Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Primitive CTs: Simple & Pure

Primitive is in. It has an allure all its own.
     Many CTs are primitive. Some are very old; others come from rural parishes where the elders had to make do. Primitive typically means handcrafted with makeshift tools. As such, they were made, one at a time, with an awkward pair of hands. As collectors, we like this.
     Primitive CTs are as charming as they are mystifying. Unadorned, simple CTs are all about meeting a need: they were expedient. A token was needed, and so they were made with whatever tools were handy. Personally, I think CTs made this way have a purity all their own. And remember, the parishioners valued them for what they signified, not by what they looked like.
     So how do we define primitive? A good start is to consider the small molded bits of lead with one or two letters stamped upon them. Many parishes used a simple one or two letter design in the old days, so we have many to choose from. Looking at Burzinski, we can find CTs like this starting with every letter of the alphabet -- all of them incuse of course -- except for Q, X & Z. Laid on a table, they would resemble a Scrabble set. 
     Most often, the letters represent the name of the parish. The first letter would suffice, but sometimes the first two letters or the first and last letters of the parish were used. But many early pieces have only the minister's initials on them. In the latter case, the minister was able to take his CTs with him when he was called elsewhere.
The CT from Bolton is primitive, but
it does have two letters for the parish
and a K on the reverse for the Kirk.
It is a small rectangle at 14x11mm,
and each one of them is different.
     Consider the token from Bolton in East Lothian (BK123). We would be hard-pressed to find another token that is more primitive. Well, maybe a blank one. And of course, do not forget the Canadian and American series, there are many primitive tokens therein. But I digress, so back to Bolton.
     This rude little rectangle has obviously been shaped by inexpert hands. Bits like this make me wonder if several of the elders made it. Just imagine: pious men cutting molds and shaping the punches for the letters. It was serious business. Each token has to be accounted for.
     Did they use some implement lying at the bottom of a wheelwright's chest to make the letters? It looks as if a single circle punch was used, as the center circles (the doughnut holes, if you will) are all of similar size. But then, how did they make the upright of the B? There are many questions to ponder.
     Fortunately in this case, we may have an answer. Or part of an answer. The specimen pictured came from an old collection in Scotland. The note accompanying this piece states that it was acquired from the Haddington Presbytery collection, and that it was "made by ministers."
     Bolton has always been a small village, but it had a church dating back to 1240. A new church was built in 1809. It was an imposing Gothic structure designed to sit about 300 parishioners. And so we wonder: when was this primitive token used? It most likely was used in the old church, as the token is considered to be an eighteenth century piece. After all, it is included in Brook. If it is from the late 1700s, how many were made? Less than 300?
     I think less. And fewer than that survived. And here I am -- an ocean away -- holding one in my palm and contemplating it. How cool is that?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from July 21 through July 27. This week, no CTs sold for over $75, so we do not have any HD or  D tokens to report. But we do have one CT that came very close.
     It was a slow week overall. Some of the regular sellers from Scotland did not post listing, so sales have been down to a trickle. Only 15 CTs were sold on ebay this week. All but two sold for less than $20. As mentioned last week, several stock Canadian tokens were traded at very low prices -- I think these are very good deals.
     One CT sold at a BIN price of $73. This one was sold by coin-cabinet on July 21 (just yesterday). I have purchased from this dealer before and found the dealing to be quick and easy; the price was very good -- I got the Guelph oval with the dove in the center about a month ago (CW-260).
This image is from The Charlton
Standard Catalogue of Canadian
Communion Tokens, 2000.
     The CT that sold this week was from Saint Paul's Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick (listed as NB-212A in the Charlton Catalogue). This undated cut-rectangle was described as XF and sold below the book value of $90, so it appears to be well-bought. The piece was issued with a Bible verse on the reverse. This is the more scarce of two issues; the other one has a blank reverse. One curious detail of this sale is that the CT was not pictured!
     One other Canadian CT sold for $48 from the same seller. This piece was from Saint Andrews Church in Kingston, Ontario (CW-276B). This one is an oval, dated 1823. It was pictured and described as being in XF condition -- it sold at just below the book valuation.
     These sales show how close the book values provided by the Charlton guide are to the actual buy-and-sell figures. I have found the book values to be an accurate indicator of the marketplace more often than not. The recent sale of the stock tokens noted above represent a striking exception to this however. On the other end of the range, I suspect that rare pieces will be hotly contested and prices could soar above the book values, as the Canadian CT market is active and well-developed. Nonetheless, I recommend that you get the Charlton Catalogue; it is well-organized with pictures, history, and valuations.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The CT Covenant of Virginia

