Sunday, December 29, 2013

Market Watch

This market watch examines ebay auctions & sales between December 22 and December 28. It was a slow week -- probably a good thing, as most folks were enjoying the holidays and saving the CTs for later.
     Thirty-two CTs traded hands this week: four of them were sold at BIN prices and the remainder were hardly contested (more on that in a moment). The tally shows that 25 CTs sold for under $20 with 6 more CTs bringing B prices from $20 to $49. Only one piece hit the $50 mark -- it was sold the day after Christmas with a BIN option.
     A USA dealer cronus-coins sold 15 primitive CTs with all of them selling for less than $10. It was an odd grouping, as ten of them were simple incuse designs (usually one or two letters); the remainder were primitive molded pieces with parish/minister initials only. The surfaces were similar on all pieces: a smooth, dark gray patina, curiously devoid of any scratches, discolorations or corrosion.
     Only two of these primitive pieces attracted more than one bidder. Unusual. One that caught my eye for comment is the Ladykirk CT (BK696, also B4334 - B4336). This is not a common CT despite three varieties. One sold at a BIN price of $48 on November 30 from a reputable dealer in Scotland; it is the only one I have seen for sale in several years -- it was lightly frosted with white oxide salts. Here is the link of the one sold this week: Ladykirk CT BK696 in perfect condition. Is this one real? Of note, even Burzinski's plate specimens are corroded with white powder forming on the surfaces.
     The single BB CT was sold by a dealer in Nova Scotia for $50. It was a cut rectangle from Montreal (CE220A2): a nice token with some luster peeking through darker toning in the fields. These pieces were used between 1844 and 1859 according Charlton. The purchase appeared to be a good buy, as this CT is listed at $70 in VF in the guidebook. Here is the link: Montreal CT.
     Be on the lookout, as I have a special (well, maybe outlaw is a better word) CT in store for New Years!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Have a CT Christmas

Best Wishes for everyone on this blog. I have enjoyed the emails, postings and phone calls.
     I hope you get a CT for Christmas. A tiny square with a big bow on it!
     But consider this:
     Did you give one away? Now that may seem contrary to the ways of the true collector, but think about how cool a CT can be to some folks. Not recommended for young children of course -- after all, lead is a neurotoxin. But consider this for those who are curious about your odd collecting habits. Or consider this for the loved ones who always ask what have you acquired lately, but never really had a token of their own to contemplate.
     A token can make a great gift. And so can a CT Guidebook (hint!).
     The nice thing about an inexpensive token is that it can be just as fascinating as a rare one to new eyes. In fact, some folks might prefer a satiny cut rectangle to a rude squarish chunk.
     One of my close friends and I exchanged tokens this year. He had eyed a small cafe token that I had with his name on it. It was a "good for 5 cents" piece that could be used at Johnny's Cafe. Not an expensive token, but try and find another one!
     Why did he like it? Well, who knows. Why do we like the CTs that we buy? It is easy to get all puffed up about this: we are saving history; we are serious scholars, and so on. 
     But actually, we are just collectors. We are in a long line of collectors that have been arranging and rearranging these CTs on our desks for the past two centuries. So let us not get too peacocked. Sure, we spend copious amounts of time (and dollars) on our obsession -- like me typing this blog for example -- but in the end, it just leisure.
     The antidote to our seriousness is to give a few CTs away. And Christmas is the perfect time to do this.
     Give one to your pastor or priest or preacher. Give one to your token collecting buddies -- if he is a civil war nut, give him one dated in the 1860s. Any error collector would like to have one with a retrograde numeral -- there are lots of those. Donate a few to your coin club so that they can be auctioned off. Even the non-collectors will enjoy a piece -- particularly, Presbyterians.
     Give one to your wife.
     In fact, my wife has asked me for a heart! I showed her a few, and of course, she picked the best one. You see, it does not take an expect to know quality. She also eyed one of my triangles. "Can you drill a hole in it, so I can wear it?," she asked. Hmmm.
     Drill a hole in it? Drill a hole in it?
     You have to be prepared for this when you give tokens away.
     I think that I will go with the gloves for my wife this year. She complains of chapped hands, and she uses a lot of lotion. Yes, she needs the gloves! Maybe next year I will sacrifice a heart.
     So, despite everything I just said, even I struggle with the concept of giving it away.
     Why doesn't she like the ovals?
