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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.