April 2nd 2021.
Upcoming club meetings:
Monday 5th April – 8pm.
· Subject - This will be another ‘Zoom’ meeting, open to all members. We will be having a talk from Neil as well as bringing members up to date with any developments.
John opened the meeting with fourteen people in attendance. John was able to announce that he had contacted all the members and all are fine, though we now have two people in the club who have had Covid and recovered. Also almost all the members have had their first jab, which tells you something about the average age of club members! The next thing to say is that following the ‘Roadmap’ there is a possibility of a physical meeting in July – Peter is investigating with the Church. The next two meetings fall on Bank Holidays but in the current situation the members present decided we didn’t need to move them. Graham had had an e-mail advising him that the Birmingham Coin Fair was planning to go ahead on July 11 and the Medallion conference may take place the next day.
Peter Hall advised that this year we will only have a statement of accounts and pick up on the audit trail next year because there have been so few transactions. We are also once again considering not having a membership fee during the 21-22 season for existing members.
Following this we proceeded with Chris’s talk on ‘The Revolutionary Politics of the Late 18th Century’, illustrated with ‘Condor’ Tokens. Chris began by outlining the political situation in the US.
At this time European settlers were expanding their territory and were looking to the home country to help them. In England’s case it was the thirteen states and for France it was French Louisiana. This led to the French/Indian war of 1754 to 1763 and the ‘Seven Years’ war of 1754 to 1763, which also affected Europe. England sought to raise taxes from the settlers to pay for the settler’s protection, the American’s refused and this led to the American Revolution.
American rebels set up ‘Committees of Correspondence’, with a rigid membership, excluding anyone loyal to Britain, to coordinate opposition against Americans who supported Britain. They replaced all loyal Americans in positions of power or influence and arranged boycotts of British goods and were able to influence local Government in a way similar to the present day Chinese Communist Party to the extent that they were operating as a ‘shadow’ Government by 1764. This did not go down well with the ‘Powers that Be’ back home.
Chris then went on to explain what ‘Condor’ tokens were. They are call Condor tokens after James Conder, a noted British Numismatist who not only studied the series but even issued his own tokens. They were produced at a time when there was a shortage of copper currency in the 18th Century, partly caused by the Industrial Revolution. As people moved to the cities there was less opportunity for bartering and a greater need for coinage. Paradoxically, the Industrial Revolution meant that low cost minting was now a possibility and people began to produce their own token coinages. There are five categories of Condor Tokens, trade tokens to be used by one company, generic trade tokens for use as change, tokens for advertising, satire or political commentary, tokens for collectors often showing attractive or important places and finally, private tokens produced as vanity pieces.
Circumstances that gave rise to the production of Condors also included the discovery of huge amounts of copper at the Parys mine in Wales and the problem of large numbers of counterfeits in circulation. Thomas Williams, a representative of the Parys offered the technology for producing edge lettering on coins to help with the counterfeiting to the Royal Mint but the Mint refused and by 1786 2/3 of all copper coins in circulation were counterfeit. The Mint’s response was to shut down production. Parys then issued its own tokens in order to pay its workers, shortly copied by other businesses following their lead.
Chris then spoke about political tokens, which were issued by political radicals in response to fiscal problems all over Europe at the time. He showed two tokens, one with the message ‘Remember the debtors in Ilchester (sic) Goal’ and a second one illustrating a man being shanghaied. Two other tokens had a ‘tree of liberty’ obverse one with a guillotine reverse and the other with a French cockerel attacking a cowering British Lion and a third had a Bonfire on the obverse and proclaiming ‘The End of Oppression’. All of these challenged the establishment with many of them were produced by Thomas Spence, a radical who conceived a plan for property redistribution and political reform. But there were tokens from the Loyalists too which Chris illustrated with a piece which had the King’s portrait and another, with ‘The Wrongs of Man’ parodying Tom Paine, a third had cojoined portraits of the King and Queen with the message ‘Peace and Harmony’ and a fourth with a highly symbolised attack on the unstable situation in France compared with Great Britain. After Spence went bankrupt his tokens were bought by Skidmore who produced them for gain, rather than any political motive and some of these are mules with obverse and reverse giving opposing messages, although they can be looked at as equivocal statements.
Some tokens were purely satirical such as one that was ‘payable at Newgate prison’ mentioning several well known radicals, many were used for advertising including by lawyers and finally we had examples of tokens made purely for collectors.
