Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Errors and mysteries

Errors and Mysteries
Things are not always as they seem, even when written up in books by respected researchers. Let me show you what I mean.
When an American dealer was selling dies for Communion tokens, I bought the one pictured, for the obverse of the token for Penrith and St. Mary’s. The token is listed in Copinger as number 224, Penrith, Cumberland. The reference continues in Cresswell as number 4903 and Burzinski as number 5586. As far as the identity is concerned, we are home and cool, right?
Not necessarily!
I have a decent collection of English Communion tokens, but not this token – part of the reason I chose this die. So I thought I’d check into the church that issued it. I looked up Penrith, and found it quickly. As is often the case with English Presbyterian Churches, I checked to see if this congregation was not part of the United Reformed Church. It is. Wonderful!
Then I looked for St. Mary’s. No map indicates the existence of a town named St. Mary’s in Cumberland or anywhere near Penrith. Maybe it was a country church, or simply a church name, I thought, but searches continued to come up empty.
The logical next step is to contact the congregation. I emailed Penrith URC and had some delightful exchanges with the congregational secretary, who is very much up on the history of the church. He confirmed that there is no St. Mary’s, told me that Penrith has never been in a joint charge with another congregation, certainly not in the 1800’s, and further, there was no evidence that Penrith Presbyterian Church had ever issued or used a Communion token.
From curiosity to mystery!
A search ensued for other Penriths, and I found one in New South Wales, Australia, and, not far away, a St. Mary’s. Continuing research showed that Penrith and St. Mary’s Presbyterian Churches were a two point charge from 1860 through into the early 1880’s. Logic suggests that this is not an English Communion token, but Australian. Two Australian collectors have looked at the evidence and agree with the findings. Kirkwood and Sons in Edinburgh, makers of the die, tell me that they do not have the old records anymore, so cannot confirm or deny that the token is Australian.
However, to complicate matters, there is no record of Communion tokens being used at Penrith or St. Mary’s. This is not necessarily conclusive as I have seen Session minutes from a Canadian Presbyterian Church that never mention tokens, but the church has a bag of them! My guess, shared by an Australian collector, is that the token was ordered, but never actually used. Further searches for the tokens themselves seem to indicate that they are not often seen. I have found record of only one, and that in a Museum in Scotland. Perhaps it is a proof from Kirkwood who sold off many of their proofs a few years ago. I have tried to find out whether the token the Museum has is new or used, something that might help confirm my guess, but they don’t do such searches, so I may have to go to the Museum next time I am in Scotland.
If anyone out there has an example of the Penrith and St. Mary’s token I’d be interested to hear from you. comtokcanada@gmail.com
By the way, I sent the die to Kirkwood and had restrikes of the obverse made. The reverse is not the same as the original – so there is no confusion. The re-strikes are in my Australian collection.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Market Watch June 2014

June was a busy month with 361 CTs trading hands. Plus, a record sale price was recorded when a Jamaican CT sold for a whopping $621.
     Several big sales dominated the market square this month: comtok offered 91 CTs whereas richardigr offered 136 pieces (a new dealer we have not seen on ebay recently); cobwrightfortishe offered 20 more pieces. These serial auctions accounted for over two-thirds of the sales.
     As expected, most CTs crossed the block for less than $20 underscoring the bargains available. All told, 290 pieces sold for C money. Among these CTs were several nice Glasgow-styled squares, a few eighteenth century, dated pieces with moderate wear, and many late series pieces. Cobwrightforthishe offered a nearly complete run of KL(44) pieces cataloged between KL130 through KL150 -- most of them in excellent condition. Comtok also sold pieces in an orderly fashion, organized by shire and parish.
Obviously, this is a rare piece that is missing from at least
ten collections and is sorely needed by three collectors.
Burzinski notes that this token comes from a small village
in the center of the island.
     Sixty more CTs sold in the B range, plus another seven were bid past the $50 mark into the BB category. At the top of the bill were four pieces that brought A and AA money.
     The top CT was a Jamaican piece from Carron Hall Church (BZ1315) offered by well-known exonumia dealer and Civil War token expert Steve Hayden. He has many CTs in his inventory, most of them from Burzinski's collection. This piece attracted 10 bidders, casting 21 bids. They were all flirting until the end, when three bidders got serious and pushed the price above $500 on the last day. The hammer of $621 is the highest CT sale price recorded since this blog has been published (no others have exceeded the $400 mark in the past 12 months). Not even the hearts can compete. Here is the link: Carron Hall CT from Jamaica.
     The second CT to bring gasps from the on-lookers sold for $365. This one, too, was a Jamaican piece (BZ6333) -- but one we have seen several times in the past year. It is the SMS oval piece that was profiled last fall in this blog. Five bidders vied for it with 18 bids deciding the final outcome. Here is the link: SMS CT from Jamaica.
     The third CT in this month's lineup was another SMS specimen. This one had been listed at a BIN price of $595 price for over six months. It finally sold at an undisclosed best-offer price. Certainly the marketplace has spoken since at least four SMS ovals have traded hands in the $300 range over the past year. Unfortunately, this specimen had a scratch across the first S which was quite obvious to even the casual eye. Still, it is a rare token.
     The fourth CT was in the A range: a Scottish piece from the island of Coll in the Inner Hebrides. It was offered by cobwrightfortishe (KL(44)144 or BZ1543), attracting five bidders who cast seven bids. As is typical, two of them battled urgently as the hammer came down to end the sale. The piece sold for $82 -- a high price for a late-series Scottish CT. Here is the link: Coll CT from Inner Hebrides.
     Of note, a Canadian round from Cornwall in Ontario (CW234-A1) crossed the block for $65 with four bidders casting twice as many bids. This is the first one of these seen in the marketplace for over a year.
     On balance, we see the usual pattern in the marketplace: many inexpensive -- but nice -- CTs selling briskly with three to five bids each, plus a few non-Scottish rarities providing the high-points. The collectors are active, and all reasonably priced CTs are finding new homes.