Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where do these Communion Tokens come from?

Once you get a few CTs, then what?
     You want the short answer? OK. Keep getting them! They are generally inexpensive if you shop around, so go it! Buy them all!
     You want the long answer? OK. Start to enjoy them: one by one. Too often, collectors just collect. They (or should I say, we) get locked into the accumulation mode, stocking up the safe with stacks of padded envelopes and not enough boxes or pages of neatly arranged CTs. The fire will burn out more quickly if you just accumulate.
     The key to moving towards the box and page world of the tidy collector is to spend time with each token. Every CT -- even the common worn piece -- has a story to tell. We must tell it, as each piece is mute without us.
     We can tackle our CTs with a pure taxonomic strategy: Rounds go here, Squares over there, Ovals in another pile, and so on. But there is more. The next step is to figure out where they came from.
     For those of us in the USA, Scotland is an ocean away. A romantic place where everyone is drinking ale, singing, wearing tartan shirts, and so on ... until, you actually live there and have to get a job to pay bills, get food, fix a roof overhead. And let us not forget Canada just a border away: also a place where everyone is drinking beer, singing, wearing plaid shirts, and so on ... until, you actually live there and have to get a job to pay bills -- you get it! Visitors always get it wrong!

Map, travel books, even a guidebook from the National Trust
can make your communion tokens come alive. 
     In any case, our CTs allow us to travel. This is one of the joys of collecting them. Like most tokens, they come from all over. Just looking up the town or shire or parish is like working a puzzle. The Internet provides a good first glimpse: I have looked up so many Scottish and Canadian towns by sitting here and pecking at the keys. Most of what is on this blog is the fruit of these forays.
     I advocate that you print one or two pages of geographical info for each token in your collection. You can even look at satellite images of ruined churches and the like. Very cool!
     After looking up a token, we hit the maps. So, get a map. I have a modern travel map of Scotland (plus an old one I found in an antique store for a few bucks). There are many maps available on the Internet: here is a link to view a map for each shire in Scotland: Scottish Places Map. Just click on the shire that you want and a map will appear. Want a satellite view? Just click to get one. I like to zoom in and out of these maps! This site is hosted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and is associated with the University of Edinburgh.
     I like to study maps, so I purchased a big one. It is laminated, so that coffee spills and oily danish crumbs do not sink in -- perfect! I spread my map out in the kitchen and look up each token. Over time, you get quite familiar with the countryside.
     I also purchased some travel guides. I like the Eyewitness Travel guide by DK publishing -- lots of pictures! The Lonely Planet guide is also on my bookshelf -- more text in this one. If I want to explore Culross or Balquidder, I just look it up. I can even choose where I would have lunch -- how about Monachyle Mhor? They have fresh seafood and local beef.
     If you really want to get a handle on regional CT subtypes, these maps and books will help you. Want to follow the flow of Glasgow Squares? Pull out Brook and Burzinski and check the maps! Place a pin at each spot! Watch how they spread. How about Octagons from Perth? Start putting pins in the map! Start with Kinnoull, then Killin, and so on (only 21 more to go!).
     After all this, I have decided to visit Scotland. It was bound to happen. I am not sure when, but I have decided to go. And to think that I started this trek with just one CT from Strathaven.

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