Here's another Baldwin's blog article based on lots in their May 25th sale of the Patrick Deane collection of Eighteenth Century Tokens.
Henry Biggs was an innkeeper in Birmingham, the ‘General Elliot' in Moore Street and issued his own ‘Halfpenny' in 1792 in order that he could give change in the tavern where he was also a licensed victualler. Not unsurprisingly, the design for his halfpenny featured the bust of General Elliot who had so valiantly defended Gibraltar against the French and Spanish some twelve years previously. The coin is copper and about 30mm wide.
In the 1790s there was no official small copper change in the country. Britain was at war with France and the price of copper had risen causing the regal issue to ‘vanish'. This caused tremendous hardship for small merchants and shop keepers throughout the country, for how were they to conduct the everyday transactions of selling small goods if they had no change. The Crown was busy with the war and any ‘unofficial' production of coin of the realm would be seen as forgery which was punishable by hanging ! Eventually a Welsh mining company hit upon the idea of turning their copper straight into pennies and halfpennies but calling them ‘tokens' that were redeemable in official coin – thus avoiding the forgery problem. As they were the correct weight, no one bothered to change them and in the space of a year, merchants in every town in England started issuing their token pence !
On the edge of Biggs's halfpenny pictured here, is the legend PAYABLE AT HENRY BIGGS'S MOORE STREET, thus stating that it was redeemable as a halfpenny token and not an actual halfpenny !
This solved the lack of small change in the 1790s and for ten years, until the government got its act together after the war and issued official copper coins. Throughout this last decade of the eighteenth century, it is these copper ‘token' pence and halfpence one would have had in one's pocket, all over the country, as small change.
There were many merchants in Warwickshire issuing their own coppers, particularly in Birmingham and Coventry and also other smaller localities such as Warwick, Meriden, Nuneaton and Stratford-upon-Avon
For Meriden there is a beautiful halfpenny token featuring the annual archery competition between the ‘Woodmen of Arden' that took place there and for Stratford-upon-Avon the halfpenny naturally features William Shakespeare.
Robert Reynolds & Co. were ribbon weavers in Coventry and produced a very elegant token in 1792. One side shows an almost naked Lady Godiva on a horse whilst the other side portrays the arms of Coventry, an elephant and castle.
The tokens for all these Warwickshire localities can be seen in an auction of 18th. century Tokens being held by A H Baldwin & Sons on the 25th. of May. This is one of the finest collections of these tradesmen's tokens to come onto the market in many years and each piece can be viewed on https://thestrand.com/departments/coins#upcoming-auctions They provide a marvellous window into this last decade of the eighteenth century.
Every English county is represented and nearly every English city and market town has a merchant or shopkeeper issuing their own coins and for ten years it was a truly a coinage ‘of the people, by the people, for the people'.
To read the complete article, see:
WHEN WARWICKSHIRE MADE ITS OWN COINS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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