Conder token

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Conder Token Middlesex DH414 Pidcocks Menagerie obverse.jpg
Conder Token Middlesex DH414 Pidcocks Menagerie reverse.jpg
A token struck in the 1790s to advertise the menagerie of wild animals of Mr. Gilbert Pidcock, at Exeter Change, in the Strand. [1]

Conder tokens, also known as 18th-century provincial tokens, are a form of privately minted token coinage struck and used during the latter part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century in England, Anglesey and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Token coin coin-like object used instead of coins

In numismatics, token coins or trade tokens are coin-like objects used instead of coins. The field of token coins is part of exonumia and token coins are token money. Tokens have a denomination either shown or implied by size, color or shape. "Tokens" are often made of cheaper metals: copper, pewter, aluminium, brass and tin were commonly used, while bakelite, leather, porcelain, and other less durable materials are also known.

A coin is a small, flat, round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint in order to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.


The driving force behind the need for token coinage was the shortage of small denomination coins for everyday transactions. However, the demand was fueled by other factors such as the Industrial Revolution, population growth, and the preponderance of counterfeit circulating coins. Because the government made little effort to ameliorate this shortage, private business owners and merchants took matters into their own hands, and the first tokens of this type were issued in 1787 to pay workers at the Parys Mine Company. By 1795, millions of tokens of a few thousand varying designs had been struck and were in common use throughout Great Britain.

Industrial Revolution Mid-20th-to-early-21th-century period; First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the US, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system. The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Collecting Conder tokens has been popular since shortly after they were first manufactured, resulting in the availability today of many highly preserved examples for collectors. The demarcation of what is or is not considered a Conder token is somewhat unclear; however, most collectors consider Conder tokens to include those indexed originally by James Conder [2] or later by Dalton & Hamer. [3]

James Conder (1761–1823) was an English businessman and numismatist. He is known for giving his name to Conder Tokens and because of the coincidence of an ancient hoard of coins being found ten feet under his doorstep when his house was demolished.


Coin shortage

Thomas Williams of Llanidan.jpeg
Thomas Williams, the "Copper King" of Parys Mountain

In Great Britain, a shortage of small denomination coinage had been reported as early as the late 14th century. Such a shortage made it difficult for workers to be paid, and for transactions of daily life to be carried out. The shortages persisted and worsened through the late 17th century and became particularly problematic by the middle of the 18th century. [4] The shortage of small denomination coinage reached a critical mass with the move of many workers away from agricultural jobs and into the work force in factories during the Industrial Revolution. The growing payrolls of factories were nearly impossible to meet for employers with no supply of coins. [5] At the same time, the population growth rate of Great Britain between 1750 and 1800 nearly quadrupled. [6] The situation was only made worse by the outflow of British silver coins via Gresham's law, the preponderance of counterfeit copper coins in circulation, and the Royal Mint's sporadic production of non-gold coins from the late 17th century to the late 18th century. For many years, no copper or silver coins were minted at all, and in 1775 King George III had halted the production of copper coinage at the Royal Mint. [7] [8]

In economics, Gresham's law is a monetary principle stating that "bad money drives out good". For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will gradually disappear from circulation.

Counterfeit money money that was created illegally

Counterfeit money is imitation currency produced without the legal sanction of the state or government usually in a deliberate attempt to imitate that currency and so as to deceive its recipient. Producing or using counterfeit money is a form of fraud or forgery. The business of counterfeiting money is almost as old as money itself: plated copies have been found of Lydian coins which are thought to be among the first Western coins. Before the introduction of paper money, the most prevalent method of counterfeiting involved mixing base metals with pure gold or silver. Another form of counterfeiting is the production of documents by legitimate printers in response to fraudulent instructions. During World War II, the Nazis forged British pounds and American dollars. Today some of the finest counterfeit banknotes are called Superdollars because of their high quality and likeness to the real US dollar. There has been significant counterfeiting of Euro banknotes and coins since the launch of the currency in 2002, but considerably less than for the US dollar.

