Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from June 23 thru June 29. CTs that sell for over $100 (highly desired or HD) are described, and CTs that sell for over $75 (desired or D) are mentioned.
     Overall, 72 CTs were sold on ebay this week with 45 of them trading for under $20 and three others selling for over $50. There was one HD CT this week that sold on 6/24: an irregular, octagonal piece from Dunbog in Fife with the legend enclosed in a circle: PARISH DVNBVG, and the initials M / I M in the center. This dark token was sprinkled with salty corrosion and the lettering was a bit flat. The auction attracted five bidders; seven bids were cast -- the winning bid was $106.
     This is an old piece from the period of Reverend John Makgill who served at Dunbog between 1646 and 1654; consequently, it comes from turbulent times in Scotland. The National Covenant was adopted only 8 years prior to Makgill's tenure, and the Covenanters ended up supporting Charles I with hopes of overthrowing Cromwell and the radical parliamentarians in England. Well, things did not work out that way, as the Scots were roundly beaten on the battlefield, and Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649. Cromwell's war machine invaded Scotland several times in the years to come.
     This Dunbog token ranks in at #3 for HD CTs sold in June; it follows behind the Panbride CT sold on 6/15 and the Dron token sold on 6/1. All of these tokens are seventeenth century pieces.
     Looking back at this week's action, we see that two big sales dominated the marketplace on ebay: tomv007 sold 38 CTs from Angus and cobwrightortishe sold 21 tokens. Both of these sellers are offering items from old collections with a few rare pieces included.
     Here are some random notes of interest. A Glasgow-styled square from Newbigging in Angus, dated 1791, sold for $16 on 6/23. It was part of the collection being sold by tomv007. A similar token sold for $71 on 6/9 -- it was from the same collection. In the latter case, two bidders fought it out to drive up the price. This specimen was a tad better, but not by much. As such, this is a good example of how CT values can be inflated by eager auction buyers in a thin market. Obviously, both collectors wanted it badly, and they did not know if another one was going to come on the market for awhile. I have not seen this token in over two years on ebay. Get it when you can!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Book on Communion Tokens is almost ready

A new guidebook for collecting CTs is coming in July.  [bagpipes begin playing]
     I have enjoyed exploring the world of CTs for several years. At the outset, I was enticed by, but also a bit overwhelmed by, this multifarious collecting field: Over 7000 CTs! Where do you start?
     Well, over time I explored several different collecting strategies. And I read many old books. Now it is time to pass this information along, so I wrote a short guidebook to get you started or to help you get focused.
     This book has 144 pages and includes many photos. It starts with an overview of CT history. Then, I explore the collecting field and discuss the key reference books that illuminate the series. Key aspects of the marketplace are explored too.
     Essentially, I wrote the book that I wanted to read a few years ago when I was bidding on CTs willy-nilly with gleeful abandon. Gee, I think I still do this from time to time. After all, if you see a CT that you really like, then why not make an offer?
     Of course, you will still need to find the core reference books that catalog the tokens themselves. For example, you will still need to get a copy of Brook's 1907 monograph of early CTs. Consequently, I still plan to do a post on Brook and Burzinski (plus a few other obscure researchers, like Orr). You need to be familiar with these works if you plan to collect more than a few CTs. I can get you up to speed, as I know my way around these books pretty well. But you will have to get the CTs and study them.
     As for my meager contribution to the literature, I will post when the book is available and give more detail. It is inexpensive. For now, I hope you enjoy the cover proof and the tokens thereon.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ovals scream out: I am CT!

The oval is the most modern CT shape. It is not easy to handcraft an oval die with a chisel put to stone. But machines did it precisely. Ovals were popular to the end, but they played second fiddle to the cut rectangles.
     Ovals began to appear with some regularity in the last decade of the eighteenth century. Their use peaked in the 1840s and declined afterwards, never disappearing. After all, ovals provided a suitable alternative to the cut rectangle. Ovals share the advantages of cut rectangles: they are easy to grasp and are hand-friendly with gentle curves; plus, they offer a broad face that can hold much data. Like cut rectangles, Bible verses were often placed on the reverse of ovals after 1840.