We have formed a covenant in the Valley of Virginia. Yes, it happened rather spontaneously over a toast.
     Our quest is to examine the last remnants of the Burzinski collection. His, once massive, collection has been largely dispersed, but a few boxes remain, and we are determined to work through them. We had been picking at the boxes like crows for the past few years, but now we are taking a long second look.
     But first, we have BBQ and ale in the American tradition. Then we wash our hands with a big bar of soap, spread out soft table mats, pull in the lamps and gather our loupes: we begin. There are three of us, so we take turns pulling CTs from the box and pass them around one by one, calling out the qualities of each piece. If you like it, you shout out, then you set is aside. Three small piles form and the box gets lighter.
Here we have a CT from Lochwinnock, dated 1796. It boasts
of elaborate scrolls that fold up in the center with a flair.
This is one of those narrow regional variations that probably
reflects the work of a single engraver. The square itself is broad
at 23mm and is similar to Glasgow-styled squares used nearby.
As you can see, this is Burzinski's plate specimen.
     Lester Burzinski had 1000s of tokens. But only a few boxes remain. At our first meeting we examined 371 tokens and purchased 62 of them. The second box had 306 tokens; we selected 57 CTs. Many of the tokens are the very ones pictured in his book.
     As we thumbed through the box, we were confronted with the reality that we were unable to determine which CTs were scarce or rare. You have to be in this business for years to discover that. Sure, we have a pretty good idea of what makes for a desirable CT: condition (and eye appeal), distinctiveness, age, known history -- but beyond that, you have to be immersed in a specific quest to truly appreciate the rarity of these pieces. We have some ideas. You have to lose a few auctions to high bidders (note the plural) to realize how much demand there is for a particular CT.
     Herein lies one of the joys and frustrations of CT collecting, we are still discovering what is out there and what is available versus what is rare. I had a Scottish dealer of over 20 years experience tell me that he often sees very rare (maybe just a few known) CTs sell for a few dollars because no one knows. We are reminded that prices reflect supply AND DEMAND. Also we must remember that desire shapes prices in a thin market -- for one reason or another, some bidders just want it at all costs! What is a thin market? The answer: few pieces and few collectors.
     My attitude is to embrace this set of circumstances: CT collectors are on the frontier. We are still making discoveries. The marketplace is relatively undeveloped (as compared to other exonumia series -- for example, civil war tokens). In fact, some CTs are have not even entered the marketplace at all. In this regard, we still have churches (like Balquidder) selling off their "bags" of tokens.
     And so here we are, the CT covenant of Virginia, blindly plucking tokens from one of the biggest collections. The exonumia dealer, Steve Hayden, who most graciously extended us this opportunity is offering these CTs on his website (check my links page). As you can see by the numbers above, we are leaving many CTs behind. This is not because they are not distinctive, old or historic -- and certainly, not because they are common -- but rather, we need to save a few dollars for the BBQ.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bothwell CT is a ticket to the Holy Fair.

Here is one more Glasgow square: it is one of my favorites -- a stylish one from Bothwell dated 1811.
     Bothwell is a village (once small) located nine miles from Glasgow to the southeast, along the north bank of the River Clyde. The parish church is a monument to late 14th-century architecture. The building was reconfigured in 1833, but as you can see, its majestic stance was preserved.
     During the killing times, Bothwell was the site of a brutal clash between the covenanters and the royal army in 1679. The English launched their assault at Bothwell Bridge; the covenanters were poorly organized and were routed. Many were rounded up and incarcerated. Hence, Bothwell is hallowed ground. This history was certainly not lost on the parishioners who traveled far to gather under trees like their forefathers did in covenanting times.
     By the early 1800s, large holy fairs (as they were called) were held all across Scotland. And so it was at Bothwell. Many tents were erected in the Bothwell churchyard. This CT was part of this passionate celebration of the almighty.
     We can only imagine what it must have been like at the fair. The gatherings often led to too much revelry. As one observer quipped: "The nearness of the tavern life to the devotional meeting soon brought about a mingling of the two which did not make for decorum."
This Bothwell square has a full design.
The letters & ornaments are meticulous.
A careful eye will see some re-cutting.
     Another wrote poetically:

