Saturday, November 30, 2013

Six Months and Counting

This blog is six months old. Hurray for that!
     It is a bitter day at the end of a Thanksgiving weekend -- a nice time to be out in the country, curled next to a fire, thinking about tokens, collecting, and the meaning of it all. When this blog started on the 8th of June, it was warm and inviting outside -- an odd time to start a blog. Today is bone-chilling: more of a thinking and writing day.
     I was not sure where the blog would lead at first. I had just finished writing a guidebook -- for myself actually, and then getting some more printed to share. I had been immersed in CT land for most of the previous winter and spring.
     Writing (and collecting) is akin to jumping into a whirlwind of sorts: the funnel sucks you down, as you learn more and more minutia. Once you are in the zone, the world seems to revolve around these bits of lead. Perhaps this is where evolution ends. Trivial discoveries seem significant somehow. Did you know that 21% of all CTs from Berwick are round? Yes, of course you did.
     You can get swallowed up for evenings at a time. Others raise their eyebrows incredulously, feigning grimaces for each others' amusement, all the while wondering what is so intoxicating about these little tokens. That you pay good money for them only adds to their dismay.
     At least I am not glued to the TV or out shopping for more socks! Or eating another Big Mac!
     We will have none of that here. This blog is a sanctum -- deep within the funnel -- where we can nurture our obsession -- revel in it without self-reproach. Shout it out! I hope folks have enjoyed the ride thus far.
     If you have not purchased one of my guidebooks, now is a good time. I am posting a few on ebay for $10 and free shipping all during December. It is perfect holiday reading. It will inspire you to consider all the types of CTs out there while providing a pat on the back from a fellow collector. Also, what a great gift -- maybe those incredulous others will understand!? No, I doubt it -- but worth a try!
     Yes, of course you already know a lot of stuff about CTs. But did you know that Ayr squares from the Associate Church represent a unique and tightly regional design? And that most of them have scary, shark teeth? Or how about the scripted squares from Berwick? These, too, came and went quickly and represent a regional subtype. The book explores these tidbits. You will certainly think of some more, and so the idea of organizing CTs by shape, size, design and region can be inspiring!
     If you are from the UK or Canada, and you want a book, please leave a comment on the blog, and I can arrange to send you one for $8 plus postage -- this is the same deal as stateside. If there is interest, I can create an ebay offering for non-USA collectors.
     Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More from Baltimore: A New York Token. Rare, but how Desirable?

Last Sunday I asked: "Where are all the USA tokens?"
     While at the Baltimore Expo in early November I found some.
     In particular, I spied a rectangular piece with rounded corners from Newburgh, New York. I had a chance to buy it, but passed. My wife would be happy to know this, but I decided to not mention it -- why fan the flames of denunciation?
     But like many collectors who have been in this situation, I am still thinking about it, quietly.
     It is a simple piece with UPC/NB on the obverse. The reverse is blank. The letters were punched in separately, so they are uneven in a way that announces its improvised production -- of course, they are incuse. The letter punches are thin as seen in printing. No two tokens are identical, but all are cataloged as B7042 or Bason-96.
     It is rare? Yes.
     When did you last see one?
     The Presbyterians organized in Newburg, NY, in the 1770s. There is mention of a wooden church being erected in 1793. In 1817, the congregation had about 100 members. In 1855, about half this number withdrew to organize the Calvary Presbyterian Church -- a new brick church was built and dedicated in 1858.
     On the national stage, the Associate Reformed Church and the Associate Presbyterian Church joined together to form the United Presbyterian Church (UPC). Consequently, the Newburgh token is likely to date sometime after this merger. But which church? Calvary?
     Both Bason and Burzinski list a similar token from New York City (attributed to a church on West 44th Street). This other one is also rectangular with rounded corners. It is simply punched too (but with periods added): U.P.C. Is this relevant? Your guess is as good as mine.
     In any case, both are rare. But they are an acquired taste -- not pretty, just a once-functional bit of Presbyterian history. There are not many collectors of USA CTs out there to start with. In fact, one dealer once quipped that there are so few USA CTs available in the marketplace that it is hard to keep the motivation high enough to seriously collect them. But I am sure, this CT is on someone's want-list.