Some early ovals with a few unusual handcrafted ones show
the wide range of sizes and shapes that grace the oval series.
     Oval designs were shaped by the industrial revolution. The dies tended to be expertly made with standardized number, letter and ornament punches used to produce a wide variety of styles. Nearly all ovals were dated. The oval shape itself varied widely at the start, ranging from the long and narrow to the plump and rotund. But they looked more similar as time when on. Of course, there were some regional preferences, plus a few denominational preferences.
     Like the Ayr squares of the early 1800s, the Associate Church pushed for oval standardization: both in size and shape, as well as in design layout. For example, the narrow ovals that appeared in the 1790s across the midlands (mostly to the east) were remarkably similar to each other. The prototypical piece measured 28x18mm. Most of them can be defined as having a 10mm difference between length and height. The oval from Moneydie in Perth (see picture) is a narrow oval that measures 28x18mm. It is dated 1830 on the reverse, so it is a late one. Check out the oval from Bo-ness in Lothians, dated 1796 on the reverse, to see an early one with the same dimensions.
     Some ovals used horizontal lettering (for example, the narrow ovals just described), but die-sinkers quickly began to place lettering along the arc of the upper and lower edges. Often, the latter type included an inner border of beads with a date or name (parish or minister) in the center. Sometimes the center was left blank, as this was an ideal place for a table number to be stamped. In some ways, the oval designs emulated those found on the cut rectangles that used an oval motif.

     Curiously, late ovals tend to show curved lettering, whereas late cut rectangles tend to show horizontal lettering. Admittedly, this is a gross generalization, as there are many exceptions -- but you will not find too many ovals without curved lettering in the 1840s.
     A creative use of the oval was to place a pictorial in an upright position on the reverse. A church facade, with belfry and steeple, could be squeezed-in, length-wise. Upright ovals with a pictorial were popular in congregations like South Leith. One day I will do a post on the pictorials.
     For collectors, oval CTs provide an attractive quarry. It is a pleasing shape -- more attractive than a cut rectangle to my eye. As you can surmise, there are many varieties and regionalisms, and we have barely scratched the surface.
     And consider this too: The oval screams CT! I dare say that if you present a silhouette of an oval token and ask collectors to guess what kind of token it is: more than half will say, CT. If you show both silhouettes together (oval and cut rectangle) and ask the same question: most, perhaps nine out of ten, will say, CT!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cut Rectangles Seize the Day

I have not hidden my affection for the early CTs, but the later ones have stories too. The cut rectangles and ovals speak out about how the industrial revolution and improved communication transformed the CT landscape. Tokens began to look more alike in the mid-1840s: churches compared notes and token merchants struck (and molded) more and more CTs.
An oval type cut rectangle from
Govan in Lanark dated 1821
     I have already mentioned that over a third of all CTs are rectangular. And 80% of these have cut corners. It is the most utilitarian shape of all. Sharp corner points are not friendly to the hand, so they are cut. The elongated shape allows easy grasping -- plus it is easier to hand it over to the elder collecting them at the communion service. The broad face also allows more data to be squeezed within the rims. Quite a design!
     As a group, cut rectangles are more attractive than the old ones. Engraving and die-sinking were improved; in fact, many cut rectangles were produced on a screw or steam press. Letter and number punches were used to create the dies. As such, Bible verses placed on the reverse became popular. No longer did the elders walk down the stoney path to the plumber's cottage and ask for stone molds to be cut with a few letters and a date. Rather, the elders in the industrial era visited a workshop where they were presented with a several broad shapes and lettering styles to choose from.
     For collectors, the cut rectangles provide a great opportunity to get started. The high quality and uniformity make for attractive sets. Like the early squares, the date fanatics can assemble as set with every year represented for 1830 to 1880. A bit of hunting will get you most of the 1820s too. And of course, do not forget the Balquhidder cut rectangle of 1778. Cut rectangles are inexpensive too, as most sell for under $20 with a few nicer ones costing less than twice that.