Royal Mint minter of coins in the United Kingdom

The Royal Mint is a government-owned mint that produces coins for the United Kingdom. Operating under the name Royal Mint Ltd, the mint is a limited company that is wholly owned by Her Majesty's Treasury and is under an exclusive contract to supply all the nation's coinage. As well as minting circulating coins for use domestically and internationally, the mint also produces planchets, commemorative coins, various types of medals and precious metal bullion. The mint exports to an average of 60 countries a year, making up 70% of its total sales. Formed over 1,100 years ago, the mint was historically part of a series of mints that became centralised to produce coins for the Kingdom of England, all of Great Britain and eventually most of the British Empire. The original London mint from which the Royal Mint is the successor, was established in 886 AD and operated within the Tower of London for approximately 800 years before moving to what is now called Royal Mint Court where it remained until the 1960s. As Britain followed the rest of the world in decimalising its currency, the Mint moved from London to a new 38 acres (15 ha) plant in Llantrisant, Wales where it has remained since.

A halfpenny token issued by the Parys Mine Company of Anglesey in 1788. The hooded druid design was used for many years, and was the first of hundreds of token designs. Conder Token 1788 Anglesey Halfpenny DH275 composite.jpg
A halfpenny token issued by the Parys Mine Company of Anglesey in 1788. The hooded druid design was used for many years, and was the first of hundreds of token designs.

In 1768, one of the largest veins of copper in the world was found at Parys Mountain on the island of Anglesey in the northwest of Wales. [9] In 1785, Thomas Williams (the "Copper King"), acting as a representative of the Parys Mine Company, met with the master of the British mint to propose that regal copper coins be struck using a counterfeit-deterrent method of edge lettering, and offering this technology to the mint free of charge. The stipulation was that the supply of the copper for these new coins would come from the Parys Mine Company. The British mint master did not entertain the offer. By 1786, two-thirds of the coins in circulation in Britain were counterfeit, and the Royal Mint responded by shutting itself down, worsening the situation. [10] Few of the silver coins being passed were genuine. [11] Even the copper coins were melted down and replaced with lightweight fakes. [11] The Royal Mint struck no copper coins for 48 years, from 1773 until 1821. [12] On the rare occasions when the Royal Mint did strike coins, they were relatively crude, with quality control nonexistent. [10] In February 1787 Williams oversaw the minting of the first of many privately issued copper tokens, some being used to pay workers at the Parys Mine Company. [13] These first tokens bore the image of a hooded Druid, and within two months time were receiving attention in London as a possible solution to the shortage of small denomination coin. [14] Not long after the appearance of the Druid tokens, other cities, businesses, and proprietors would follow suit and begin designing and minting their own small denomination coinage. [15]

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Parys Mountain mountain in United Kingdom

Parys Mountain is located south of the town of Amlwch in north east Anglesey, Wales. It is the site of a large copper mine that was extensively exploited in the late 18th century.

Anglesey Island

Anglesey is an island off the north coast of Wales with an area of 276 square miles (715 km2). Anglesey is by far the largest island in Wales and the seventh largest in the British Isles. Anglesey is also the largest island in the Irish Sea by area, and the second most populous island. The ferry port of Holyhead handles more than 2 million passengers each year. The Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford in 1826, and the Britannia Bridge span the Menai Strait to connect Anglesey with the mainland.

Matthew Boulton and The Soho Mint

A token minted by Boulton in late 1794 for the proprietor Christopher Ibberson. Note the edge lettering stating "PAYABLE AT THE GEORGE & BLUEBOAR LONDON". Conder Token Middlesex DH342 obverse and edge inscription.jpg
A token minted by Boulton in late 1794 for the proprietor Christopher Ibberson. Note the edge lettering stating "PAYABLE AT THE GEORGE & BLUEBOAR LONDON".

The demand for small denomination coin flourished, and with it the popularity of copper tokens that approximated the size of the halfpenny grew rapidly. One of the most prolific producers of these private tokens (struck on behalf of merchants) was Matthew Boulton. In fact, during his lifetime Boulton would strike millions of these merchant pieces. [16] Boulton was no stranger to the manufacture of small metal items, having grown up with and managed his family business for many years, which specialized in buckles. In the mid-1780s Boulton had turned his attention to coinage; in his eyes coins and tokens were just another small metal product like those he had manufactured for years. [10] He also had shares in several Cornish copper mines, and had a large personal stock of copper, purchased when the mines were unable to dispose of it elsewhere. [17] However, when orders for counterfeit money were sent to him, he refused them: "I will do anything, short of being a common informer against particular persons, to stop the malpractices of the Birmingham coiners." [18] In 1788 he established the Soho Mint as part of his industrial plant. The mint included eight steam-driven presses, each striking between 70 and 84 coins per minute. [10]

Matthew Boulton English industrialist, business partner of James Watt

Matthew Boulton was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century, the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, which were a great advance on the state of the art, making possible the mechanisation of factories and mills. Boulton applied modern techniques to the minting of coins, striking millions of pieces for Britain and other countries, and supplying the Royal Mint with up-to-date equipment.