     I wonder how many collectors of USA CTs are out there?
     One aspect of the marketplace that I have noticed is that there are clearly defined subgroups of CT collectors with few cross-overs.
     Those collecting the Scottish series are legion, as there are more than enough tokens to go around. Consequently, prices are reasonable. And, motivation to get a few more is high. On ebay, you can see these collectors bidding over and over again. The usual suspects show up for each auction.
     In contrast, other CT series are collected by distinctly different groups. And the pricing structure is different too -- that is, they cost much more.
     In fact, if we look at ebay prices for the past three months, the top three tokens reflect three different collecting groups. The highest priced tokens have come from Jamaica (sold for $338 on November 17), New Zealand (sold for $250 on September 1), and Ireland (sold for $197 on November 9). There was almost no overlap between bidders on these pieces, or between these bidders and those who have bid on the top Scottish pieces. I counted only one cross-over bidder among the competitors.
     Is there a separate group of folks waiting for a USA CT to come up for auction? The last USA piece that sold on ebay was an Allegeny, PA, token that sold at a BIN price of $225 on August 8. In contrast, a New York oval, dated 1799, did not sell in January at a start price of $995. Several bidders vied for the New York pieces offered by StacksBowers in mid-August -- but of course, these were exquisite pieces from a great collection. Four pieces sold for prices between $190 and $425 a piece.
     How much interest would the Newburgh, NY, piece bring?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch examines ebay auctions from November 17 through November 23. It is freezing outside, but the CT market is hot with 88 sales this week and nearly 300 listings on ebay at this moment.
     Most of the CTs sold were part of a large auction that was held yesterday by benachie. This seller offered 67 pieces, most of them selling for low to low mid-range prices with one piece crossing the $50 mark. These pieces are from a Scottish collection of about 700 pieces -- this was the second offering, so there are many more on the way! I noticed some nice buys in this group.
     All told, sixty-one CTs sold for under $20 or in the C range. Eighteen more sold in the BB range, and five pieces were bid into the B range of over $50 (but under $75). There were three CTs in the A range and one more in the AA range (that is, sold for over $100). Two of the pieces in the A range were sold in a single lot for $197, so they were nudging up against the $100 mark.
     Please remember that I am using a new rating system (AA, A, BB, B, C) to group CT sales according to hammer prices. The cut-offs are still arbitrary at this point -- someday I will provide a more statistical examination of the CT market price structure.
     The top CT this week was a piece that I have talked about before: a Jamaica West Indies oval from the Scottish Missionary Society (B6334) that brought $338 in a hotly contested auction that opened with a rock-bottom start-bid. The CT was offered by stevehayden -- it was likely part of a collection of Central American tokens that he is currently selling. It might be part of the Rulau collection, but this attribution was not stated. The purchaser should ask about this. In any case, ten bidders entered 19 bids.
     Interestingly, nearly all the bidders appeared to be token collectors who were focused on the region versus CT-specific collectors -- I noticed only one cross-over bidder who often vies for Scottish CTs among the top five bidders. This suggests that most of those who collect the Scottish series or the Canadian series were not involved in this auction. Certainly CTs appeal to folks for different reasons. Here is the link: Jamaica SMS CT.
     Of note, there is another Jamaican SMS CT offered for nearly $600 on ebay at present. In contrast, the two SMS pieces (representing two varieties: Lots 1150 & 1151) in the Simmons auction last month brought about $180 each. So, how bad do you want one?
Here is another example of
a New London CT from PEI.
     The pair of A tokens that sold for about $98 apiece were Irish CTs. They were cut-rectangles from Monreagh P.C. in Donegal (B4945). Ten bids were entered by 7 bidders with the price doubling in the final seconds. A similar piece sold in the Simmons auction (Lot 1124) for $128 -- you get a deal if you buy two for one money! Here is the link: Two Irish CTs from Monreagh in Donegal.
     The remaining A token was a Glasgow-styled CT, dated 1832, from New London on Prince Edward Island in Canada (B5282 or PE216). It sold for $86 after two bidders battled for two hours, entering 19 bids as the auction closed. In all, 28 bids were entered by 7 bidders. It was a nice piece with light golden toning on silver surfaces. The price was spot-on as compared to the Charlton estimate of $90.