     The morn was wet, the thunder loud,
     Yet without bread or care,
     From many quarters folk did crood
     To Bothwell holy fair.

     Some cam tae hear word laid down,
     Some drink wi' Meg or Askin;
     There's godly folk frae holytoon,
     And Colliers frae the faskin.

     The Bothwell CT is a bold square of 23mm with saw-tooth borders (like those of the Associate churches in Ayr). A second border of angled incisors enclose the now familiar pair of concentric circles. Each corner is adorned with four pellets (one neatly centered above three). The legend: Bothwell 1811 is as expected with the date placed at six. The minister's initials -- MG -- stand for Rev. Matthew Gardiner. He was 35 years old when, at the fair, he implored the masses to examine their lives. He had assumed his post at 26 and served until his death at age 90 -- he was subsequently honored with the title: Father of the Church.
Bothwell parish church.
From Iain Thompson on Wikimedia.
     Most Bothwell CTs are found with a table number punched on the blank reverse, attesting to the bigness of the event.
     This CT (Burz941) is frequently available in the marketplace. Many of them are in like-new condition, so they were only used once, if at all. Apparently a bag of them was discovered and the pieces dispersed into the collecting field. At auction, they bring strong bids in the $25 to $50 range. One sold about six months ago for $25 on ebay.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from July 14 to July 20. This week no CTs sold for over $75, so I do not have any HD or D tokens to report.
     Fifty CTs were sold this week, five of them in Buy it now (BIN) sales. All told, 48 CTs sold for less than $20 with two of the BIN sales bringing in $51 and $43. There were 31 lots offered by one seller on July 19: Tomv007. The low prices reflect the thin market for common and low to mid-grade CTs. In fact, 24 auctions went to single bidders. On the positive side, it shows how easy it is to start a collection with many CTs available for cheap.
     One seller has been offering a grouping of Canadian stock CTs for very low prices -- seven sold in the past two weeks with most trading below $10. These particular tokens were made by James Croil (ST200 in the Charlton guidebook). They seem to be selling for well below the listed value -- overall, they appear to be in VF condition.
Molva molva anyone?
The tail is quite distinctive on Ling.
     One other CT deserves mention in my opinion, as it is one of my favorites. On July 17, a nice oval dated 1809 from Northmaven in the Shetland Islands (Burz 5316) sold for the paltry sum of $17. Three bidders vied for it. Unfortunately, the CT was pictured with a crack (as made) on the upper left edge -- usually this is all it takes to knock down the price. Nonetheless, it is an interesting CT to be on the lookout for, as it shows a plump image of a fish. The fish is rendered in high relief and includes gills and fins. Certainly this is more ichthyologic detail than would be included if the fish was meant as a Christian symbol.
     It turns out that Northmaven (land north of the isthmus -- the Mavis Grand in this case) is known for its fishing. In the nineteenth century, the seasonal catch was the mainstay of the economy. Big fish such as Ling (a cod-like fish) as well as Herring were exported to points south. So the fish on the token is perhaps what the hearty islanders were thankful for -- it certainly was important enough to be placed prominently on the token. Hook one if you can!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Over 200 Angus CTs sold

