Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What makes for "Desirability" in CTs?

Here is a post that comes from our newest blog member. Welcome David.

I have been stimulated to give some thought as to what constitutes 'desirability' in this field of collecting. Apart from collectors who pursue a thematic approach, such as collecting tokens of a particular region, 
religious denomination or diversity of scriptural quotations, that which determines the acquisitive drive for the generalist collector is probably a combination of rarity, aesthetic appeal and an associated interesting 
history or story. Rarity, as has been noted before in the blog, is often uncertain, as it is a judgement usually based on the frequency with which a 
token appears in the market place, knowledge very much dependent on the experience and vigilance of the collector. The regular market reports of 
this blog assist in making such assessments. Aesthetic appeal is a composite of design, shape, metallic composition, condition and legends. The stories connected with a particular token or its church form the other component of this trilogy. Individual collectors will give their own weightings to each of these elements.

Two nineteenth-twentieth century Scottish tokens already noted by previous contributors may serve to illustrate these issues. There is general agreement that the two St Kilda Free Church tokens are rare. This assessment 
is based on the knowledge that they served a very small population for whom church attendance was virtually mandatory. They are seldom offered for sale: BZ 6482 has appeared rarely, an example fetching a high price when sold on ebay in July 2014, but I have not seen BZ 2277 (with legends in Gaelic) 
offered for sale. The latter token reflects the native language of the St. Kildans - very few spoke English. The tokens were the subject of a brief paper by Henry Garside published in Spink's Numismatic Circular in 1916 
(Vol. 24, pp. 37-38), where they were described as "two very rare communion tokens in the National Collection, British Museum".

A fine example of a token with much aesthetic appeal is that of Glenapp (BZ 2896).  This token, while not of the same order of rarity as the St Kilda tokens, is nevertheless scarce and eagerly sought. It is one of few tokens 
struck in bronze, its singular design was created by the architect who also remodelled the picturesque Glenapp church, and its symbols of Paschal Lamb on the obverse and Celtic Trinitarian trefoils on the reverse, offer scope for religious reflection.  I recall reading that a minister of the church used its iconography for a sermon. The style of trefoil on the token is reproduced on the Celtic decoration of the Church's lectern.

Unattributed tokens have collector appeal, not only on account of their probable rarity, but because they also offer scope for research and reverie. If they are also unpublished, there is scope to make a small contribution to 
the corpus of knowledge. It is not uncommon to come across unattributed tokens of the eighteenth century or earlier, but quite unusual to find one of a later period.  I include images of a token dated 1837 (see token picture above) that I have been unable to locate in any published reference. In style it is similar to a Free Church of Scotland token of St Luke's Church, Edinburgh, dated 1852 (BZ7596), although the rectangular shape accommodates the design horizontally rather than vertically. I understand the congregation that became St Luke's had its origins in 1836, their church being known originally as the Young Street Chapel. I am wondering whether this 1837 issue may be a surviving token of Young Street Chapel. Perhaps the majority 
of tokens were destroyed after the presumably later but undated issue came into use, these new tokens being stamped 'St. Luke's Church, Young Street, Edinburgh' (BZ 2342).  When the congregation joined the Free Church after the Disruption in 1843, tokens picturing their new church building resulted in the attractive issue dated 1852.  Only two rectangular shaped Free Church tokens are noted by Kerr and Lockie (PSAS, LXXIX, p. 27), one being that of St Luke's Free Church, perhaps lending some support to the possibility that 
this last issue may have reverted to the prototype provided by the 1837 tokens, perhaps for sentimental or other reasons. The 1837 token is of white metal and measures 28 x 18 mm.  Identifying the building it portrays, or 
some documentary evidence, would clearly be of value in attributing the token to a particular church.

A very large print of the whole city of Edinburgh, circa 1860, drawn from an elevated perspective, shows a building on the southern side of Young Street, very similar to that portrayed on the token. I reproduce a small segment of the print (see above) greatly magnified. The building in question is that in 
the centre of the image. 

I would value any help in confirming or dismissing this tentative 
attribution of the token to Young Street Chapel.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Communion Token Guidebook in Coinage Magazine