Chris then went on to address the use of tokens in the American Revolution, starting with the Boston Tea Party. The history of the event is different to the normal story of Great Britain implementing huge taxes and the plucky Americans rising up in revolt. In fact taxes on tea had been around for quite some time (since 1767) before the Tea Party and it was the lowering of the tax on tea to aid the East India Company to make cheap imports of tea to the American colonies that caused a problem. These imports undercut the Dutch tea smuggled illegally into the States. So, in December 1773 the EIC ships are boarded and the tea thrown into the Bay. This action was carried out by the ‘Sons of Liberty’ a group composed of the smugglers and the local merchants threatened by the imports. In a second example, Chris went on to talk about George Washington, normally seen as a paragon of virtue. In fact he was a slave owner who used slave labour on his Mount Vernon Estate. Also a land speculator he acquired large amounts of land on Ohio’s Western Frontier and then removed the indigenous peoples from it. His view was the natives needed to become Westernised. He was not alone and clearly would have been unhappy with Great Britain’s attempts to stifle his ambitions, particularly the move against slavery in London, nicely illustrated by a classic token with the picture of a kneeling slave and the legend ‘Am I not a man and a brother’. Another move he would have objected to was the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which sought to protect the lands of the indigenous Americans by not allowing the settlers to move into American Indian lands. The land had been won from the French by the British but the settlers didn’t want to pay the cost of the war that won it, they only wanted to be able to exploit the land. Neil Beaton helpfully pointed out that George Washington was also a Mason and that when America started producing coins, they were all made in Birmingham in the UK.
Many thanks to Chris for a very informative talk, well researched and illustrated.
And last, but not least and article by Doug
HOW I BECAME INTERESTED IN COINS
These days the newsletter is one of the highlights of my month. The report of John's January talk mirrored how I became interested in coins. As with John, my interest developed in stages.
The first stage started sometime before I was 14 years old with Liverpool Halfpennies and after seeing a picture of an ‘H’ penny, I included the collecting of those along with ‘KN’ pennies. I started collecting Liverpool Halfpennies as a result of being given a strange coin in my change on a tram journey in my hometown of Liverpool. My first instinct was to complain to the conductor that he had given me a foreign coin, but something made me put it into my left trouser pocket for examination when I got home. At home, I realised it was a Liverpool Halfpenny, and at that point I was hooked! From then on, I started to put all my change in my left pocket (for later examination) and only spent from my right pocket. I now have a collection of 9 Halfpennies, two of which I bought with real money at the tables in the club, the rest in change during visits back home prior to decimalisation. I also bought my one and only Liverpool Shilling at the club. When I borrowed a book from the club's library, I realised that there were many types of Liverpool Halfpennies, and one day I will get round to sorting out my collection by type!
Later in life, the next stage of collecting coins started when I was on holiday with some friends and visited a Castle. At the gift shop our friend’s son wanted to buy some replica Roman coins and I said I could get some real Roman coins for far less money. At the next club meeting I bought 2 coins, one with Romulus and Remus for their daughter and their son a coin depicting a horseback rider killing another on the ground. Their son took his coin into his school, but until his mother went to the school to explain the origin of the coin, the teacher did not believe the coin was a real Roman one. To see the pleasure on their faces when holding a real Roman coin in their hands gave me such a thrill. Others of our friends then wanted similar coins for their children, and so the collecting expanded. Years later, these children have grown up, married and it is their children that want their own Roman coins. I must give credit to Peter Hall for the considerable support he has given me over the years in this enterprise.
Soon after the Roman coins distribution had started, the third stage in my collection began. At a club auction, a silver coin that was cut in half came up and presumably because of its condition nobody was bidding for it. I thought it would be of historical interest to my young friends. I therefore put in a low bid which was successful. I think that coin was a Henry III silver coin that I now have in my small collection of historic coins. This collection is made up of coins which nobody seemed to want to bid for and includes a Charles I silver coin with trimmed edges, 2 Maundy coins one a Victoria 4 pence coin and one with solder fixed on one side. Pride of place in the collection is a 38mm James I gold coin, I don't remember how or when I acquired it, but it gets more “oohs” and “ahhs” than any other coin in my collection. As with the Roman coins, to be able to hold such a historical coin in their own hands together with explaining why the Henry III coin was cut in half, greatly increases the children’s appreciation of history. Thanks to subsequent auctions I now have a small collection of historically interesting coins with very little monetary value!
To finish off, I now give away my ‘H’ and ‘KN’ pennies which illustrate the use of mint marks. I always say that I am not a coin collector but maybe I should say that I am a collector of coins that nobody else wants! Finally, as someone who is not a fully-fledged numismatist, I am extremely honoured to be allowed in as a member of an organisation with so many exceptional experts, all of whom treat me as an equal.
10 years ago - Mike Fulford gave a talk on Silchester and the Roman Empire
20 Years ago – Phil gave a talk on Coins and Artifacts found in Berks, Bucks and Oxon
50 Years ago – Alan Ashmole visited us and talked about the coinage of the Sultanate of Oman