In a series of six auctions (June 2 through July 7), a collection of Angus CTs were dispersed from one cabinet to many others all across the globe by ebay dealer tomv007.
     Burzinski listed 387 Angus CTs from 68 shires. The six auctions included at least 215 of these from 53 shires: over half completed by piece with over three-quarters of the shires represented.
     Most CTs were round or oval (33% and 32% respectively). Next came the cut rectangles at just shy of a quarter. Squares and straight rectangles completed the mix but for one odd-shaped piece that was rectangular with scalloped sides (from Dundee, dated 1821). This tally accurately reflects that Angus parishes liked their round CTs. Modernity expressed itself with a shift to ovals and cut rectangles.
This piece from Auchterhouse is one
of three rounds used by this parish.
The first was undated from before 1740;
the second was this one; and the third
was dated 1792. This one is interesting
with handcrafted figures and dentils. 
     Burzinski lists 142 round CTs for Angus -- this is 37%. Of course, most of the rounds are early ones, as they were replaced by ovals and cut rectangles later on (not squares or straight rectangles). Some parishes exclusively, or near exclusively, used rounds, such as Auchterhouse and Glamis (three early rounds each). This contrasts with some other shires that favored right angles (Ayr and Lanark come to mind -- not to forget Fife's preference for small rectangles). Angus wins the rounds!
     Most CTs sold for affordable prices, as 60% went for under $20 and another quarter sold below $50. Consequently, only 25 CTs brought more money. Six hot CTs went over $80 -- the top one being the unlisted Panbridge piece that sold for $138 on June 15.
     The other hot CTs were either in great condition and pretty (e.g., Kirriemuir round dated 1831) or from parishes that did not issue many CTs (e.g., Colliston, Aberlemno and Kinnettles -- these parishes with only 1, 2 and 3 CTs respectively). Another winner was the ever popular 1674 Brechin round that appeared to be in superb condition. By the way, the Kinnettles CT, a square dated 1763, was a beautiful specimen pictured with smooth ashen surfaces -- I wish I had bid more!
     All collectors know that the only true way to appreciate how rare and how contested a particular piece may be is to commit to collecting a series. Angus experts (which I am not) ruled the day during this series of auctions. But the rest of us can learn from the sidelines by watching what is wagered. And by not getting carried away.
     Keep in mind that auction figures are confounded by bidding wars and cross-over buyers who just want high-condition pieces, certain shapes, interesting Bible verses, cool designs and the like. Nonetheless, I encourage you to take note of these data, as it provides a snapshot of the Angus series. It is the closest you will get to a price guide. Finally, it is nice to know that many CTs could be had for few dollars.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Captain Orr & his guide to Brook