     Another Canadian piece was bid to $72 -- just shy of the A CT category. This one was an irregular round piece from Harvey Settlement in New Brunswick (B3231 or NB216). This primitive bit attracted 9 bidders who entered 20 bids. I have never seen this one offered before, so I suppose it was boon time for the Canadian collectors. Here is the link: Harvey Settlement CT from New Brunswick. The Charlton estimate was between $45 and $60. Get it when you can!
     Well, there you have it. An active week with non-Scottish pieces leading the way: Jamaican, Irish and Canadian pieces bringing out the wallets. Looking back at the last three months, the top 10 sales have been dominated by these pieces (plus the New Zealand CT profiled a while back) with only four Scottish CTs (one of them a rock!) in the mix. Where are the USA CTs?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Early Ovals

In my last post, I made an error.
One of the earliest ovals?
     I looked at the date on one of my communion tokens, and without pondering it further, or looking at my reference books (like Burzinski), I assumed that the date indicated the age of the token! Sounds reasonable, but as most seasoned CT collectors know, some dates reflect the founding of the church, or the election of a church official, or a significant change in the organization of the church.
     I should have known, as the token was well made and still had the sheen of newness that we find in mass produced pieces. It was an oval from Musselburgh in Lothians (B5106). On the reverse, the date was prominently centered: 1783. Burzinski made a notation that this was the date that the Millhill U.P. Church was erected. It is not clear when this CT was used, but given the thick letters and expert production, it appears to be a second-quarter nineteenth century piece.
     My thanks (again) to sunnyleith who reminded me of all this.
     This is my opportunity to invite you to provide comments as well. Remember that this blog is an exploration. Like most of you, I am a collector who is reading and discovering new things everyday. So please add a comment: Let me know what you are thinking!
     So, let us get to our topic. What are some of the earliest ovals out there? I took the afternoon to provide a few findings in this regard.
     Brook lists 12 ovals and pictures nine of them. Kerr & Lockie add two more and picture them both in their 1940-41 monograph aimed at updating Brook's listings. This adds up to 14 ovals cataloged before 1800 -- quite a small number.
     The earliest one that I found was BK257 (B1730) from Cumbernauld in Dunbarton. This one is an upright oval dated 1752 and measuring 27x24mm. Interestingly, this token also illustrates the very aspect that I mentioned above, as it provides an early date of 1650 to denote when the church was established. And, in this case, it says so -- hard to argue with that! Now that I have highlighted this CT, we all want one!
     A second early oval is a piece dated 1761 from Gargunnock in Stirling (BK454 or B2800). This one illustrates another aspect of early ovals that I mentioned in the previous post: it appears to be an out-of-round round with its slight dimensions of 25x24mm. Go ahead and say it three times, quickly: out-of-round round. For a similar piece (OORR) see BK986.
     Kerr & Lockie picture a primitive token that is distinctly oval at 24x19mm with no more than a T on the obverse from Torosay in Mull of the Inner Hebrides (KL288 or B6734). As I was looking this one up in Burzinski, I could not help but notice that another primitive oval (this one from England) was listed just below it -- it also was identified by a single incuse T (B6735-36 including a variety). And so it goes: the more we look; the more we find! 
     We are fortunate to have this fascinating hobby!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More Fall Colors: Early Cut Rectangles and Ovals

I am not sure when the first cut rectangle appeared.
Two early cut rectangles.
Is there an earlier one?
     It was probably shaped to ease handling -- not to be pretty or to set a standard. Consider this: the rectangle is easier to hold by the fingertips than a small square or round. It is also easier to pass a rectangle to another person. Try it!
     The elongated shape also provided more space for data. I am sure that die/mold cutters liked the broad expanse offered by the rectangular shape: no more crunched letters or fussy monograms!
     But cutting the corners was the true innovation. Right angles are sharp. This is particularly true when the token is cut or punched from hammered stock.
     Yes, it is more decorative, but this feature was probably secondary to providing "soft" corners for the fingers.