A cut rectangle with horizontal
lettering from late in the CT era.
This piece from Glasgow.
     Two major types of cut rectangles are immediately obvious: those with ovals and those without ovals. The oval motif is similar to the Glasgow-styled straight rectangles. Cut rectangles with ovals represent an earlier type that was most popular in the 1830s and 1840s. They are fewer too. One out of six cut rectangles have this oval arrangement. As you may have guessed, over half of them come from shires adjacent to Lanark; hence, this is a regional design. But what about the other half? Well, good ideas travel far and wide (so do ministers). In fact, we can find Glasgow-styled squares, straight and cut rectangles across the Atlantic in Canada. The oval motif on cut-rectangles disappeared as the 1840s progressed. Simplicity prevailed: horizontal lettering became the preferred (or cheaper) style. You could see it coming on the reverse, as most of the Bible verses were organized in three or four horizontal lines. By the 1850s, the decorative oval designs were largely gone. The latest cut rectangles were all business -- very proper.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from June 16 thru June 22. This week no CTs sold for over $75, so we do not have any HD or D tokens to report.
     Overall, 15 CTs were sold on ebay this week. Two CTs sold at just over $50, whereas six CTs sold for under $20. Canadian CTs led the way this week, all sold at buy-it-now prices from coin-cabinet (a dealer located in Moncton, New Brunswick, CA). Five CTs were sold by this dealer at prices ranging from $62 to $42. The CTs: Perth CW310, Mirimichi NB218, Guelph CW260, London CW284 and Hamilton CW262. These are Charlton Standard Catalogue CT numbers (CW is for Canada West & NB is New Brunswick). In examining the valuations provided in this guidebook, all of these tokens sold for prices within about $10 of these estimates (except the piece from London that sold for $42 with a $70 guidebook value). I purchased the Guelph piece, as I have always liked the image of the flying dove.
     One reason for the low number of CTs sold this week: The weekly auction of Angus CTs that tomv007 has been offering was pushed back to today. There are 40 items up for grabs today. Also, cobwrightforthishe is offering 26 more CTs later in the week from the Andrew Macmillan collection.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Reference Books for Communion Tokens

What reference books for CTs are in your library?
     Most CT books are old. They are in the back stacks -- you know, those musty book rooms where you can hear yourself gasping. When you pull one from the shelf (if you are lucky to find a copy), you enter a world forgotten. Yet, more than a few researchers have walked across the collecting field, taking notes and making lists. More than a few have been smitten with CTs. But this was a long time ago.
     There is not much continuity in the CT literature. Just lists: odd place names, rosters of ministers, dates. No less than five overlapping systems have been developed to catalog CTs. Some of these efforts were labors of love, published as short-run editions for few readers. And the authors? They are gone. In fact, some of the best descriptions of CTs were written over a century ago in the twilight of the CT era.
     I will review a few of my favorites in separate posts, but let's start with a quick overview. The Reverend Thomas Burns provided one of the most fascinating overviews in his book entitled, Old Scottish Communion Plate, published in 1892. He sifted through dusty church records, providing some of the richest excerpts describing the use of CTs. Along these lines, the Reverend H. A. Whitelaw provided a keen analysis of CT use in his book entitled, Communion Tokens, with Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of those of Dumfriesshire, published in 1911. Do not be fooled by the title, as Whitelaw painted with a broad brush in coloring the CT landscape. You will be amply rewarded by reading these masterworks. Reprints are available, and the ANA library have copies to lend.
     What about the catalogues? With 7000+ tokens out there, a map is needed. For starters, Alexander Brook published the first substantial catalog of CTs in 1907. He listed over 1400 CTs and illustrated 1168 of them in his monograph entitled, Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries. This work first appeared in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, but now it has been reprinted and is widely available. Go get it! Do not hesitate, just get it! He also provided an acute history before presenting his listings. Some companion works will help add to Brook: first, Robert Kerr & J. R. Lockie added to the catalog in 1940, listing 461 CTs and illustrating 319 of them; second, M. B. Orr produced an attribution guide designed to be used with Brook. More on these three researchers later. Did I say, go get Brook?