Captain M. B. Orr must have been an avid collector of CTs. He self-published several helpful guides that were tailored to collectors -- only an avid collector could think of, and accomplish, what he did.
     Orr recognized the need to improve Brook's catalog with updated parish names and indices that allowed quick identification of tokens by their inscriptions alone. As Orr, a retired USN officer, put it: "Having served in the Navy with the Seabees during World War II, our slogan was, 'You do the most difficult things now, the impossible take a bit longer.'" And so, in January of 1968, he published a 35-page index entitled, Brook's "Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland" (Simplified).
     This index listed all CTs found in Brook in alphabetical order according to the inscriptions on the tokens themselves. He also described the shape and size plus other descriptive details that were missing in Brook. Finally, he updated the parish names. For example, BK714 with the inscription CON/VETH on the obverse is listed as being from Laurencekirk (the updated name of the parish).
No wonder that his book is hard
to find -- only 100 copies printed!
     You will find that Orr's index is expedient. The CT from Kemnay described in my last post on this topic is easily found in Orr. Just look under M/FD and match the token with the size description. Orr gives the Brook # as 564B (just as I described previously).
     For the collector who enjoys statistical data, Orr does not disappoint. In his brief introduction, he provides some helpful tidbits. For example, of the 1436 descriptions included in Brook, he notes that only 230 CTs show the exact name in the inscription as shown in the alphabetical listing. All the others show either an alternative spelling, an abbreviation, the minister's initials or something entirely different. He also noted that 376 minister names or initials are listed on the CTs cataloged by Brook.
     As for CT shapes, Orr reminds us that the oval is the most modern of shapes. In this regard, he reports that only six CTs in Brook are oval with three of those more accurately described as irregular rounds -- hence, only three CTs in Brook appear to be oval by design. If you are like me: I love these factoids!
     In September of 1968, Orr published his sequel: Communion Tokens Simplified. Dick, Kerr, Lockie, & Lamb. In this work, he creates several indices to aid the collector in finding the CT listing using the exact inscription found on the token. By the way, these names (e.g., Dick) are for popular references that were used in the era before Burzinski.
Conveth is the old parish name.
This CT was issued by David Archer,
Minister (1710-1726).
     Finally, before closing, I want to mention that Orr had previously published a series of indices that listed tokens found in various reference books by minister. This latter work was entitled, Scottish Communion Tokens: Three keys revealing the secrets for attribution. This handy guide was published in May of 1967. For collectors who want to explore church history using a particular minister as a starting point, this guide is essential. I have put it on my list for a future post.
     Yes, Orr has come to our rescue. The old guides can be tedious. It is comforting to use Orr's work, as he too was smitten with CTs. And it shows.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from July 7 to July 13. There was much action 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.
     Overall 69 CTs were sold on ebay this week with 53 of them trading for under $20. But we had two HD tokens that garnered big money and one D token that came very close to the HD mark. The remaining CTs sold for strong prices in the middle range with a couple pushing past $50.
     Two key auctions accounted for most of the sales. The dispersal of Angus tokens by tomv007 started the week off with 34 offerings (28 of them from Angus). Two days later, cobwrightfortishe offered a grouping of 16 pieces.
     Both CTs at the top were from Dunfermline in Fife. They shared the same design but were of different shapes: one square (BK334) and one round (BK335). On the obverse, a six-point star is placed above and below the inscription: */DFN/* to denote the parish. The reverse shows two stars flanking two over-lapping hearts in the center. These are popular pieces as hearts have a way of making collector's hearts flutter.
Here is another BK334.
The hearts on the reverse are special.
     The square one attracted four bidders, but the gallery quickly narrowed to two on the final day. The bidding jumped precipitously from about $70 to over $300: the piece sold for $337 after nine bids. But there was no time for rest, as the round one was next in line. The reprise was just as exciting: five bidders submitted 13 bids to produce a hammer price of $286. This round one went to a different bidder (who was the underbidder for the square one). In sum, two collectors vied for bits of Dunfermline history, and each of them got one. I could hear bagpipes in the background. Here are the links; square one: and the round one: .
     A third CT in this auction also brought out the wallets: a slight oblong piece with cut corners from Dunkeld was sold at $93. Seven bidders submitted 10 bids; the winner of this one also took home the square one described above. Clearly there are some serious collectors out there. The Dunkeld CT was in excellent condition with the initials AR contained within a serrated border. The letters stand for Alexander Rollock, minister from 1639 to 1645 at this parish in Perth. As mentioned in previous posts, seventeenth century tokens (particularly nice ones) always bring strong prices.
     Three other tokens brought strong prices: a rectangle dated 1729 from Dunbog sold for $57, and a round dated 1748 from Dundee sold for $50. The third one is curious, as it reflects either clever marketing or I am missing some crucial information.
     This last CT was a 1745 square from Perth billed as part of the Jacobite Rising of 1745; more specifically, the piece was linked to Robert Lyon (a chaplain to Lord Ogilvy's regiment). The Jacobites were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie who claimed the English throne. After a series of military engagements, the rising was crushed in no more than an hour of fierce fighting on the high ground of Culloden Moor in mid-April of 1746. Lyon was hanged with many others soon afterwards. He is known for his oratory -- given in his final moments -- supporting the Jacobites. Is this CT part of this history in more than year alone? Brook & Burzinski make no such connections. Nonetheless, it sold for $69. Here is the link:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Guide to Collecting Communion Tokens