     I can imagine the outcry if and when I do let go of a heart. The exonumismatists will shout out: "He is destroying heritage material, depriving generations yet to come, profaning the piece ... ."
     I hear a rock hitting the outside of my house. And, another.
     Ok, I am definitely getting the gloves! But I am giving my friends some CTs to pass around and enjoy! And yes, I know they will touch the surfaces while eating chips. Tis the season!
     Merry Christmas from Virginia.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews ebay auctions for the week of December 15 thru December 21. It was another busy week with most of the action coming at the end with a big auction on Saturday. As before, benachie offered up another installment of the Scottish collection that he has been marketing -- this time putting 117 CTs on the block. Consequently, the number of listings exceeded 450 at the start of the day.
Here is a quaint Culross CT.
It presents itself as a diamond.
     All told, there were 146 CTs sold this week. With all this bidding action, it is not surprising that we have four AA CTs to ponder this time around. Of course, many great CTs sold for less money. Hopefully, you purchased a few nice ones for gifts (as I did). Most pieces (103 of them) crossing the block sold for under $20, whereas, 34 more sold for B plus 2 that earned BB money. In the upper price ranges, we had several stars that stimulated the desires of serious (or mad) collectors. There were 3 A CTs and 4 AA CTs.
     In particular, the top four pieces ($100+) boasted qualities that communion token specialists love: superlative condition (and rarity?); interesting shapes -- a heart, of course, and a primitive square that was oriented to present itself as a diamond; and finally, an unusual -- somewhat homely -- stamped piece of brass. So, which one was top dog this week?
     The top dog designation is clearly a misnomer here. The highest dollar CT sold brought $167 -- it was no dog! All the money went for a round token from Aberlady in East Lothian with a late date of 1864. Twelve bids were entered by six bidders, and as expected, it came down to two paddles waving at the last. This sharply struck piece was adorned with a 6-point star (two over-lapping triangles) with a cross in the middle (B141); it was bathed in a light ashen patina over flawless, semi-glossy surfaces. I would not have predicted such voracious bidding on this one for its condition alone -- is it rare? Here is the link: Aberlady Round CT.
     Next up, the heart never fails to bring out the bids. It was a piece from Clackmannan dated 1731 (B1460) that attracted five bidders (casting 6 bids). It really came down to the wire with the price soaring by $70 in the last seconds to hammer down at $112. Someone really wanted it. This is big money for a somewhat corroded piece -- but this issue usually comes rough (and it does not come around very often). It is a distinctive token, thick with bold CK and date. Here is the link: Clackmannan Heart CT.
     Clackmannan has more than its share of hearts. For a shire that only produced nine CTs in the eighteenth century from four parishes, it is remarkable that four pieces are hearts -- B1460 is the one that is seen most often of that group. However, in a chest full of hearts, it is more scarce than the one we are accustomed to seeing from Dunfirmline in Fife (B1823 & B1824).
     Sharing the mantle of AA pieces sold this week was a diamond-shaped (or rotated) CT that brought $103. It was a small squarish (read: rectangular) CT from Culross (BK251) that was attracting the attention of folks mid-week. Three determined bidders vied for this one, casting no less than 8 bids. It was offered in a small group of eleven primitive and/or worn pieces offered by cobwrightfortishe. Whereas most of them went for C and B money, the diamond (in the rough) was quickly targeted.
     The Culross CT is twice cataloged by Burzinski (B1126 & B1176), as it comes in several sizes: a square of 16mm, a rectangle of 18x14mm, and some sizes in-between (for example, I have pictured one that measures 17x15mm). The star is also located in different locations. It is a simple design: a C with a bold 5-point star. Does anyone know the specific meaning of the star?
     The last AA piece was not much more than a crudely stamped bit of brass. Listed as coming from Crimond in Aberdeen (B1615), it is a rare piece. I was thinking of stepping into the fray, but the bidding was already hotly competitive with four bidders pushing the cost of admission to over $90 at the start of the day. The price did not move much beyond this mark as the auction neared. In the end, the token sold for $99.75 (just enough to round up to the AA range).
Primitive, unusual & rare:
These are qualities that we relish!
     I checked to see if the tiny village of Crimond had a copper mine, but none was listed. So why use brass? This was probably what the craftsman had on-hand. In any case, this piece will make for interesting discussion in any collection.
