Thursday, August 29, 2013

B is for Burzinski: Communion Tokens of the World

CT collectors owe Lester Burzinski a debt of gratitude. His massive tome has become the standard reference guide for the series. And like many exonumia books, it was a labor of love.
     It is easy to find fault; hard to appreciate labor. No matter what your predilection, there is no doubt that cataloging 7730 CTs and photographing half of them represents no small task. There are errors. And diligent researchers
will eventually fix them.
     First impressions of the book are always the same: "Wow, look at all the photos!" Some sage (perhaps George Eastman) once quipped, a photo is worth a thousand words -- and so, there you have it. Burzinski eclipsed Creswell's competent listing with images, plus nearly 1200 more entries. He also provided info about each token (when available): for example, ministers are names and cross-references to other guidebooks are provided.
     As mentioned before, Brook's monograph and those by Kerr & Lockie provide similar coverage of the older CTs, so we will want to keep them on our shelves.
     Lester ("Les") Burzinski is fondly remembered by those who knew him. He was an expert on error coins and served as the treasurer of CONECA (the Combined Organizations of Error Collectors of America). He served with board members Alan Herbert and John Wexler. He often set up a table at mid-western coin shows with Len Roosmalen. His token interests ranged widely, as he helped others with their research on merchant tokens. Rich Hartzog remembered his humor, as he was known to spin tales to see just how far he could lead you.
Photos are at the back of the book.
Only one side is shown for some
of the tokens, but that is enough
to identify them in most cases.
     Alan Judd commented that Les told him that he started buying CTs when he was cataloging them for Kurt Krueger's auctions; apparently, no one bought them, so Les did! But the biggest boon to his collection occurred when Rich Hartzog sold him a "massive" collection of CTs from an old customer of his. At some point, Les accepted the challenge of putting together his catalog. Bob Merchant and others helped him along the way at first, but Les pushed the project forward on his own, as he was nearly 80 and running out of time.
     Just about all the folks I talked to commented that the book was somewhat "rushed" as it neared completion, but I think we can all appreciate how massive his undertaking was. Les arrived at the 1999 Token Congress in Carlisle (UK) with the first copy of his book under his arm. He was 80 years old and had just self-published a first edition. Bravo!
     And so we use his numbers to describe our tokens. The book is a testament to his perseverance. It is a thick, 580-page, hardback, trimmed in burgundy grain, with full 8.5x11 spread. Over 3700 photos are neatly arranged on 132 pages. Unfortunately, only 250 copies were printed (he funded the whole enterprise); and they did not sell all at once. But try and find one now!
     I had to borrow a copy from the ANA library -- over and over again, until I finally got a copy (literally, a copy) from one that had been passed from dealer to dealer in Scotland.
     We will explore Burzinski's guide in a coming post.


  1. 'Scottish Communion Tokens other than those of the Established Church' by the Rev Robert Dick deserves mention. It is one of the earlier works which form the basis of the catalogues compiled by Cresswell & Burzinski.

  2. I agree. I think Lester Burzinski's goal was to put together all of this literature, so it would be in one place. I have copies (reprints) of Brooks, Burns, Kerr & Lockie, Orr, Shiells, Whitelaw for the Scottish series -- I still have to borrow Creswell from a friend. I have not had the opportunity to actually get ahold of Dick's work although I see it referenced frequently. Surprisingly, the ANA does not have it, but I imagine that ANS does. I hope to profile some of these other books eventually, particularly Burns and Whitelaw, plus some of the history books like Schmidt's Holy Fairs.