     One of the first cut corner rectangles I can think of is the 1745
piece from Kinnell. It was profiled in a Market Watch a while back, and another one sold last week. It shows thin letters that appear to be scratched into the die by inexpert hands. But of interest here, are the corners -- they are cut ever so slightly to provide a comfortable piece.
     Is this the first cut corner rectangle?
     Curiously, both Brook and Burzinski missed this feature! It is quite surprising for Burzinski to ignore the corners, as he was certainly exacting regarding the square vs. rectangle discrimination.
     Another early rectangle that is clearly cut to provide comfort is the 1778 piece from Balquidder. This one, too, is made from hammered stock, so it needs to have the corners modified to reduce sharp points. The cutting is obvious on this one.
     Now, let us examine the ovals. Of course, the oval shape did not have any "sharp edge" problems. The edges are hand-friendly all the way around -- just like rounds ones. But unlike the round pieces, the oval has the advantage of being easy to hold and pass to another person -- after all, CTs are tickets of a sort.
     Like the cut rectangle, the oval has a broad face whereon much data can be placed. It is no surprise that the oval rivaled the cut rectangle at the start of the nineteenth century.
     [Some errors here have been corrected by sunnyleith -- I removed them to avoid confusion, but see his helpful comments, and my next post]. *If you see an error or have a question: Please Comment!
     So, I wonder: When was the first oval made? I am sure that there is an old molded one out there somewhere in the early era. It was an outlier piece -- an out-of-round round one perhaps.
     As we saw from the graph yesterday, cut rectangles and ovals arrived on the scene late but came to dominate the Scottish CT series. The oval was the most popular piece at the start of the nineteenth century, but the cut rectangle finished stronger. Stay tuned for a bar graph that puts this progression in sharper focus.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Squares, Rectangles & Rounds in Fall Colors: The Key!

A while back I presented a colorful graph. I suspect most folks figured some of it out. As you know from earlier posts, I like to use shapes as a starting point for classifying CTs from Scotland. When the shapes are tallied across time, interesting trends (and regional variations) come to light.
     So here is the key to the puzzle. The first two colors are squares, rectangles & rounds. The squares and rectangles were grouped together and given a deep brick red. But the rounds stand alone and are of lighter color. These were among the earliest pieces.
Some early squarish ones, or should
we call some of them rectangular?
     Yes, hearts appeared early too, but they did not last long and would only produce a sliver on this graph. Odd shaped CTs with unequal sides also arrived early on, but these were anomalies and barely merit a space on this graph. If I put them in with green hues then we might see them.
     The squares and rectangles were grouped together since they are closely related. In fact, some tokens are squarish due to one uneven or scalloped side, or else they are barely rectangular with a difference of one millimeter. Burzinski liked to sharply differentiate the shapes as one or the other, whereas Brook used the term "squarish" here and there.
     Some pieces had square designs on slightly rectangular flans. Certainly, some pieces were clearly elongated with relaxed spacing of letters and numbers or with three lines of data -- true rectangles! In any case, you can see the big area taken up by these two right-angled CT forms.
Roundish and Round.
     The rounds became less popular over time and never rivaled the right-angled pieces. However, they remained in use until the end when they were about as popular.
     Can you figure out the other colors? If not hearts or octagons, then what? Hint: just look at the key.
     Of course I am referring to the modern shapes. For starters, we have to give the cut rectangle its own category, as these became the most popular type. And so here they are, showing a "slim" beginning. Despite the puny start, they began to assert themselves at the start of the nineteenth century. Cut rectangles became dominant at the end.
     So what is left? The oval of course! And, as you can see, the oval had its day! It dominated briefly, coming on strong in the late eighteenth century. It was quite popular at the turn of the century. The oval was eventually eclipsed, but remained popular.
     In the end, the big pieces took over: rotund ovals and broad cut rectangles. All the data could be squeezed on the obverse, leaving the reverse for a Bible verse.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews ebay auctions from November 10 through November 16. It was a busy week with 122 CTs sold. Just yesterday, 93 CTs were sold, so most of the action was on Saturday. Prices spanned the whole range, so everyone had a chance to get something. Here is one of the pleasures of CT collecting: You can add one or two pieces each week for reasonable dollars!
