Tokens, Jetons and Forgeries

Back by popular demand, David Thorold, Keeper of Archaeology at St Albans Verulamium Museum came to Marlow to give us a second talk. On the night of the talk all the roads around Liston Hall were closed because of resurfacing, which was a challenge for David and the audience alike, however, I think everyone made it in eventually, thanks for your perseverance David!.

David has been at Verulamium Museum since 1991 and has been the coin specialist there since 1993. He has excavated on a few of the St Albans excavations. He has also written a children’s book on the Romans in Britain along with the Verulamium field archaeologist.

David’s talk looked at the forgers’ methods of copying designs and techniques over the centuries and the difficulties involved in spotting modern reproductions, then he ran through coin like objects that aren’t technically coins, such as the jeton and tokens.  After that a look at later coinage and “oddities” and semi legal coinage.

David put up a slide of 6 coin like objects to see if we could spot the forgeries (not easy) and then went through some different methods of forging, such as casting using the lost wax process, this could be identified by the bubbles sometimes produced by this process.  Sand casting, similar to lost wax method would usually produce a rough texture coin. An electrotype forgery usually has solder on the edge, where the two halves are joined. Looking at the edges is one way of identifying forgeries, he explained that the modern £1 coin forgery is usually identified by the edge of it, the writing type is the giveaway, there are very many forged £1 coins in circulation.

He explained how a gentleman called Slavey has become so good at making copies that he signs the copies and these are now collectable in their own right.

Billy and Charlie were Mudlarks on the Thames in the mid 19th century and when the demand for medieval artefacts could not be fulfilled, they started making their own, but these had meaningless and incorrect inscriptions, however they were able to sell these for several years and now these also have become very collectable in their own right.  Many of the forgers were illiterate and therefore the wording on the forgery was incorrect which would identify it as such.

We were shown an early example of a Jeton which were first struck around 12/13c, the English jetons were of good quality, they were also made in Europe, mostly of bronze and were used as reckoning counters.

Medieval lead tokens were used for agricultural workers who were paid using tokens which could be redeemed at the end of the season in the farm shop. Later, hop picking tokens were used in the same way

Official coinage started to be produced around 1772 – by King George III, then it stops (the issues of copper coins from the mint were extremely irregular, as the government only needed silver and gold coinage, so copper coins were only struck as an afterthought, or once the supply had become so limited that it was a necessity).  If an exact copy of a coin was made, this was a punishable offence, so to get round this slightly different coins were made, these were called evasion coins.

Parys Mining Company produced the copper penny token in 1787 which became accepted as currency because of trust in the owner of the mine who was known to be wealthy.

David showed us an early example of a calendar coin. And explained that tokens also started to be used for advertising.

As before, David had brought numerous examples from the collection at the Verulamium Museum and he was very happy to discuss and identify items brought in by the audience.

Thanks David for another hugely interesting talk.

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