     A few other CTs deserve mention. A cut rectangle from Cumnock in Ayr (B1738) brought an incredible $95 at the hammer with eight bids coming from four collectors. It got hot on the last day of the auction, as two bidders squared off. This is perhaps the most money I have seen paid for a cut rectangle of the standard design (oval motif with adornments at each corner). It is the only nineteenth century CT from this parish, representing the Free Church that was built in October of 1843. It must be rare enough for more than a few collectors to need one to complete their sets! This is a good example of what can be learned in the auction arena -- namely, which tokens bring out the serious collectors! Here is the link: Cumnock Cut Rectangle.
     Also, an irregular rectangle from Coyltoun, dated 1728, crossed the block at $88. Another popular piece -- the 1760 Dalmellington round with chalice and loaf (one of my favorites) -- sold for $85. These were both very nice tokens that are always popular.
     Looking back, we can see that all the featured CTs were from Scotland this week. We had a few Irish pieces (stock tokens) show up -- one of them was not listed as Irish and sold cheaply. Incidently, a group of pieces from Scotland were labeled as Irish by mistake -- but the prices were reasonable.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Early Communion Token or Just a Rock

Here is an intriguing object to ponder.
     A few months ago this piece was offered at auction by cobwrightfortishe -- it sold for over $100. It is from the Andrew Macmillan collection of Scottish CTs. This "token" has the letters AK scored on the obverse with a cross on the reverse. The stone measures 35x24mm.
     Is this a pre-token issue? Is it old?
     What evidence do we have?
     The circular note card that comes with the piece has some notes to get us started. First, the piece was purchased thirty-five years ago in June 1979. It was attributed by Rev. William D. Cattanach to be a pre-token issue. But there is no evidence in the form of Session records or personal accounts to support this. Furthermore, the chain of ownership does no go back to a parishioner who was awarded the piece.
     The Rev. Cattanach attribution identifies the piece as coming from Athelstaneford. This parish is located northeast of Haddington in East Lothian. The obverse letters -- AK -- are consistent enough. Brook describes a small round piece from this parish with the letters AK incused, but the lettering is hardly unique (see Ashkirk for example).
     We need to dig further.
     Athelstaneford is a small town where an epic battle between the Picts and an invading army of Angles from Northumbria took place in the year 832. The Pictish King, Oengus II, experienced a vision the night before the engagement: St. Andrew promised him a glorious victory. The following morning there appeared in the blue sky a white cross formed by clouds. This was taken as a sign, as Saint Andrew had been crucified on a diagonal white cross.
     The Picts won the day and dedicated their victory to the patron saint. Thereafter, they adopted the blue flag with diagonal white cross as the Scottish flag. The leader of the beaten army was named Athelstan, and since he had been killed in the battle by the river, this place was called Athelstanford.
     The cross on the stone is not diagonal. But could it still represent the white cross? Or is it simply Christian symbolism. Probably the latter.
     So how about the Rev. Cattanach? What do we know about him?
     He was ordained in April 1951 and received his doctorate in divinity in 1970. He was considered well-versed in church history. Incidently, he was an avid bird watcher. Rev. Cattanach was a minister in Geneva where John Knox preached, and he also served at St. George's West church in Edinburgh. He certainly was in a position to make a better guess about the stone than most of us.
     Looking back further, we know that the Romans used pebbles as counters and tokens. Often a white stone was given as a ticket to award ceremonies for those who had won an athletic competition. Of course, small stones were used as amulets or charms throughout time.
     In Revelation 2:17, the following is said: "To the victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." Is this a ticket? A ticket that promises salvation to all believers? I leave that to the scholars to figure out.
     Then there is the Jewish tradition of placing small stones on grave markers -- a tradition that has been adopted by others.
     So what do we make of all this?
     The parish church at Athelstaneford is certainly old enough. The original church was founded in 1176, whereas the present church dates from 1780.
     Was this inscribed pebble used as a communion token? Or was it used later for a commemoration of communion in the early days? Maybe it was used for a special service or study that had nothing to do with communion.
     All of this notwithstanding, we can only trust that Rev. Cattanach knew something. But we also need to entertain a certain about of skepticism.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews all ebay auctions and sales from December 8 thru December 14. It was a spirited week with 137 CTs trading hands. At one point, there were over 420 active listings.
     One of the big movers this time around was the serial auctions by benachie; he offered 88 CTs on Saturday to close out the week with a fury of activity -- this represented two-thirds of the action reported here. But let us not forget the always captivating offerings by cobwrightfortishe with 17 pieces going up on Friday, all of them from the seventeenth century.