     I decided to change the rating system this week. HD and D descriptors will no longer be applied, as many fine CTs are desirable even at lower prices. Instead, I will use a more intuitive model. Here we go: AA tokens are those that sell at or over the $100 mark, whereas A tokens are those that sell for less but cross the $75 mark.  BB tokens are those that sell in the upper middle range of $50 to $74, and B tokens include the lower mid-range of $21 to $50. Finally, we get to C tokens -- those in the less than $20 range. Note that these are the same ranges used previously. If you need adjectives, we can say, "awesome, better, and cheap" -- but remember, we are only referring to selling prices, not quality or importance of the pieces. That, we leave to the collector.
     As is usual, most of the CTs sold this week were C pieces: 84 of them. In the lower mid-range (B), there were 26 CTs sold, whereas 9 tokens were in BB land. There was one A CT and two AA CTs. These figures clearly show that most CTs sell for reasonable prices. This is encouraging for anyone who wants to get started, as nearly 70% of CTs sold for less than $20 -- I noticed many attractive and/or interesting pieces in this group (and purchased a few myself).
     A new seller -- benachie -- came online this week who listed 75 CTs from "a Scottish collection of 700 examples that lain dormant/untouched since the 1970s." Also, cobwrightfortishe offered 16 more CTs from the Macmillan collection.
     The top AA piece sold for $126. Six bidders vied for this one, casting 9 bids, doubling the price on the last day. It was a straight rectangle from Ireland in moderately worn, but unblemished, condition. The CT was from the York Street Church in Belfast (B7285). As noted last week, these pieces are hot -- one sold in the Simmons Auction for $88. Here is the link: Irish CT from Belfast.
The burning bush/AMO AMO
design was used on at least three
highland CTs: same reverse die?
     The second AA CT came from a grouping of 16 pieces offered by cobwrightfortishe on November 16th: a round piece from Fearn (BK417) with the burning bush/AMO AMO design on the reverse. This specimen presented with irregular edges (as made) and smooth surfaces steeped in a rich ashen patina -- no wear was noticable, and the burning bush was strong. It  attracted five bidders, casting 6 bids to push the hammer price to $116 -- all the usual suspects were in this one. Here is the link: CT from Fearn.
     This burning bush reverse design can be found on CTs from Auldearn, Avoch and Fearn -- three parishes in close proximity near the Moray Firth. The round pieces from these churches are all irregular with thin, hand-cut letters/numbers. They appear to be the work of a single engraver.
     The only A token was also included in the cobwrightfortishe auction: an upright straight rectangle, dated 1739, from Fogo in Berwick (BK430). Six bidders actively competed for this one with 12 bids entered to produce a very strong price of $96 (almost in AA range). It was described as a "rare" piece: When was the last time you saw one? Here is the link: CT from Fogo.
     These high points do not adequately characterize the quality and intrigue of the pieces offered this week. Many excellent dated CTs from the 1700s were to be had -- most of them bringing spirited bidding in the BB and B ranges. I think some of the best deals were to had in these categories. I must say that I missed out on a few of them -- but that is the challenge of collecting: namely, the thrill of the hunt and the longing (and misgivings) for the ones that got away.
     Some of these mid-range pieces included two seventeenth century bits with the initials of the minister only (BK424 from Fintray and BK437 from Forgue) -- these primitive squares date from the 1680s and 1650s respectively and represent turbulent times in the history of the Presbyterian Church. Also, two diminutive Fife rectangles from Flisk and Forgan (BK429 and BK434) sold for under $50 -- nice pieces! If you have been wanting a four-cornered dated CT from Fintry (from 1733), one was hammered down at just $55; this is a popular type-piece, as only a few were made like this within a narrow geographic region. These are all great pieces.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How many CTs can be found at a Big Coin Expo?

I am back from the Big Coin Expo. While there, I decided to ask everyone who looked the part: Do you have any Communion Tokens? How do you look the part? Tokens and foreign coins fill the case (and no slabbed Morgan dollars). The task was to determine just how many CTs can be found by traveling to the big city of old ships and crab cakes.
