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.


  1. You have some interesting ideas.
    Ovals illustrated are from Edinburgh & Millhill Musselburgh (D667) not Lanark. Dates on tokens do not always represent date of manufacture but sometimes date of foundation of church or similar - Best example is 1843 on Free Church tokens which. were still being produced more than 50 years later. Millhill was founded in 1783 but it was a couple of years before a minister was appointed.. It is possible that the first token used was Dick 666 /Bz5102 a much cruder piece. Burzinski notes that 1783 is the date the church was erected. The very precise date on the Edinburgh token (D355) may be the date of either the ordination of Adam Gib or of the opening of Bristo Street Church.
    For an early rectangle with cut corners (Brook's description) or rounded corners(Bz) see Brook 531/ Bz 4802 (no photo) Kingoldrum 1719.
    Squares had been having their corners cut to form octagons since the mid 17th C and there is a distinct series from central Perthshire which evolves from hand made lead pieces (eg Dull) through Callendar to more precise white metal ones (FC Aberfeldy).
    A series of 20th C US commemoratives went through ebay with very low prices less than $2 each- needless to say description was not "communion token" !
    Keep your interesting blog going.

    1. Yes! I see BK631: an upright rectangle with rounded corners and dated 1719. And, it is on the same page as the Kinnell piece -- how did I miss it? Of course, if we count round corners, we can go far back in time with the squares and squarish pieces. As for the ovals, I have to admit a missing neuron on this one: I am not sure why I put Lanark (clearly wrong); as for the the 1783 date: I missed that too -- Burzinski is clear on this. The other date certainly deserves some more research. Thanks for your comments; I wish more would chime in. It gets lonely out here in blog-land.