     I will skip a few other guides and jump right to Lester Burzinski's masterful compilation entitled, Communion Tokens of the World. In 1999, he  released the most complete catalog to date with 7000+ entries and 3000+ photographs. This is the standard in the field. Unfortunately, Burzinski was self-published with a production run of only 250 copies. His book trades hands at somewhere north of $600 -- but the ANA library has one! If you find yourself getting serious about CTs, this book is needed. I will do a post on this book soon.
     When Burzinski is nowhere to be found, the comprehensive listing by O. D. Cresswell entitled, Comprehensive Directory of World Communion Tokens, published in 1985 will have to suffice. This is  a competent listing, but no images.
     Canadian and United States CTs are included in Burzinski and Cresswell, but there are more specific guides that are better and available. The Canadian series is well covered in the Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Communion Tokens, published in 2000 and edited by W. K. Cross. This tidy book lists 296 CTs with photos of each major type. Valuations are also added since the Canadian market is more developed -- of course, we all know that CTs will sell to the highest bidder anyway. For the American series, Autence Bason has produced a nice catalog entitled, Communion Tokens of the United States of America, illustrated by drawings: 488 CTs listed with 358 illustrations.
     There are other references (quite a few), but this is enough for now. I acknowledge my biases: I like guides with illustrations. A picture is worth a dozen tokens!
     Finally, I am announcing my book: Communion Tokens: A Guide for Collecting Scottish, Canadian & United States Tokens. This book will help you get started on your collecting adventure. It is a labor of love. I am editing the proofs at this stage, so it will be out soon. More on this later.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Squares, Rounds & Rectangles

We are challenged by CTs because we love variety. Today, I am looking at the shapes across time.
     Early on, and particularly in the countryside, all the tokens were handcrafted. Irregular shapes were cut into stones and steel (even wood) to produce squarish, roundish, and not-so-squarish rectangular tokens. Even Burzinski and Brook struggled to differentiate some squares from rectangles.
At 15x14mm this one from Eckford
is almost square; it is dated 1728.
     Some parishes preferred a certain shape. Others went from shape to shape to differentiate the new from the old. Sometimes, two shapes were produced at once to differentiate between a communion service one week and another service the next. And there was always a need to make tokens that uniquely identified the parish church so to reduce confusion among neighbors. Nonetheless, there are trends over time and across regions to be discovered. It is our quest as collectors to find these things out.
     As previously mentioned, squares account for one-quarter of the 5000+ Scottish CTs. Most of them were produced before 1830. Some of the earliest CTs are square, albeit with warped sides.
     Round CTs also appeared at the dawning, but rounds represent a smaller grouping than either squares or rectangles. Only about 12-15% of CTs are round. As such, rounds were never more popular than the other shapes, but they lingered longer than squares, perhaps bolstered by their familiar shape -- after all, merchant tokens and coins are nearly always round. In contrast, squares are for sieges. One of the earliest dated CTs is round: a two-sided piece from Crossmichael in Kirkcudbright, dated 1648. Please let me know if you have one for sale.
     One of the most common pre-1690 CTs is also round; of course, I am talking about Brechin 1678! All CT collectors eventually get one of these -- I have two. Brechin is in Angus, and parishes in Angus like rounds: over a third of all CTs from this shire are round. Can you name some? How about Auchterhouse or Glamis?
     Rounds began to disappear from the token bag in the 1840s. Even in places like Angus.
