Thursday, March 13, 2014

Triangular Communion Tokens

Triangles. It is impossible to have fewer sides.
Here are three of the four triangles
that spice up the Scottish series.
     There are few of them in the Scottish series. They are fewer than hearts, but folks do not clamor for them in the same way.
     All told, there are nine triangles. This is three times the number of pentagons (bet you didn't know that right off). Like the hearts, we can reduce the number of triangles by removing varieties from the count: this leaves four different triangles. Each is from a different parish, representing three shires. Hence, there are triangles from Kirkbean in Kirkcudbright, Lamington & Wandel in Lanark, Aberlady in Lothians, and Humbie in Lothians.
     As you can see from the picture, I do not have one from Aberlady.
     They are unusual, but not rare. The Kirkbean triangle seems to be the most frequently encountered, whereas the Humbie piece is more elusive (and desired for its 1699 date). I have seen the L&W piece for sale on several occasions in the past few years, so it is available.
     The Kirkbean pieces (BK648) are all the same: they show a monogram of the parish name KB -- a bold casting sprue mars the field above the letters. There is also a square CT with the same monogram; the square one could have been used at the same time with each shape designated for men or women respectively (or some other distinction like two communion services on consecutive Sundays).
Humbie CT with retrograde 6.
     There are four L&W varieties -- three of these are size varieties (17x16, 19x17, 21x21; cataloged as BK701, KL46-40, KL52-36 respectively) with an L on obverse and a cross on reverse. A fourth variety has a C on the reverse (BK702). Is the C for church? It could be that this latter one is a distinct piece representing a different communion service.
     The Aberlady pieces come in two varieties, differing in the placement of incused letters: K/AB (BK11) or AB/K (KL7). It is actually the orientation of the letters that distinguishes the two pieces, as the K is always nearer the point (and the point is either up or down).
     Finally, the Humbie pieces are also two with one of them showing a retrograde 6 in the date (versus a normal 6). The digits are crudely cut and squeezed at the top. It appears that the engraver started with a neatly spaced 1 but ran out of room by the time he got to the second 9. He seemed to have trouble shaping the curves. It looks like he went over the loop in the 6, perhaps not realizing it was retrograde, as it is boldly cut into the die. And those misshapen 9s are not much better. I wonder what rude tool he was using.
     Perhaps the triangle represented the Trinity: Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

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