Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Molded or Struck: Take your Pick!

Some CTs come in two varieties (or more). Last week's post got me thinking: Do some CTs of the same (or very similar) design come in both molded or struck varieties? Here is one that will look familiar to some of you.
Struck CT on left is sharper.
The spacing and ornamentation are different.
     In August, I briefly profiled a CT from Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, that sold on ebay for $225 in a BIN offering. It was a struck oval (B339) from the Second United Presbyterian Church that was undated but likely to have been used after 1858 since this was the date that the church adopted this name. At the time, I pictured a molded variety of the token (B340). Well, I have more pictures, so let's compare them.
     The differences are immediately obvious. At first glance, you may find yourself squinting and rubbing your eyes, as the molded one appears blurry. Worn dies? Perhaps. But the fact is: molding produces a softer design. The lettering is more rounded at the edges, and the details are not nearly as sharp. Of course, the dies are different too (we will get to that shortly). But for now, notice how the relief of the letters are less consistent and the dotted border is less clear.
     Note the thickness of the molded piece; it is meaty with more fat -- not lean and cut like the struck token. And the seam formed where the obverse and reverse dies meet is prominent. All this is not to regard the molded CT negatively -- it is what it is. There is a story here that deserves exploration.
     We also can see that the dies are cut differently too. The struck piece is not only sharper, but it has different decorative elements. The lettering is spaced differently. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect is the detail of the communion cup -- the struck piece depicts an ornamented cup that sits atop a loaf of bread. The molded cup is smooth with a plain stem and thick base (it is also a bit distorted at the top on this particular specimen). The molded cup sits on a flat plane.
     I wonder if these tokens were made for the same service? They are both undated, so it could be that these tokens were used over and over again. A new batch might have been produced to augment a dwindling supply, or they could have been ordered for a new communion event. Alternatively, the elders might have been dissatisfied with the first batch, so a second batch was made. I think the first two scenarios are more likely.
This guidebook is useful if you seek
CTs from PA. It is available from
booksellers like Rich Hartzog. 
     Since the congregation met for about 50 years, it is reasonable to assume that more than two communion events were held. Plus, no other CTs are known from this congregation. Many churches adhered to a standardized design (or even used stock tokens) during the late period of CT usage (i.e., after 1850). For collectors, this re-use hypothesis behooves them to get one of each.
     You might be surprised to know that the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society published a short book in 2004 written by Charles Culleiton entitled, Communion Tokens of Allegheny County. This 102-page book lists all the communion tokens from the region and provides church histories for each congregation that issued CTs (24 listed in all).
     Allegheny county is located in the region south of Pittsburgh. It was settled in the mid to late 1700s by successive waves of Scottish and Scotch-Irish settlers who were at the forefront of the westward movement.

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