     All told, there were 79 CTs that sold for under $79 -- most of them were low grade, but a few boasted of nice surfaces with great eye. Forty-one CTs in the B range crossed the block, whereas another 11 BB CTs were strong sellers. There were four more CTs that sold for over $75 in the A range and two additional pieces at the top in the AA category. Robust prices overall: over 40% of the CTs hammered down this week were in the B to AA range!
The reverse is a stock design that appeared in the
late 1840s; the obverse was made to order.
The CT from Ballywillan also shares this reverse,
but the obverse does not have a date.
     The most bids and biggest money was for two Irish ovals: each piece brought the same hammer price of $176. We have seen this before -- Irish pieces bring out the serious wallets. The first one was a piece from Ballywillan Church (B710) in Londonderry. Nine bidders vied for it, casting 14 bids -- but two big bids were entered as the hammer came down, increasing the price by $60 as the final seconds ticked off. The oval is undated, but is likely to date after 1845. Here is the link: Ballywillan CT.
     The second oval was a reprise of the same story: ten bidders, 17 bids, with the winning bid upping the stakes by $80 in the last moments. This oval was from Fauchanvale Church (B2514) in Londonderry. Above is an old photo of one that sold over a decade ago.
     Four A CTs added to the excitement this week. First up, we had a cut rectangle, dated 1860, from Bridgegate in Lanark (B1008) with serial number 199 stamped within a small frame. Only a few CTs were serial numbered to allow a record of each token (and who received them). This piece was bid to $91 with four bidders competing. Secondly, an English oval, dated 1853, from Brampton (B983) was bid to $89 by five bidders. In the third spot, a true Glasgow square (BK469) with the city crest in the center, and dated 1776, was bid to $85 by four determined bidders. And finally, a primitive rectangle (oddly shaped at 25x12mm) from Huntingdon, Quebec, in Canada (CE214) brought a BIN price of $85. This little piece, dated 1835, had been for sale for several months. It is rare, and I am surprised that it did not sell sooner -- it is listed for twice the price in Charlton. Here is an old photo of this curious bit of Canadian history.
     All in all, a very strong week for trading.
The Huntingdon piece is utilitarian
design: small, simple & easy to hold.
     There were many nice CTs selling in the B and BB ranges. In particular, a nice Balmerino round with the blundered 1725 date sold for $25, and a nice pair of Barony Glasgow-squares sold for under $30 each. A few more dollars could have won an 1801 Elgin oval with the serpents slithering under the date for $62. Or how about the ever popular 1678 Brechin round (with the last two digits clear) for $71. And finally, a small square from Grange with the heart motif could be had for $70. All were neat pieces. And yes, if you have been watching for the past few years, the prices are climbing somewhat.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More on early squares of Fife

Earlier this week, I neglected to show the early Dunbog piece that was square.
     So here it is. As such, there are at least three shapes known for this CT: the irregular octagonal as pictured in Brook (BK328), the "lozenge shaped" described in Burzinski (B2243 -- I have not seen this one), and the square one pictured here (not described in BK or B).
     The same die appears to be used for the octagonal and square one. As such, the flans were cut by hand and the die was pressed into each one. It was probably not a hammer die, as there appears to be no evidence of die bounce. A small screw press could have been used.
     The question remains: Did the shapes mean anything special? Or, were the shapes just a result of successive batches? Maybe different cutters made the flans, but I doubt that too much variation would have been tolerated.
     A single die could have been used for several years. Close inspection suggests that the same die was used on the two Dunbog pieces. For example, the dot over the M is slightly off-center to the left on both pieces, and the letters (both inside and outside the inner rim) line up in the same way when comparing them. Wear and corrosion make an exact match difficult to determine.
Anstruther Easter Parish Church
     Also for inspection is the remarkable CT from Anstruther Easter that was found in the vincinity. This one has an anchor in the middle that represents the harbor that is located there (in fact, it is included in the crest of the modern day burgh of Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter & Anstruther Wester. In particular, AE is located on the north bank of the Firth of Forth and is home to a fishing museum that boasts of its maritime history. The church was constructed about 1634 as a chapel for the Kilrenny parish, but it became the parish church for AE in 1640. There is a nice picture of this church on Wikipedia that is attributed to photographer Jim Bain.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pre-Glasgow Squares

Here is a favorite of many CT
collectors, as it is nicely made
with many ornaments.