     The short answer: I found 350 Scottish CTs (plus or minus two or three) and nine (maybe 10) more from the USA. I also met two dealers who claimed to have a few at home ("I have them somewhere, but I'm not sure where").
A double-box of CTs is hard to find!
Just about all of them are from Burzinski.
     The analysis: one exonumia dealer had 330 SCTs + 8 USA CTs, another had 20 SCTs, whereas two foreign coin dealers showed up with 8 and 2 SCTs respectively, and finally a generalist had 1 (maybe 1 more) USA CTs. There you have it. Out of 200+ dealers, five of them had CTs. You could get more bugs (I think they call them scarabs) than you could CTs from all the dealers there, but for one!
     Clearly, the CT marketplace is thin. Few CTs are available for sale in comparison to all other stuff, with silver rounds and Morgan dollars leading the charge. In the past month, there have been more SCTs on ebay at any one time than at this three-day show -- which, by the way, is one of the best USA coin shows you can attend.
     I only brought one book to sell -- good thing, as there was no one to buy it. Nonetheless, a few of us exonumia fans did meet for lunch on Saturday (one of them, other than me, is a CT devotee). One of my accomplices also collects game counters, so he understands the peculiar nature of a thin marketplace: a smattering of pieces, few collectors, and values defined by two folks coveting the same piece.
     So here is what was found. Steve Hayden had brought a double-row box of CTs from the Burzinski collection. They were obtained from Steve Tanenbaum, and they were enclosed in 2x2 holders with his attributions squeezed in the corners with Burzinski boldly written in red ink. These are the remnants of Lester's collection, having passed through several dealers before here. I have been mining these boxes for two years now, but I always go back for one or two more. I got 10 this time, and my friend purchased about 20. Steve has many SCTs on his website too. He is an easy-going guy and fun to buy from.
     Steve had a few USA tokens. I will profile them in other posts, but for now I will mention that most came from PA and NY. Three of them were Buena Vista squares -- not common by any measure, but not bordering on unique as is the case for many USA tokens (Bason-201).
This primitive lead square
from PA reads: AR/C for
Associate Reformed Church.
     Paul Cunningham, a well-known exonumia dealer and TAMS board member, had about 20 SCTs. He had many double-row boxes full of every token imaginable: from Arcades and Circuses to Trollies and Telephones. I think my friend cleaned him out of gaming tokens. Of particular interest, Paul had three USA Trade Dollars that had been shaped into "potty dollars" -- this is when a carver shapes a johnny beneath Ms. Liberty. But here is the best part: They came from Lester Burzinski's collection. I was told that he had a whole box of these!
     Foreign coin dealer Allen Berman brought eight SCTs for me to look at. They were common pieces (three of them Port of Monteith squares, albeit rough), but still the grouping ranked him third in the CT count. Allen is a really nice guy -- full of stories with lots of medieval coins to go with the tales.
     Two more SCTs were spotted in the case of an absent dealer from the Mid-West: a pair of 1699/DBK pieces (Dunblane). They both were dusty with a thin layer of salt on the surfaces.
     Finally, I discovered a single USA CT held for a decade or more by a Virginia dealer. The piece came with an interesting story. It was a rectangular piece attributed to Argyle, New York. According to the story, this token was passed down in a NY family. It was described as unique; however, it is listed as Bason-74. It was a beautiful molded rectangle with bold letters (A M), no wear and unblemished ashen surfaces. It was priced at a firm $750. He had another piece (the maybe piece) that appeared to be completely engraved with a chalice in the center. It may have been a one-off token -- it was not for sale.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch covers ebay auctions from November 3 through November 9. It was a busy week with 62 CTs sold (two lots of 3 tokens each are included in the count, making 58 sales in all).
     The week started off with an offering of 18 CTs from tomv007 -- as with many of his auctions last summer, all the tokens offered were from Angus (perhaps from the same collection). Later in the week, there were 31 tokens from a seller in Ontario, Canada, that were listed as "communion tokens" but were something else. The tokens appeared to be a mixture of checks and counters. As such, these pieces were not counted in the weekly tally given above. Finally, the week closed with 12 tokens offered by tavytavy.
