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.

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