest to all CT collectors. If you are like me, after looking at these pictures, you will want to plan a trip to Montreat this summer to see for yourself. The link to the PHC website is here:
     Montreat, NC, is located just off I40 in the western part of the state; the town itself is north of I40 just east of Asheville -- it is adjacent to the Appalachians (to the west) and national forests all around, so I am sure that the countryside is beautiful.
     The first picture of the earliest dated CT -- from Perth Kirk -- is quite interesting, as it is dated 1604! This predates the CP/1648 round CT from Crossmichael by nearly a half-century (BZ1606/BK240). I mention in my guidebook that the earliest reported (but with none surviving) dated CT is from Glasgow with a date of 1588 -- this report comes from the work of Burns, Whitelaw, and others.
     In particular, Burns quotes from the Kirk-Session in Glasgow on the 13th of April, 1588 as follows: "The session appoint some to speak to the Baileys about making a new stamp and carts for tickets." And quotes further that each ticket (i.e., token) should be marked "with this sign, 1588." We do not know what the "sign" was from this quote, but the reference to the date, and the direction to have the date stamped on the ticket, is clear.
     These researchers have also indicated that the Crossmichael CT is the oldest (or as Burns puts it: "one of the oldest" -- perhaps holding out for the chance of finding an older one) dated token that survives. Of note to collectors, one of these rare CTs was sold in May 2014 by Simmons Gallery from the Bob Merchant collection. It was bid up to 156 BP or about $250. This is actually quite cheap as far as rare coins or tokens go. Also, I should add that the attribution is listed as "uncertain" by Burzinski -- and Burns, too, raises some questions about this.
     So here we have one dated 1604. It is a rectangular piece with straight corners and bold rim. The lettering appears to be hand-cut -- particularly with the out-sized T in PERTH. Certainly the year is well within the range given above of 1588 to 1648 -- we would expect to see dated tokens during this period. Do we need to re-write all the CT guides? Is this the date of use, or the date of the church founding?
     Still, we have to ask: How did all previous catalogers, including Burzinski, miss this one? Burzinski traveled to Scotland several times -- did he ever visit the PHC?
     The other picture shown is of a CT die. This one is made of iron (per the description) and is completely embedded in a large block of wood. There is only one die, so the apparatus had to be sturdy enough to withstand repeated use. It is a one-sided die, such that the blank reverse was impressed by the wood block that was fit over the lower one with the die imbedded -- you can see the small square burn marks on the upper block. Two guide poles insured a regular fit.
     Molten lead cools very quickly, so it probably took a minute or less for the lead to harden enough to be picked out. Any extra lead would flow out of the mold through the small channel at the edge of the die. The shiny CT sitting next to the die looks new -- did they use the die to make one?
     The description identifies this die as coming from Bloomington, IN. Bason listed only a dozen CTs from Indiana with six of them coming from Bloomington. This one (Bason28/BZ5997)) is described in his text as a small, straight rectangle of 13x9mm, made of lead, and noted to be thick. As the photo shows, the token is one-sided with the letters RP in relief, surrounded by a slight border.
     Many thanks to Claude King for sharing these photos. He has sent some other photos of Charleston CTs (including a slave token) that I will post later this month. In the meantime, enjoy these on Claude's behalf. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge it for better study.