     Rectangular CTs arrived early too. Now this was a shape with some staying power: a whopping 35-40% of all CTs are rectangles. Early ones had straight corners, like squares. Later ones were "improved" with cut corners and broader surfaces -- easier to grasp, plus more room for data and ornamentation. The straight rectangles used the same design format as early squares: parish initials atop a date with minister on the reverse. Many variations exist. But the rectangles allowed more lettering to spell out the parish and relaxed spacing for digits: easier for the die-cutter and parishioner alike. The straight rectangles did not last long however. Just look at the stretched version of the Glasgow-styled square; none of these straight rectangles were made twice by the same parish. Instead, just about everyone moved on to the cut rectangle. Even the ovals -- the most modern of shapes -- did not supplant the cut rectangle. I will provide an overview of these two shapes in a future posting: cut rectangles and ovals. For now, I want to mention an early shape not yet discussed.
     You guessed it: the heart! This shape deserves more words than I will say now. But consider this: nearly all hearts were produced in the eighteenth century. Rerrick in Kirkcudbright produced one of the first dated hearts in 1698. They are early. Collectors love hearts. They are personal, as they eschew the geometric form in favor of a uniquely human one. Ponder this. Also, could this be a hint as to why parishes replaced hearts with more staid shapes later on?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Common Tokens can be Great too

CTs do not have to be expensive to have great stories. I would hate to think that the market watchers gain the impression that only HD and D tokens are worth having. No way!
     What if I were to tell you that common CTs (and inexpensive too) can be purchased directly from the church that issued them over 200 years ago. And what if the token was handcrafted and steeped in a deep patina. These bits are out there for the collector who appreciates relics that look the part. Of course I am talking about the lot of tokens being sold by the Balquhidder Church. Word has it that they were discovered years ago in a biscuit tin. In 2003, the tokens were put on sale in local gift shops along with a leaflet detailing the history of the church; it was a fund-raiser by the Church. You could choose between tokens dated 1720 or 1778. Many were sold, and the promotion slowed for awhile until it was jump-started again this year: the friends of the church are selling what is left to help pay for repairs to the belfry and bell.
     Last week, I purchased one of the 1778 tokens (B712) from Rosphilda Crafts located in Balquhidder. It was an ebay listing. This sort of offering is not unusual, as many church inventories are scooped up and placed on the market as part of various promotions.
     So what do you get for $15?
     The token is an early form of the cut (corners) rectangle. In fact, the cut rectangle did not become widely popular until the 1840s, so it is unusual to find such an early example. It is an ultra-thin piece that is cut from rolled or hammered stock. The lettering and date is neatly done around the edges, all engraved by the unknown hands of a craftsman.
     The Balquhidder parish church that actually used the token stands in ruins -- it was built in 1631. The ruin stands adjacent to the new church that was constructed in 1853. Balquhidder was the home to Rob Roy McGregor, the folk hero who feuded with the MacLaren clan. Basically, he was an outlaw; he even stole the church bell according to some tales. Rob Roy was buried in the old parish yard -- his gravestone is a tourist attraction. On the other end of the spectrum, the royal Stewart family is descendant from Balquhidder. It is reported that James IV once visited the old church.
     To hold a CT such as this and contemplate the ruins is an enchantment that I highly recommend.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from June 9 thru June 15. CTs that sell for over $100 (highly desired or HD) are described, and CTs that sell for over $75 (desired or D) are mentioned.
     Overall, 103 CTs were sold on ebay this week with 58 of them trading for under $20. There was one HD CT this week that sold on 6/15: a roundish, single-sided piece from Panbride in Angus with a winged ornament/PAN/BRID/star ornament on the obverse. It was a primitive CT with broad, but uneven, rims and crudely cut letters and ornaments. It was described as a "very early" CT that has not been cataloged by either Brook, Kerr & Lockie or Burzinski -- I checked, and it is not listed. It was a somewhat ruddy specimen with brown surfaces and moderately worn lettering. Only three bidders, entering 10 bids, competed for this one: it sold for $138. It was offered by tomv007 in the 3rd installment of a weekly Angus-only series of auctions -- apparently, all from an old collection. Check it out at this link: It appears that this CT brought out the specialists who recognized its rarity.