     Two-thirds of the tokens (46 of them) sold for less than $20 with some very nice dated squares included in the mix. Another 10 CTs sold in the middle range with three more selling above $50. The stars of the show were two pieces that crossed the $75 mark and one other that sold for a whopping $195 (certainly deserving of the moniker: highly desired or HD CT).
This crude, but apparently quite rare,
rectangle from Ireland sold for $195. 
     The HD CT was a piece from Ballylennon in Donegal, Ireland. It was a crude rectangle that was irregularly shaped and impressed with BL for the county on the obverse and GH for the minister George Hanson on the reverse. It was a specialist piece with only three bidders pushing the price from about $50 on the last day to $195 at the hammer. A closer look at the picture revealed that this was the same CT that sold last month in the Simmons Gallery auction as Lot 1104 for about $48 -- quite a profit for a quick flip! Here is the link: Irish CT from Ballylennon.
     As mentioned above, two other CTs were bid past $75. First, a round piece from Montrose in Angus (B4684) was bid to $86 with five bidders vying for ownership. The token was attractive with smooth surfaces and sharp details; however, it did have a small scratch near the rim that showed bright. Still, the price was strong. It was from the group offered by tomv007. Here is the link: Round CT from Montrose.
     Second, a heart from Clackmannan dated 1731 (B1460) attracted 13 bids from four bidders. The piece was smoothed by wear with a few hits here and there -- a decent specimen for one that often is found in scraggy condition. The bidding was steady and strong from the start, as hearts are always popular. Everyone who collects CTs want a heart! The final price was $76. This one came from tavytavy. Here is the link: Heart CT from Clackmannan.
     Have you noticed that the number of sales is picking up. As I post this, we have over 390 listings for CTs on ebay! This week, we have witnessed the return of two sellers that we have not seen in a few months.
     On another topic, stay tuned for a recap of the Baltimore Coin Expo.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Communion Token Art

I have an intriguing graph for you to ponder -- in Fall colors too. I did not include the KEY, so that you could enjoy the contours with unclouded mind.
     But the colors do have significance.
     You can see that all the Scottish CTs are included along the vertical axis, whereas time marches across the horizontal axis in 20-year intervals.
     So what does all this signify?
     I am sure that you will figure it out. I did, however, group all the right angles together. Yes, this is a clue: all the right angles, together.
     We can explore all of this later. For now, enjoy the shades of autumn and contemplate your tokens. The cooler weather means more time inside with hot cider. And during these breaks in routine, we may decide to pull out our tokens and thumb through them, thinking about how they changed across time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

CT & Token Get Together at Baltimore Expo

The Baltimore Expo, sponsored by Whitman, is next weekend: November 8-10. If you are planning to go, this would be a good time to meet up.
     The Expo is probably the best East Coast numismatic show in the USA. There are several token dealers who attend, and they usually have a few CTs on hand. Of course, if they do not know you are shopping for CTs beforehand, they may leave some of their stock at home, as few collectors ask to see them. But at least you can connect with them. Of course, there is no one that specializes in them, as the collector base is thin, and the dealers would starve if that is all they had to sell.
     I have purchased many CTs from Steve Hayden who is currently selling off the last remnants of Lester Burzinski's collection. Hayden acquired much of his stock from the late Steve Tanenbaum's estate. Hayden has many other tokens to look at -- particularly Civil War tokens, as these are hot right now.
Like a medieval fair, the dealers travel long distances and
set out their trinkets: old coins, tokens, odd bits ...
and hopefully, a few leaden squares and rounds.
     In addition, several foreign dealers have a lonely CT or two in their cases. You never know what you will find sitting next to a silver penny or groat.
     For those looking to branch out, or just let your impulses go unchecked, there will be many other coins, tokens and oddments for which to spend your hard-earned cash. It is good for your health to explore new collecting areas.
     I will be there on Friday and Saturday. I am not hunting for anything in particular, but who knows! If you want to talk tokens, I will be out front in the foyer of the show at 12 noon on Saturday getting one of their famous crab cake sandwiches. Maryland is known for its crab cakes, and the ones at the show are actually pretty good -- much better than the charred hot-dogs that you find at local coin shows. Still, too many crab cakes will kill you while you sleep!
