Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Communion Tokens from a Church Hoard

The tokens come in an attractive
brochure with a picture of the church.
Once again, I have discovered a church hoard of CTs.
     The hoard of tokens is from Cruden Church in Aberdeen and includes four different CTs. Yes, I know some of you have heard about them, but think about this: Here is a chance to collect a few tokens directly from the church itself!
     This is what the Reverend Thomas Burns and others did in the late nineteenth century before the CTs were all gone! Put another way, it is like buying merchant tokens from a stash located in a rusty safe hidden in the back of an old storehouse.
     This is exactly what happened here. As the story goes: When the current minister, Reverent Rodger Neilson, came to Cruden 40 years ago, he found the tokens in a large safe in the vestry. When, the tokens were examined, it was discovered that there was a mix of old and new pieces -- four types in all. The old church, known simply as Cruden Old, was represented by three tokens dated 1737, 1800 & 1842 -- all from the Established Church of Scotland. A fourth token, dated 1844, was from the United Free Church of Scotland located at the West Church in Hatten. Cruden Old was closed in December 2007 as upkeep was becoming too difficult.
     All told, there are two dated rectangles, a round piece and a cut rectangle. This snapshot of a church history is significant, as it reveals the progression of shapes that were used. When combined with what we know about the evolution of shapes across Scotland, it reminds us of the individual choices made that characterize a single parish. Still, we find a predictable pattern at Cruden: the primitive rectangles came first; an always popular round piece followed, whereas the most modern of types came last: the mighty cut rectangle.
     The four Cruden pieces, as sold, come in a nifty folder with four windows, each labeled with the date. It is an attractive set that sells for about $36 (plus about $9 shipping to USA). The money is being raised by the church to replaced some of the windows in the sanctuary. The payment is actually considered a donation. Here is the link: Cruden Church Site.
     Like the pieces from the Balquidder Parish Church profiled a few months ago, this is a great opportunity for the collector who wants to rub up to history, getting as close as possible. These old pieces come directly from an old token bag (as they say) -- it is the next best thing to discovering them yourself. In this regard, we are reminded by Rev. Burns: "A token preserves a link which joins the present to the past, and while revealing in many ways the spirit of bygone ages, it may oftentimes be said to mark the fortunes of the Church in different districts in Scotland" (from Old Scottish Communion Plate, 1892).

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