Coining (metalworking) form of precision stamping in metalworking in which a workpiece is subjected to a sufficiently high stress to induce plastic flow on the surface of the material

Coining is a form of precision stamping in which a workpiece is subjected to a sufficiently high stress to induce plastic flow on the surface of the material. A beneficial feature is that in some metals, the plastic flow reduces surface grain size, and work hardens the surface, while the material deeper in the part retains its toughness and ductility. The term comes from the initial use of the process: manufacturing of coins.

Soho Mint coin and medal mint operated in England by Matthew Boulton

Soho Mint was created by Matthew Boulton in 1788 in his Soho Manufactory in Handsworth, West Midlands, England. A mint was erected at the manufactory containing eight machines, to his own patent design, driven by steam engine, each capable of striking 70 to 84 coins per minute.

Matthew Boulton - Carl Frederik von Breda.jpg
Matthew Boulton in 1792

Boulton spent much time in London lobbying for a contract to strike British coins, but in June 1790 the William Pitt Government postponed a decision on recoinage indefinitely. [19] Meanwhile, the Soho Mint struck coins for the East India Company, Sierra Leone and Russia, while producing high-quality planchets, or blank coins, to be struck by national mints elsewhere. [10] The firm sent over 20 million blanks to Philadelphia, to be struck into cents and half-cents by the United States Mint. [20]

The national financial crisis reached a point of despair in February 1797, when the Bank of England stopped redeeming its bills for gold. In an effort to get more money into circulation, the Government adopted a plan to issue large quantities of copper coins, and Lord Hawkesbury summoned Boulton to London on 3 March 1797, informing him of the Government's plan, and he was awarded a contract at the end of the month. [20] According to a proclamation dated 26 July 1797, King George III was "graciously pleased to give directions that measures might be taken for an immediate supply of such copper coinage as might be best adapted to the payment of the laborious poor in the present exigency". [21] The proclamation required that the coins weigh one and two ounces respectively, bringing the intrinsic value of the coins close to their face value. [21] With the return of large quantities of government issued small denomination coin (twopence and pennies were minted at the Soho Mint in 1797, and halfpennies and farthings followed in 1799), the need for locally issued token coinage waned.

The return of government coinage

By 1802, the production of privately issued provincial tokens had ceased. [22] [23] However, in the next ten years the intrinsic value of copper rose. The return of privately minted token coinage was evident by 1811 and endemic by 1812, as more and more of the Government issued copper coinage was melted down for trade. [23] The Royal Mint undertook a massive recoinage programme in 1816, with large quantities of gold and silver coin being minted. To thwart the further issuance of private token coinage, in 1817 an act of parliament was passed which forbade the manufacture of private token coinage under very severe penalties. [23]


Early collectors

A token issued by James Conder in 1794 James Conder token.jpg
A token issued by James Conder in 1794

Early on, the issue of private token coinage served a purpose to ease everyday transactions. But, by 1793, the hobby of collecting and trading various tokens achieved widespread popularity. [24] Most tokens issued in the early years were primarily intended for circulation. However, manufacturers soon found that issuing token designs in very limited mintage meant they could be sold directly to collectors at tidy profits. [25] A few enterprising collectors even funded the issue of very small mintage tokens of their own design. [26] [27] These self-made "rare" tokens would then be used to trade with other collectors in an attempt to fill their collections with as many varieties as possible. [27] [24] As evidence of the collecting craze, three extensive reference works on the indexing and collecting of provincial tokens were published before 1800 by Pye (first edition in 1795), [25] Birchall (1796), [28] and Conder (1798). [2] None of these three published works were undertaken by accomplished numismatic researchers, but instead were undertaken out of personal interest and were largely based on the personal collections of the authors. Because of the widespread "collecting mania", a great number of extremely well preserved tokens survive today, having been tucked away in private collections for decades. [24]

Topics and designs

Because Conder tokens were minted independently of government, the creators of these tokens had the freedom to make political statements and social commentary, to honour great men, ideals, great events, or to simply advertise their businesses. Subjects range from Isaac Newton to Abolition, Prisons and Mental Institutions to circus performers. [2] [3] [29] [30] Issuers of the coins needed only have the means and the will to mint their own coin. Many tokens were officially payable only in certain areas and locations, but there is no doubt that these copper promissory tokens were treated as official copper coin by many at the time and they circulated widely. By 1795, there were thousands of different designs circulating, the great majority of these tokens being halfpennies. [8]

Cataloging and Attribution

A depiction of the approximate diameters of token farthings, halfpennies, and pennies issued from 1787 to 1802. The size of a standard wooden matchstick and a typical shirt button are shown for comparison. Conder token size comparison.png
A depiction of the approximate diameters of token farthings, halfpennies, and pennies issued from 1787 to 1802. The size of a standard wooden matchstick and a typical shirt button are shown for comparison.