It finally arrived.
D is for deep-end.
     Yesterday, I got a big box of books. My introductory guidebook for CTs has finally arrived. If you have been wanting to read an overview of the CT series, then this is it.
     When I started exploring the collecting field a few years ago, I was surprised to find that no guidebooks were available. Sure, we have Brook and Burzinski -- these are monumental works, no question about it -- but we need a user-friendly manual for collecting CTs.
     Instead, the neophyte has to plunge into the deep-end and navigate through lists and more lists of parishes, provinces and ministers. In my case, I had never studied a map of Scotland before a few years ago! A firth, a brae, a strath? And all those shires? How about a fenced table? I would have thrown it right back: "Ever heard of a gated chair?"
     For the collector who wants to slide gradually into the shallow-end (where the steps and handrail are located) and move undaunted to where the water is deep, my guidebook is just what you have been looking for. I cannot resist this idiom no matter how trite:  Your ship has come in.
Here is the Table of Contents.
     Gee, I hope no one reading this is afraid of open water!
     I must add that this book is a labor of love -- well, just love. I enjoy collecting stuff, and for me, writing is part of this process. I have a kink in my brain that makes me collect. So I cannot help myself. Besides, CTs are fascinating, and collecting them is good medicine. And so, without further discussion, here is what you get.
     The book is available at and all major booksellers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can order a copy from any local bookstore (ISBN-13: 978-1-60047-878-9). The book is 144 pages long. As the back cover indicates, you will learn about: 1) how CTs were made and used, 2) the wide variety of CTs produced (including the evolution of shapes and all those very cool regionalisms), 3) the key reference books that have cataloged CTs, 4) the marketplace and how CTs are valued overall, and finally 5) strategies for storing & protecting your CTs (for example, they are poisonous to eat).
     It is a quick read that will give you a weekend plus a day of enjoyment. Therefore, I priced it like a good movie in the city: $14.95. My business model? For you to enjoy the book. And for me, try not to go under too deep, so that I can buy more CTs and write about them!
     Here is a link to

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Alexander Brook is essential reading

The Brook catalog of CTs was published in 1907. His monograph was entitled: Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. His work was originally published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: 1906-1907. 
     It is an old work, but it is nigh complete, nicely illustrated, and now widely available since his monograph is in the public domain. Go to Amazon or Ebay to get one: it will cost you less than $20 (about the cost of a nice oval or cut rectangle).
     As I have said before, the images are worth your dollars. You can see many tokens at a glance, allowing you to survey the collecting field and determine what you like. Brook listed 1436 tokens, and he showed 1161 of them (that is 80%). His illustrations are line drawings of the correct size, so that the CTs can be compared.
A page from Brook.
     His catalog includes CTs produced before 1800. So obviously, most of the collecting field is not included -- but hey, let us not complain, as many of us gravitate to the old pieces at some point. Besides, the old CTs are charming. Most of them were handcrafted and come from turbulent times. I like tokens with some drama attached to them. They can be found in Brook.
     Each listing is brief. It includes the name of the parish, and sometimes, the shire. Plus he keenly describes the appearance of each token. Brook provides the minister's name and tenure dates when his initials are included on the token.
     Most of his attributions have stood the test of time, as Kerr & Lockie provided only 52 corrections in a subsequent monograph published in 1941 (also in the Proceedings: 1940-1941). They attributed 11 out of 26 CTs that Brook illustrated but was unable to identify. Finally, Kerr & Lockie added 442 tokens to the catalog of pre-1800 pieces. They illustrated 300 of them, plus added 19 drawings of unattributed CTs. Of course, you will need to find the K&L reference to supplement your copy of Brook -- the ANA library has one that can be borrowed.
This small square from Kemnay has
the minister's initials placed on it.
Minister Francis Dauney served this
parish in from 1719 to 1745.
     Brook organized his catalog alphabetically by parish name. This can make finding a token difficult at times, as the token may only have the initials of the minister on its face. For example, a token with the inscription M/FD is attributed to Kemnay in Aberdeen. The initials stand for: Minister Francis Dauney. Hence, this CT is found with the listings starting with the letter K (for the parish name). Since this CT is not illustrated, you would have to read through 36 pages (with 18 to 20 listings per page) to find it. This task is sort of like looking up a word in the dictionary in order to spell it, and your spelling is whorewrendous (I mean horrendous). Fortunately, most early CTs had the first letter of the parish placed on the token, so you can look up the letter and find the listing most of the time -- but remember that K often stands for "Kirk" (not the starship commander, but the Established Church of Scotland).
     There is another curious aspect to the Brook catalog. It is this: Only the illustrations are numbered. So when you see Brook numbers, they refer to illustrated tokens only. However, in the catalog listings you will find CTs that are placed (alphabetically as described above) before and after the illustrated ones. What some folks have done is add an A, B, C and so on to designate these invisible CTs. Using our example above, the CT from Kemnay is placed two listings after an illustrated CT from Kemback, whose illustration is numbered 564. So, the Kemnay piece is sometimes referred to Brook 564B (or BK564B). Strange? You bet! Hey, you gotta love these old references for what they are!
     This is where Captain M. B. Orr comes to our rescue. Who is he? For those who do not know, I'll tell you all about him in a future post. For now, get Brook. Then go to the library for K&L.