     I will wear my trademark mustard ball cap that reads: One Coin is Never Enough -- very cool. So look for the cap, or the guy chewing on a crab cake. At least one other CT collector will be there too. I will bring a few books to show or sell if you are interested.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews all ebay auctions between October 27 and November 2. It has been a busy week with many more listings than usual. As the weather cools and the sun retreats to the southern hemisphere, the CT market seems to be heating up -- or at least more sellers are bringing their tokens to the marketplace. At one point, we had nearly 400 ebay listings at one time -- a record in 2013.
     Overall, 110 CTs crossed the block in 95 sales (note: several pairs were sold together and a set of five was offered for "one money.") There were two HD CTs sold (those over $100), and two D CTs sold (those over $75). Four more sold for over $50. But do not let the high prices fool you, as this was a week for many great deals: 81 CTs crossed the block for less than $20, and many of these were very nice. Completing the tally, nine more CTs changed hands in the lower middle range ($20 to $49).
     Two big sales accounted for the increase in CTs sold this week. The week started with a large two-day auction by jamesdicksonbooks, a UK dealer who sells antiquarian theological books and ephemera. He offered 16 CTs on October 28, but that was just the warm-up act, as 38 more CTs crossed the block the following day. He has sold on ebay before but has not been present for awhile -- I have purchased from him and recommend this seller. The week closed with cobwrightfortishe offering 16 CTs on Friday. Several of them were rare, and all of them brought very strong prices (all the HD and D tokens were in this lot). There was something for everyone.
     The first auction attracted a small group of bidders -- many inexpensive lots were contested by two or three bidders. In particular, jamesdicksonbooks sold 50 CTs for under $20. There were some nice Glasgow squares in there that should have brought more money in my opinion (as you know that I like these tokens). At first glance, it appeared that the folks in bidder land were all asleep when the auction was going, but that is not true, as a few pieces attracted much attention and brought strong bids with more than a handful of bidders contesting -- as such, prices for three CTs were pushed into the mid-range ($42, $47 and $57). These prices and bidding action are telling of what is scarce and what is not. Still, I must admit that I was asleep on this one.
Here is BK384. The castle is quite
attractive to collectors. Pictorials
do not get any better than this!
     This brings us to the grand finale. As expected, cobwrightfortishe did not disappoint. Nearly 20 bidders were waiting. The top piece was the last of the series of Edinburgh castle CTs that he auctioned off about two weeks ago -- this one was dated 1795 with JG/DG on reverse (BK384). It was sharply detailed with some yellow and black toning that did not adversely impact its great eye appeal. Thirteen bids from 7 bidders vied for this one, but it came down to two collectors at the end with the under-bidder entering 7 bids within the last 45 minutes against a previously entered high dollar mark. The castle was hammered down at $159. All told, the five Edinburgh pieces (this one plus the four auctioned earlier) were dispersed into four collections. Here is the link: Edinburgh Castle Token BK384.
Going "Stag" anyone?
This one is not nearly as nice!
     The second big sale was also nabbed by the same bidder who had entered an early "high" bid. This piece, also from Edinburgh (more specifically, Canongate) depicted a stag within a shield and was dated 1764 on the reverse. Like the previous one, it is an iconic CT that is always popular (BK 388). Fourteen bids from 6 bidders competed with most of the action unfolding in the last few minutes. It was an evenly worn ("Fine" condition) piece with great patina and strong details -- much better than the one illustrated in Brook or the one sold in the Norweb collection. The hammer price? A whopping $154 -- big money, but for a worthy token that is hard to find nice. Here is the link: Canongate Stag CT.
     A round version of this stag token (BK387) had preceded the sale described above. It was a somewhat ruddy piece with some discoloration, but it attracted nine bids from 7 bidders to bring a strong price of $86. It was a round version of the square one and was dated 1727. The under-bidder on the one previously described got this one -- so hopefully, everyone was happy enough.
     Finally, another round CT from St. Cuthberts (also in Edinburgh) sold for $90 after five bidders entered twice as many bids to decide where this one was headed. It was a simple token with STC on the obverse (note: uppercase T) and 1776 on the reverse (BK385).
     Whew! Lots of action this week!