Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Communion Token from the Scottish Missionary Society in Jamaica

An interesting token from the Scottish Missionary Society made an appearance on ebay two weeks ago -- it is something we do not see very often, so let's take a look.
     Missionary work has been a prominent part of the Presbyterian Church since the beginning. This was made clear in the Scottish Confession of Faith that was presented to Parliament in 1560:

 This glaid tydingis of the kyngdome sall be precheit 
through the haill warld for a witness unto all natiouns.

     The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge was created in Edinburgh in 1709 with the goal of spreading the gospel to the North American Indians. The was just the beginning of a larger missionary movement in Scotland. In 1796, the Scottish Missionary Society was formed, and despite some difficulties getting organized, the Society began to establish missions across the globe in areas where the English Crown had colonies: South Africa, India and Jamaica were among the first. Missionary work spread to China, Russia and Sierra Leone with mixed results. But the missionary zeal was undaunted.
     The Mission in Jamaica was begun around 1800. There were many sugar plantations there with a large working populace, all of whom were emancipated in 1838. The first synod was held in the 1840s and many congregational churches were formed.
     Burzinski listed 17 tokens from Jamaica -- nine of them are from Kingston. Three more are from the Scottish Missionary Society. This leaves five tokens, each from a different parish.
Here is the example from the Simmons Gallery auction of
the Bob Merchant collection. It is a rare one by any standard.
     The token offered for sale on ebay was cataloged as B6333. It is a somewhat rotund oval, cast in pewter with a simple, bold design. On the obverse, the initials S.M.S represents the Scottish Missionary Society; the reverse carries the familiar Bible verse: THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME. This particular specimen had a few small scratches on the obverse. The dealer reported a rarities rating of less then 5 known. Who is to say otherwise?
     This piece was listed with a starting bid of $395. This is serious CT money. Only devoted collectors need apply. Interestingly, the Simmons Gallery auction that ended a few days ago included a specimen (plus an example of another variety). The two pieces sold for high prices. Each one sold for $176. So, compared to the ebay offering, they were a good deal (essentially, two for the price of one). But the auction is over now. As such, the ebay piece is the only one left sitting on the block.
     So how much is a CT like this really worth? If all the collectors who wanted one participated in the auction, then we could easily say: it is worth $176. But if you missed it, and you really want one, then what are you going to do? How long can you wait? What if one does not come up for sale again in the next decade? These are the questions all serious collectors face.

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