Monday, July 8, 2013

More Glasgow Squares: From the Royal Burgh to the Countryside

It has been quite an adventure tracking the trail of Glasgow-styled squares as they spread across the countryside.
     In a previous post, we could see how the Glasgow issues of 1714, 1716 and 1725 set the template for many similar CTs to come -- consider also the similarity of these issues with mid-seventeenth century trade tokens (except that the trade tokens were round).
     The earliest renditions of the Glasgow square (GS) appeared in villages located just outside Glasgow. In 1735, Inchinnan in Renfrew (nine miles NW of the city) produced a small GS of 19mm. A few years later, in 1742, Cambuslang (only 6 miles south of the city, but still in Lanark) used a similar GS, also measuring 19mm.
An early GS from Cambuslang dated
1742. The initials in the middle are
for Minister William McCulloch.
     Within a year or two, four churches in Stirling -- Campsie, Killearn, Kippen & Strathblane -- issued small GSs measuring between 17 and 19mm. All of these churches were located in the middle of the shire, due north of Glasgow. Certainly, the dissemination of a design type cannot get more straight-forward than this. Were these early tokens the work of one engraver?
     The GSs were uniformly made. As mentioned before, two bold circles formed a band to produce the defining characteristic. Within the band, the parish name was placed at the top, and the date was placed at the bottom. The minister's initials were placed in the center. The Kippen token was struck at a 45-degree angle using a square blank to produce a diamond effect. But make no mistake, with right angles and equilateral sides, it was still square.
     More pieces appeared in the 1740s at New Kilpatrick (in Dunbarton) and Rutherglen (in Lanark). Both of these places were located along the edges of the royal burgh of Glasgow. The radius widened in the decade to come with Muirkirk, Bothwell, Barony, Cambusnethan, Cadder, Baldernock, Carluke, New Monkland and Shotts all producing GSs. The overall design remained the same with a few minor variations in ornamentation or placement of the date in the center.
As is typical for Aberdeen, this GS
is simple and bold on a thick flan,
and the square is broad at 23mm.
     Many pieces were made in Ayr to the east. In fact, most GSs come from Lanark and Ayr, followed by Renfrew, Stirling and Argyll. Rothsay on Bute Island used a GS in 1770, and Glasserton in Wigtown used one a year later. A primitive, somewhat incomplete, GS was produced at Newbigging in Angus -- is this one really a GS? You will have to decide this one. Finally, a few Aberdeen churches used GSs in the 1820s and 1830: Stewardfield in 1823, Saint Fergus in 1830 and Monymusk in 1832.
     Interestingly, many GS are not immediately known to collectors since catalogers like Brook and Burzinski do not have images of them. Without the image, it is difficult to discern from verbal descriptions if the CT is a GS. For example, the 1735 GS from Inchinnan is pictured in Kerr & Lockie but not in Brook. Some images can only be found in the marketplace: a Greenock GS dated 1792 can be found in a recent ebay auction. Auction catalogs are invaluable in this regard. For example, GSs for Greenock can be found for 1798, 1802 and 1809 (the latter with cut corners) in the W. J. Noble Collection catalog of CTs that sold in Australia in July 2000.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekly Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions from June 30 to July 6. This week no CTs sold for over $75, so I do not have any HD or D tokens to report.
     Overall, 42 CTs were sold, most of them from the ongoing Angus CT auctions from tomv007. He sold 39 pieces on June 30. As such, it was a quiet week since July began. All told, 30 CTs sold for less than $20 with another 10 selling in the mid-range between $20 and $49. Two CTs edged past the $50 mark.
     Both CTs at the top came from the Angus auction: a cut rectangle from Chalmers' Church in Dundee in excellent condition attracted three bidders to produce a winning bid of $61; and a tidy round from Barry, dated 1822, garnered three bids to bring in $51. This was the 5th session of the Angus-only series of auctions by tomv007. He has sold 187 Angus CTs thus far. Another group will be placed on the block later today. This has been a great opportunity to see images of some tokens not pictured in Burzinski and Brook. Also, it provides a nice glimpse of the marketplace: I will provide an analysis of the whole series in a future post, as it appears to be drawing down -- not all of the CTs offered today are from Angus.
     Of particular interest is the offering of primitive, and very old, CTs that are not pictured in most catalogs. A chalky white roundish CT from Arbroath (Burz 3502) with a K plus an array of dots went cheap at $7 -- the picture is worth the time to copy and place in your records. Also, an early Guthrie piece (there are several) with an incuse G lightly punched on a hand-cut roundish CT brought $22 (Burz 2672). This latter one is pictured in Brook, but each one is unique. On this one, I counted 10 cuts made to shape the edges -- this certainly reflects the old way of doing things: I wonder if the elders produced these.
     Here is the link to the Guthrie piece:
     Here is the link to the Arbroath piece:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Common Tokens can be Great: Glasgow Squares