     Two other CTs made the D category. Both of them were from the same seller of Angus tokens: 1) 1831 round from Kirriemuir (B3929) at $87; 2) 1830 square with rounded corners from Guthrie (B3068). The first piece was in excellent condition and is quite attractive with its neatly spaced lettering surrounding an ornate (flower or wheel?) design in the center. The second CT was also in nice condition with an unusual verse: Titus 2:14.
     Of note, a worn Kirkton heart from Roxburgh (B3944) brought 8 bids and sold for $64, attesting to the lure of these cute pieces. Only one K and a 17 of the date were visible: K(K)/17(34). This parish used a second heart in 1761 -- the latter one is more available.
     These prices underscore the healthy market for the old, the rare, and the distinctive.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Logical Start: Squares

I started off collecting CTs with a few dated squares.
     The square is such a primeval shape, purely human, but elementary. Dates are alluring too, particularly for those coming from a numismatic tradition. We want tokens that shout out their oldness.
     Soon enough I added round and rectangular CTs to my collection, and when I saw my first heart-shaped CT -- I had to have it! Yes, shapes provide a logical start. But we all know that it will not stop there. One square is not enough. Soon, you will want to add an undated square with incused figures, plus one with a letter or two contained within a sunken panel, and then a two-sided square. Next comes a Berwick square with script, a Renfrew square with scroll-work, and of course, several Glasgow-styled squares from the midlands, plus the Ayr variants of the Associate Church. And do not forget the large chunky squares from Aberdeen.
     You see, collecting CTs by shape will lead you to where you want to go: the multifarious world of regional variants. An understanding of shapes will also help you appreciate how CTs evolved over time -- ending up with the mighty cut-corner rectangle and broad oval.
     So, back to squares: one-quarter of all CTs in the Scottish series are square. Nearly half of these are dated with a few dating before 1690. Dated squares are an early form, as their numbers dwindled across the first three decades of the 1800s. They were nearly gone by 1830. Put another way, only about 15% of dated squares were produced after 1799. You can find one for every date in the 1700s but for a few gaps. For now, I will let you discover where the gaps are.
     The most frequently encountered style for the dated squares was to place the initials of the parish above a four-digit date. If two-sided, the minister's initials were placed on the reverse. Of course, each token was handcrafted, so the letters and dates were shaped and embellished in unique ways. Pictured is a typical square of this basic style from Kirkpatrick-Durham in Kirkcudbright; it is dated 1725. Any deviation from this plain but balanced design is immediately obvious -- take for example, the square from Fintry in Stirling with each digit of the date placed in one of the four corners. Quite distinctive! This one is dated 1733. Collectors swarm after odd ones like this.
     When I discover an odd CT like this, I always wonder: Is this a regional variation? If we look for another one with a four-corner date, we find a CT from Denny in a neighboring village just a few miles south. It is dated 1752. A regional pairing perhaps?
     Incidently, Fintry is known for Culcreuch Castle, built in the 1400s and known for its large bat colony and three ghosts: a phantom, a gray figure, and an animal head. Denny, on the other hand, has several castles located nearby, but no ghosts. I am not sure about the bats.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Collecting Field

CTs can be daunting. The collecting field is vast, as there are thousands of them. Some are square, others, rectangular; on the other hand, we have round ones and ovals. There are big ones and little ones, thin and thick pieces -- yes, every dimension shows variance in this series. Most of them are from Scotland, but the series migrated to Canada and the United States. A few are from England and Ireland, whereas others come from far off areas like South Africa and Australia.
     Collectors need to develop a collecting strategy. A buy what you like approach will suffice for a short time, but eventually you will want to narrow your focus. Otherwise, collecting will stall. How does one develop a collecting plan? Figuring this out is the fun part. Two general guidelines are helpful here. First, you need to survey what is out there. This can be accomplished by reading some books and catalogs and watching the auctions -- and yes, go ahead and bid on a few here and there! CTs are inexpensive, so get a few to see if they appeal to your fingertips. The second step is to choose and nurture a specific focus. Some kind of theme will emerge as your mind tries to make sense of it all.