Glasgow squares are distinctive. The circular design made up of concentric rings placed within a square frame is easy to identify and has a predictable geographic distribution that fans outward from Glasgow (for the most part). But the idea of a circular motif is not at all new.
     Merchant tokens -- farthing pieces in particular -- from the mid-seventeenth century were organized in a similar fashion. Of course, the tokens were round (like coins) and the rings were intuitive.
     Today I examine the similarities between an early token from Dunbog parish in Fife and a farthing token that was commonplace at about the same time. We can only wonder if these pieces share a design heritage. It seems obvious, but reading the mind of an engraver who lived centuries ago is tricky business -- in fact, I have trouble reading my wife's mind today!
     What do we mean by a design heritage. It is a mental representation, a schema that is lodged in the brain of more than one engraver. The common folk also held this schema, particularly if they handled more than a few farthing tokens. For example, most of us today find coins with lettering arched about the rims familiar. If we were asked to design a coin for an art class, many of us would employ this schema (e.g., placing Liberty or 2013 arched along the rim -- or something like that). So it was back then. This is what I mean by a design heritage. Most simply, it was a heritage born of one engraver looking over the shoulder of another. This, coupled with the familiarity of all that came before, is lodged in the cortex of this unknown CT engraver. This much, we can be sure of. But what design features are encoded? For this, we turn to the tokens themselves to see what design elements are used over and over again.
     First, a bit about the parish. Dunbog is a small parish in northwest Fife that borders the river Tay. Farming and cattle grazing is the only industry. The ruins of the old Kirk, dating back to the beginning of the Reformation, were cleared away in 1969; only the graveyard remains. A new church was built in 1803.
     The Dunbog token (BK328) was made during the tenure of Min. John Makgill who served between 1646 and 1654. Afterwards, he served at a parish in Cupar for eight more years, but he resigned in opposition to the demands by the crown to submit to the English episcopacy. These were troubled times that were characterized by much tension (and bloodshed) between the two countries. The CTs were rudely shaped into octagonal and square pieces (and Burzinski mentions a "lozenge-shaped" piece as well). The center shows the initials of the minister: M/JM (first M for minister)and the legend reads: PARISH DUVBOVG.
The farthing on left is from England, but similar pieces are likely to have
circulated (or were known of) in Scotland. Note all the similarities.
     The farthing token was issues by Jonas Whale of Colchester in Essex. I believe that he was a baker. Due to a shortage of small denomination coins, thousands of these tokens were produced between 1640 and 1672. There were common enough to be familiar north of the border (perhaps a reader can elaborate on this, and the use of similar tokens in Scotland). Production of these pieces stopped when Charles II ordered the mint to begin making regal coppers. This particular piece shows the initials of the merchant: W/JS with the location: IN COLCHESTER within the rings.
     Comparing the farthing token with the Dunbog CT, we can immediately see the similarities. The beaded borders of the concentric circles are the same. The lettering is nearly identical with large periods used as stops. The initials in the center are arranged in the same (one over two) configuration with periods flanking the top letter and a period or flower in-between the two bottom letters. Even the size of the design elements are similar such that you could place the round token atop the irregular one and cover the design completely.
     Was the Dunbog piece made by a minter who also made farthings? After all, Dunbog was a small place -- hardly a parish that you would expect to see such a well-designed CT! Typically, a stamped square would be enough for such a farming community in the mid-1600s. Certainly, the irregular flan was made by inexpert hands, so it is the die that is similar -- who made it?
     Last week, sunnyleith provided a link to an earlier CT from Anstruther Easter parish (also in Fife) that exhibits very similar characteristics. This piece bears the name Mr. Colin Adams who was the first minister of this Kirk with a tenure starting in 1641. This makes this token one of (if not the) earliest CTs with a concentric circle design template. In this case, the CT was rotated 45-degrees to produce a diamond effect -- it is square dimensionally. This token was found by a metal detector in Anstruther: imagine that, it has been sitting there -- lost -- for 350 years! Here is the link: Anstruther Easter CT from Fife.
     We can ponder: Did the first Glasgow-styled square come from Glasgow?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews all ebay auctions between December 1 and December 7. This week was rather slow but for one auction on Saturday when benachie offered 98 more CTs from the Scottish collection that he has been selling off.
Here is another example of the silver CT from the Crown
Court Church that sold for $180 about 15 years ago.