CTs do not have to be expensive to have great stories. Here is one that is part of a fascinating series that will keep you searching.
     Let me introduce you to a CT from Glasgow -- one of my favorites -- that is frequently available in the marketplace for about $20 to $50. This token is a single-sided square with a pair of concentric circles in the center, forming a band, with the legend: GLASGOW 1819. It is a beautiful piece, as it depicts the city crest in full detail with a full complement of ornaments.
This is one of the most ornate CTs available.
It is the last of five tokens in the series and is the best made.
     The crest is dominated by an oak tree standing tall and full in the center. It is known as the tree that never grew, but this is where it gets interesting: the tree started out as a frozen hazel branch! It all started quite long ago. In the 6th century, the patron Saint of Glasgow, St. Mungo (or St. Kentigern), was tasked with keeping the holy fire burning in the monastery where he trained. He was just a boy at the time. When he fell asleep, his mischievous peers extinguished the fire. Upon awakening, Mungo went into action: he broke off a hazel branch and prayed over it, causing the frozen stick to burst into flames.
     The crest has more than just the tree. If you examine the CT closely, you will see a fish at the base of the tree, a bell hanging from one of its branches, and a bird atop the crown. These elements are known as the fish that never swam, the bell that never rang, and the bird that never flew. Each has its own legend. These curious elements of the Glasgow crest can be traced separately back to the 13th and 14th centuries, but they all came together in the late 1480s. I urge you to explore this -- it will make you want the token!
     This token is part of a series of CTs used in Glasgow, all with the same design and crest. They were produced in 1714, 1716, 1725, 1776 and 1819. It is difficult to tell which church used these particular CTs, as there were several parishes located within the royal burgh. It is likely, but not confirmed, that these CTs were used at the same parish.
     In addition to being part of a short series, this CT represents a specific style of token design. The hallmark of this style includes two concentric circles, centered, that forms a band within which a legend is placed. This style became popular across the western midlands in the latter half of the 1700s. In fact, the use of this design peaked in the 1770s and remained popular until a sharp decline after 1832. Sixty percent of them come from Lanark and Ayr in that order. Another 25% of them come from Argyll, Stirling and Renfren. One or two reached east to Angus, Kirkcudbright and Aberdeen. With such a tight geographic distribution, it is not surprising that the style is referred to as the Glasgow square.
     Later on, we will track these squares: from Glasgow, to Inchinnan, to Cambuslang, and so on. But for now, go ahead and get one of these Glasgow pieces: The 1819 is widely available.

     In case you were wondering: Five of them sold in the past 90 days on ebay with prices ranging from  a high of $56 to a very low of $8. One other sold for $16 with the other two trading at $36 and $39.