     I wanted to discover how many different types of CTs I could identify. How many types? Of course, there is no definitive answer. The challenge is to figure it out yourself. This is a purely empirical approach -- that is, we start off by letting the tokens speak out. Only then, can you answer the question if some CT types reflect a regional influence? And, do some CT types evolve over time? So, let's start off by pointing out the obvious: there are squares, rounds, rectangles, ovals and oddities. Five Types. See how easy it is! Ponder this.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions ending this week. CTs that sell for over $100 (highly desired or HD) are described, and CTs that sell for over $75 (desired or D) are mentioned.
     There was one HD CT this week that sold on 6/1: a rectangle from Dron in Perth with AP/1688 on obverse and blank reverse (B411). It was a beautiful piece, moderately worn to produce light gray devices against a dark, earthy background. Twelve bids from nine bidders upped the price to $128. The piece was sold by cobwrightforishe. Three other CTs made the D grade on 6/2. All of these were from a collection of Angus CTs sold by tomv007: 1) 1763 square from Kinnetties (B3554) at $87; 2) 1775 round from Aberlemno (B34) at $83; 3) 1678 round from Brechin (B991) at $79. As is typical, old and dated pieces in great condition bring the bids. The HD piece:
     The HD CT for this week is the third highest for the past three months. Previous HD CTs include: a large square from Houston & Kilellan, dated 1797, with a beautiful scroll design (a short-lived regional variant among parishes in Renfrew: Port Glasgow and Lochwinnoch are others) that sold for a whopping $178 on 4/26 (B3225); and a heart from Falston in England, dated 1801, that sold for $147 on 3/15 (B2493). These pieces highlight another aspect of the market: decorative CTs in great condition are highly desired, and hearts always bring strong bidding -- particular this one, as it is not pictured in Burzinski.

First Token

Welcome to my humble blog.
     I have been immersed in Communion Tokens (henceforth CTs) for several years now. It was a chance encounter that piqued my curiosity. My friend John, with an eye for the unusual, showed me several folders of tokens as we traveled to a coin show in Baltimore. A few square pieces caught my attention -- really odd stuff I thought at the time. What is this? Well one thing led to another, and soon enough, I had purchased one at the show. It was only 30 bucks!
     My first CT was like the one I had seen earlier: a square piece with rounded edges and an ashen patina. The lettering was bold and simple: AK/1752 - obviously handcrafted. The numerals showed a bit of flair, as the 5 had showed a thick loop, neatly tapered to its tip, and the 2 was graced with a delicate curl at the top. In contrast, the 1 was a over-sized: it was probably cut first, before the engraver had judged how little space remained for the other digits. Above the date, the serifs of the letters were boldly cut to provide a bit of extra style. All of this attention to detail was surrounded by a rim composed of dots -- although most of them had been worn smooth. Certainly the engraver had put in extra effort to make the CT distinctive and attractive. I learned from the dealer that the token was once owned by a collector named: Burzinski -- little did I know how much I would hear about him later.
     There were several numbers on the holder -- one of them a Burzinski number: B319. Also some names were on the holder: Strathaven and Lanarkshire. I was told that the CT was from Scotland. So, I looked it up, thanks to wikipedia.
     Strathaven is an old market town situated along the Avon River. The word strath refers to a valley or plain that borders a river, and haven means port or safe place. Apparently, a large castle (Avondale) was built at Strathaven in the 1300s; it was destroyed in 1455 and rebuilt again, only to be abandoned in the early 1700s. The church was built nearby. The name Avondale (or Avendale) is represented on the CT by the A, whereas the K stands for Kirk (the Church of Scotland).  The area around Strathaven was a stronghold for the Convenanters in the late 1600s -- a safe place? Records suggest that the minister who ordered this token produced, Robert Bell, was the 14th minister in a roster dating back to 1563. This was an old church indeed.
     Well, I was hooked on all this history. This is how I started.