     Most of the CTs offered this week sold for under $20. There were a number of rather rough CTs crossing the block, but there were some good opportunities for the sharp buyer who was looking for clean pieces (albeit common) with good eye appeal. There were a few highlights in the upper price ranges too.
     In all, 110 CTs were counted with 77 of them selling for under $20 in the C range. Another 23 CTs sold in the B range with five more going for over $50 in the BB range. Another five pieces sold for A/AA money.
     In particular, a trio of English CTs from the Scottish National Church at the London Crown Court Church sold as a lot for $251 (about $83 each). This lot was offered by a dealer in Ontario, Canada. The group was attributed to Burzinski himself, as the tokens came with some of his packaging.
     The CTs represented a variety set with one of them being a silver piece (B1692) and the two others made of white metal in thick and thin varieties respectively (B1693 & B1694). Seventeen bids were entered by 4 bidders with most of the activity coming in the last few moments. There is a fourth variety in this series (B1695) listed by Burzinski that is made with a silver plated copper flan -- this one was not offered here.
     The Crown Court Church is known as the longest established Kirk in England. The congregation began meeting as early as 1707, whereas this church was constructed in March of 1719. The building was heavily renovated in 1909.
     Among the 98 lots offered by benachie, there were a couple of CTs that brought prices in the A and AA range. One of those pieces was a straight rectangle from Lisburn in Northern Ireland (B4291). We have come to expect high prices for Irish pieces: this one brought 16 bids from 8 bidders, pushing the hammer price to $160 -- the highest price paid for a CT this week. The token was in F-VF condition with even gray color and a few minor hits. Here is the link: Lisburn CT.
     A second CT that garnered active bidding that pushed it into the AA range was a cut rectangle from Neilston (in Renfrew) that was dated 1836 (B5184). The edge cuts were bold on this piece, giving it a distinctive look. This one attracted four bidders, each of them entering multiple bids, to produced a hammer price of $86 after 16 bids.
     All told, there were several nice pieces offered from this collection this time around. One unusual piece that made a second appearance in as many weeks was a Lamington & Wandel (in Lanark) triangle that sold for $65 with 4 bidders contesting (B4075). This price is similar to the BIN price of the one that traded last week for $55. At least sometimes, the marketplace seems consistent.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

More Square and Round Communion Tokens

A pair of CTs from Dirleton Kirk.
Early squares and rounds might have served different functions.
     Take the case of Dirleton Parish in East Lothian. This small village located on the south shore of the Firth of Forth boasts of a stone church dating back to 1612 or shortly thereafter. The structure was dedicated to St. Andrews. It was enlarged in 1650 with the addition of an aisle extending from the right wall that has gained notoriety as one of the first neoclassical structures in Scotland. All counted, there were 600 sittings.
     Two tokens were produced for this church: a round one and a square one (BK291-292). They are simple pieces, one-sided and dateless. The name of the parish is abbreviated: DRL with a line over top to designate the contraction. The letters are in relief and contained within a sunken panel. Apparently, the pieces were molded into squares or rounds and a punch was applied.
     Close inspection of the tokens reveals that the punch used for both shapes is the same. The D is large and thick; the R is a big smaller and higher. The contraction line over top starts at the right edge of the D and almost bisects the upright of the L. Any differences are due to steadiness of hand or press and the pressure applied when sinking the punch (plus wear & tear after production). As such, it is reasonable to suggest that they were made at the same time. But for what purpose?
     It has been suggested that different shaped tokens were given to men and women respectively. The practice of separating men and women in church was established by the apostles. St. Augustine (354AD-430AD) wrote: "The masses flock to the churches ... where a seemly separation of the sexes is observed; where they learn how they may so spend this earthly life."
     Many Presbyterian churches in the USA have separate doorways for men and women. This does not seem to be the case in the Scottish churches that I have seen pictures of. Dirleton has only a single doorway. But this does not tell us how seating was arranged within, or how the communion service was conducted. By the mid-1800s, separate seating gave way to family seating in many churches.
Dirleton Kirk was constructed in the early seventeenth
century. It was enlarged several times, including the aisle
projecting from the right wall. This latter addition was
built about 1660 and is known as the Dirleton Aislie.
The Gothic pinnacles were added in the 1830s.