Conder tokens are named after James Conder who was an early collector and cataloguer of these tokens. [2] [8] Building on the work of Conder and a few other intermediary reference works, the definitive and exhaustive work on attributing Conder tokens used by modern collectors is that of Dalton and Hamer. [3] [31] Each token is identified based on one of four large geographic regions (England, Anglesey and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland), then further by county. [3] [29] Within the county of issue, each unique combination of obverse and reverse design is assigned a number (referred to as the D&H number), and variations in edge lettering are further differentiated by a lower case letter following the number designation. In general, the tokens are organized within each county such that pennies are listed first (lowest D&H numbers), then halfpennies, and finally farthings (highest D&H numbers). [3] [32] It is also quite common for collectors to refer to a token by the specific city, business, or series of the issue within the larger county category. A few tokens were issued in denominations other than the penny, halfpenny, and farthing, and these less common denominations are also indexed in Dalton and Hamer. The vast majority of tokens indexed in D&H from the period were struck in copper, even those in odd denominations of threepence, one shilling, and others. [3] [33]

Dalton & Hamer classifications

  Great Britain  Anglesey & Wales  Scotland  Ireland

OrderCountyNo. of tokensDalton & Hamer numbers [3]
12Essex4323-4142-431 (shilling)
14Hampshire1172-89-9495-1171 (shilling)
21Middlesex11746-245246-10521053-11741-5 (various)
23Norfolk552-45-54551 (3 pence)
26Nottinghamshire1056-101-4 (various)
35Warwickshire4856-4445-474475-4851-5 (various)
47Angusshire435-67-3637-431-4 (shillings)
63Not Local81-8
66Dublin4661-45-381382-411411-466 (leaden)
68King’s County41-4 (thirteen pence)

Rarity of tokens

When originally published, Dalton and Hamer assigned rarity information to each token based on the number minted with each die pairing, and with each edge type. Over time some of these estimates have been found to be overestimates of mintages, whereas others have underestimated mintages. Tokens are classified into large groups called "Common", "Scarce", "Rare", "Very Rare", and "Extremely Rare". [34] While some tokens are classified as rare based only on their varied edge lettering, the more sought after tokens are those with very small mintages of a particular obverse and/or reverse design.

See also

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    1. Waters 1906, pp. 29-30.
    2. 1 2 3 4 Conder 1798.
    3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dalton, Hamer & 1910–17.
    4. Selgin 2011, p. 4.
    5. Selgin 2011, pp. 4-8.
    6. Selgin 2011, p. 8.
    7. Selgin 2011, pp. 11-37.
    8. 1 2 3 McKivor 2013.
    9. Selgin 2011, pp. 38-40.
    10. 1 2 3 4 5 Rodgers 2009.
    11. 1 2 Lobel 1999, p. 575.
    12. Tungate 2009, p. 80.
    13. Selgin 2011, pp. 40-43.
    14. Selgin 2011, p. 43-49.
    15. Selgin 2011, pp. 121-153.
    16. Mayhew 1999.
    17. Smiles 1865, p. 399.
    18. Smiles 1865, p. 179.
    19. Symons 2009, p. 93.
    20. 1 2 Symons 2009, p. 94.
    21. 1 2 Kings proclamation 1797.
    22. Pye 1801, p. 4.
    23. 1 2 3 Hocking 1906, p. 327.
    24. 1 2 3 Ultimate Guide 2010, p. 6.
    25. 1 2 Pye 1801.
    26. Hamer 1903, pp. 299-301.
    27. 1 2 Hamer 1905, p. 369.
    28. Birchall 1796.
    29. 1 2 Ultimate Guide 2010.
    30. Withers & Withers 2010.
    31. Ultimate Guide 2010, p. 3.
    32. Ultimate Guide 2010, pp. 19-22.
    33. Ultimate Guide 2010, pp. 10-11.
    34. Ultimate Guide 2010, pp. 5.


    Other sources