I was pleasantly surprised to see a full color review of the guidebook Communion Tokens in the January 2015 issue of Coinage magazine; the review was written by Mike Thorne, Ph.D. -- one of their regular contributors (and book reviewer). I spoke with him earlier in the year; he is a very interesting fellow who is also a psychologist. His numismatic writing is a natural extension of his coin collecting interests plus a distinguished career in textbook writing. In any case, it was quite an honor to have the CT guidebook featured along with other mainstream books -- on one side was David Bower's Buffalo Coins: America's Favorite, and on other side was Beth Deisher's Cash In Your Coins. The CT guidebook won a Numismatic Literary Guild award for Extraordinary Merit, so that is nice too.
     The book is still available from me on ebay at the list price of $14.95 with free shipping in the USA. If you are from overseas, you can get the book on or from other large book distributors (e.g., Amazon).
Masthead from January 2015 Coinage Magazine
written by Mike Thorne, Ph.D.
     For a couple of months, the book was unavailable, as I did not renew the online book contract. Consequently, a few used book sellers stepped-in the marketplace -- one of them was offering the book for $1000 on Amazon. I hope no one needed it that bad! I like to think of this book as a gift to the collecting community: It was the book that I wanted to read, as there was nothing out there to get me started -- although, I must say that Brook has stood the test of time as a must-have guide with an excellent introduction.
     I still have about 15 books left (saving another five for gifts), so this guidebook is near the end of its run. There is no way to break even on this project, but at least I am over half-way there (my wife is happy about that). I encourage others (maybe some on the blog) to tackle a project like this. There are other books that could be (need to be) written on CTs -- personally, I would like to see a Top 100 Communion Tokens book with nice photos and church histories.
     I am working on a second CT book that will be more of a gazetteer that profiles regional variations and trends (a type set/varieties collecting approach) -- sort of a continuation of the CT by shapes idea. This will be a useful book (I hope) that aligns neatly with BK, K&L, and BZ. As before, the true reason for writing is to give me something fun to do. Nonetheless, this project is on-hold at the moment, as I am going off in a new direction right now -- that is why my user name has changed from Token Hunter to SCD. What can I say? The SCD reflects my love for relic coins and tokens -- and readers of this blog know that I particularly like the primitive, rough-hewn CTs.
     In the meantime, I think blog readers would like to hear about and see pictures of any new CTs you have acquired. The Market Watch postings have noted many nice pieces going to new homes -- Did you get one? As for me, I have a new one from New Kingston, NY that I will profile later this month -- I got it last year. It is a nice one: shiny, not primitive -- but it is a USA piece, and rare as such.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Market Watch for November & December

Happy New Year: 2015!
     Last year went out with a bang! The CT marketplace has heated up a bit with 517 CTs sold in the past two months. As I write this, there are over 550 CT listings on ebay. Several big collections are being dispersed, and collectors have noticed.
     In November, 244 CTs were sold on ebay. This number went up to 273 in December. Totals like this have not been seen since the start of last summer. Most of the CTs sold inexpensively: 330 CTs sold for under $20 in the C range (64% of the two-month total). In the $20 to $49 B group, there were 175 CTs sold (34% of the total).  Only eight CTs brought BB prices above $50.  In the A range ($75 to $99), there were two sales, and there were two sales in the AA range above that. Consequently, only 2% of the total sold for over $50. These figures show that CT collecting is still very reasonable.
Here is the listing from Brook for the CT that sold for $190.
The loaf is similar to that found on BK272 Dalmellington
and BK275 Dalrymple; this is probably a regional feature
that comes from the same hand (or brain). On the reverse
the reference is to Psalm 116 (as on BK272 obverse).
     Twelve CTs sold above $50. Topping this group, a round piece from Carsphairn (BK173) was hammered the day after Christmas for $190. This is a whopping price, but it is a rare piece not seen for sale in at least a few years. Six bidders competed for it, casting 30 bids. The top bidder knew it was rare and had entered a high bid early on -- a fury of bids only led to frustration among the rest. It is a nice piece that comes with a loaf of bread!
     A Kirkton heart (BK689), dated 1761, brought a healthy $109 on 12/20. Five bidders vied for it, casting 12 bids; it came down to three at the end. This is one of the more available hearts (only BK336 is more common -- and maybe BK187), as several have sold in the past few years -- all for strong prices.
     Two bidders provided spirited competition for a cut-rectangle dated 1845 from Fairlie FC in Ayr (BZ2496). They went back and forth a dozen times before the piece was hammered down for $97 on 11/15. Prices like this do not come from type collectors: these two were working on an Ayr, FC, or larger set.
     The popular Forgan rectangle, dated 1774 (BK434), brought $79 on 11/23 with seven bidders casting ten bids. The winner showed up with all the money in the last hour. This piece has been up and down in the marketplace -- I have seen prices range from $30 on up to A category dollars. This was a nice clean piece purchased at the top.
     An interesting lead token that could be a CT (or a seal) was placed on the block in late October, selling for $70 on 11/2. The piece was roundish with rough edges; it was styled in the form of a market token (or Glasgow square) with two concentric circles framing the legend: S.Botolphs with WH in the center. The listing suggested that the initials could stand for Willam Hutchinson from a church in Aldgate, London. An estimated date of circa 1590 was given. You decide. Only three bidders took the dare, each entering one bid.
     A trio of BIN sales also brought in $70, $70, and $60 respectively. The first was a cut-rectangle from Popular Grove, Halifax, Nova Scotia (NS-236). The second one was a round CT from Rathillet (Fife), dated 1782 -- the latter token is a common one that typically sells for C money; as such, it over-sold by a wide margin. The listing stated that it was "rare" -- not really. The third was a cut-rectangle from Earlton in Nova Scotia (NS-214) that sold for $60.
     Rounding out the top twelve CTs: a worn Airlie round piece (BK19) sold for $59 with four bidders showing; a very nice round CT from Ardclach (BK53), dated (16)91 sold for $53 with seven bidders showing -- this is a popular one with the Love/Love reverse; a cut-rectangle from Ferrintosh FC (BZ2542) brought $53 from two bidders; and a round piece, dated 1786, from Meigle (BZ4708) just slid over the BB category mark, selling for a BIN price of $51.
     On balance, the holiday season was good for CT collectors. The marketplace seems strong and 2015 appears to be off to a good start with many listings posted.