(Image is from Wikipedia/public domain)
     There are other reasons why CTs of different shapes were made at the same time. For example, there is evidence from session records to show that communion services held on consecutive Sundays required different tokens to insure that no one attended twice.
     Are there other reasons? Perhaps there was a status difference that was signaled by each of the token shapes. Some CTs made of silver in the USA were probably given to a select few.
     As for the Dirleton CTs, no one knows for sure why they were made round and square. All of the above reasons are plausible with the separation between men and women at the top of the list and consecutive services a close second. Maybe the session records contain an answer, as these records apparently date back to 1655.
     Another well-known example of square and round CTs from the same parish (presumably made at the same time) are those from Dunfermline (BK334-335). These are the charming ones with the overlapping hearts -- readers may recall that a pair of these sold for high prices a few months ago. There are other examples too. But how about the rectangular (16x13mm) versus square (13mm) CTs from Combie & Dundurn (BK234-235)?
     In any case, the two shapes remind us that different CTs were used by the same congregation at the same time. Yes, shapes did evolve over time, but not always in the same ways within a particular parish or geographic region.
     I wonder who got the rounds and who got the squares? I think the square ones are more manly.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Market Watch

This Market Watch reviews ebay auctions held between November 24 through November 30. Two auctions dominated the trading this week: cobwrightfortishe offered 15 CTs on Tuesday, whereas benachie offered 102 CTs on Saturday. In between these auctions, the block was relatively quiet with 22 CTs sold.
     All together, 139 CTs sold this week -- an active period. As usual, most of the tokens sold for less than $20, adding up to ninety-three pieces or about two-thirds of the total. Many good buys could be found among these C tokens.
     Twenty-two CTs sold in the B range of under $50, whereas eleven pieces brought BB money. Two CTs were bid past the $75 or A marker.
From Brook: Here are two of the pieces that sold last week.
Hand-crafted octagonal pieces are attractive, as they are
primitive and misshapen with an ancient charm.
     As we have come to expect, the cobwrightfortishe auction featured several rare and high quality pieces -- all of them bringing strong prices. There were two A pieces that sold for over $75, and several more that sold for very close to this mark in the high BB range -- in fact, six more pieces sold for prices above $60. All of these CTs were from the Macmillan collection.
     The top A piece was a irregular-cut octagonal piece dated 1766 from Fortingall in Perth (BK441B). It was dark gray and pin-pricked with corrosive heads, but still with a nice look for a relatively rare piece. Five bidders cast 7 bids, pushing the hammer price to $78. This piece was one of three octagonal CTs from Fortingall offered, as similar pieces dated 1746 (BK441) and 1785 (BK442) brought $76 and $67 respectively. Brook listed a fourth piece in the series that was dated 1756.
     By the way, the parish churchyard at Fortingall has one of the oldest trees in all of Europe: a yew tree that is at least 2000 years old and maybe twice that. A stone wall was built in 1785 to protect this landmark that is believed to have provided refuge for early Christian worshippers who settled there as early as 700AD.
Here is the Fortingall Yew.
(from SNAIK, Wikimedia)
     Early octagonal pieces are not rare as a group, but they are infrequently encountered -- Brook and Kerr & Lockie list less than 20 of them. Many of the early ones are irregularly shaped with unequal sides and are charming as such. The Fortingall series is one of the longest series of these hand-crafted designs: Kenmore in Perth boasts a series of three such pieces (plus a newer one at the time of the great disruption of 1843).
     Two unusual engraved CTs from Garvaldin in Lothians (BK463 & BK463 variety with extra star) sold in the BB range: $65 and $67 respectively. Bidding came from seven bidders overall, but both pieces went to a single buyer. Both CTs were in excellent condition with minimal wear and no distractions. Here a link to one of them: Engraved CT from Girthon.
     The extended auction of 102 CTs from benachie included many inexpensive pieces, but three of them were bid past the $50 mark with one piece in particular pushing towards the A marker with a hammer price of $72: a Perth rectangle dated 1745 (the so-called "Jacobite Rising" piece mentioned in a previous post). Five bidders competed with 17 bids (and many more automatic bids that resulted in 16 price changes in the last 15 minutes).
     In contrast, a lowly Dunbog square from Fife that was used in the 1650s only garnered $16 with few bids.
     Finally, a few BIN sales bested the BB mark: an attractive rectangle from Mertoun in Berwick (BK798) dated 1700 and a primitive triangle with an incuse letter on each side from Lamington & Wandel (BK702).