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17th Century Tradesman's Tokens

17th-century tradesmen's tokens were made in various alloys of copper and brass, and were struck between 1648 and 1672, and semi-officially tolerated, in a period when the amount of officially available small change was woefully inadequate. The start of issue was stimulated by a combination of the death of Charles I on 30 January 1648/9 and a public reaction against the little tinny pieces issued by certain of the royal favourites, under licence, during the period 1613-48. The end came about in response to an official edict, issued in 1672 after the introduction of a proper royal copper coinage, that in consequence of official provision now being made, the use of unofficial privately-issued coinage had to cease.

Issues started in the Home Counties within weeks of Charles' demise and spread rapidly across Southern and Eastern England and the Midlands. In Wales and Northern England token issue was often quite sparse and did not start before 1656 or even later; Durham, strongly royalist and indicated as such on its tokens, was one of two or three counties which did not issue until after the Restoration. With one exception, tokens were not issued in Scotland, whose independent official coinage was obviously deemed adequate. Tokens were also issued in Ireland, broadly similar, but with the penny predominant; good copper pieces did not arrive there until 1680, and the tokens thus lingered on, despite official discouragement, throughout the 1670s.

Trade tokens were given in small change by shops, inns, taverns, ale-houses and all manner of small tradespeople. They normally carry the name or initials of the trader, his street address and an emblem of his trade or his shop-sign.

A halfpenny issued by Robert STONIER

At the King's Bench in Southwalk, 1669

A halfpenny issued by William STONYER

Against the French Church in Threadneedle Street

William Stonyer ran a coffee shop.

A halfpenny issued by John STONYER

Church Lane in Whitechapel, 1658

Church Lane is likely to have been in proximity to a small chapel dedicated to St Mary, for which Whitechapel is named. The chapel was destroyed in World War II, the site now being marked by a public garden.


Last modified by Alan Stanier on 9 June 2013