Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Have a Heart: Communion Tokens we Love

If you wanted to have a complete set of hearts, you would need 33 pieces. If you wanted just a type set (skipping the varieties), then only 24 pieces are needed.
     Completing either set would be quite an endeavor -- perhaps a lifetime of collecting to get them all. Some of them are rare, and all of them are highly desired.
     A complete collection of Scottish hearts would represent 11 shires and 19 parishes. These shires are generally located in the east and south of Scotland. As mentioned last week, all hearts are dated before 1800 -- except one commemorative issue from Strath on Skye Island.
Here we have two varieties (each given a separate number
by Burzinski) of hearts from Dunfirmline in Fife.
Note that the upright stem of the D is over the 7 on the
first heart (left), whereas the D is centered between the 7
and 5 on the second (right) one (B1823-4 respectively).
     Here are the parishes: Aberdeen has one heart; Clackmannan has four; Fife has two; Kirkcudbright has five; Lanark has four; Lothians has five; Peebles has two; Roxburgh has four; Stirling has two; and Wigtown has three.  Five parishes used heart CTs on two different occasions: Alloa (Clackmannan), Kirkmabreck and Rerrick (Kirkcudbright), Dolphinton (Lanark), and Kirkton (Roxburgh). And don't forget Skye.
This list does not include the different varieties that were used for the same communion service.
     These findings clearly suggest an apparent regional distribution (albeit broad) with a few parishes choosing to use the heart more than once. The shape fell out of favor quickly -- I will explore this in the next post.
     But for now, we can speculate on how many hearts are out there. Not very many is the answer. They are more common than triangles and pentagons, but they are much less common than octagons.
     In the past year or so, five Scottish hearts have been sold on ebay, and two were sold from the Merchant collection in a Simmons Gallery auction. This small grouping of seven included two from Dunfirmline (BK336), three from Clackmannan (BK187), and one each from Kirkton (BK687) and Airth (BK22). Note that I used Brook #s although subsequently identified varieties exist (and are given separate Burzinski numbers). The first two (BK336 and BK187) are offered most often -- these are probably the most common hearts available (in this order).
     Prices paid are all over the place. The pieces come and go quickly, so inattentive bidders miss the show. Also, some folks -- although desirous of a heart -- are unwilling to pay the BB or above money it takes to get one. For example, two Clackmannan hearts (BK187) sold in late 2012 for $79 and $114 -- only four or five bidders were competing for them. A third Clackmannan heart was hammered down for less than $20 in the Simmons Gallery auction (2013), as few bidders were in the room. I think the value is the average of the first two hammers: about $96. But who is to say that a bidding war pushed up the price the second time? About the same prices have been paid for those from Dunfirmline.
     In contrast, the Airth (BK22) piece sold for $125 -- we have no comparisons to make here, as this one is not placed on the block very often. But it is interesting that only three bidders competed: low demand or reluctance to jump into the fray. Finally, the Kirkton piece only brought $66, but it was heavily worn with flat surfaces.
     In closing, I leave teasers: How many hearts are dated? And what is the oldest date?

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