FRANCE, brass jeton 15-16th century


FRANCE, jeton, no date, (15-16th c.), Obverse: arms of 3 lis, AVE MARIA GRACIA (lis) X, Reverse: lis-tipped cross in tressure, brass, 26mm, 6.05g, green spot, porous from burial, cleaned of course, aVF

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France has been a hotbed of numismatic activity since Celtic times in the 3rd century BC. People making their own coins (tokens, imitations, counterfeits) was a normal activity wherever and whenever there was a coin shortage. Keeping in mind, of course, in this coinless age, that coins were THE way people did business until the 20th century. In France they were using tokens in the normal, local way we think of tokens being used, from the 15th century.

There were two kinds of jetons used in Europe from the 14th through the early 19th centuries. The first kind was used on counting tables in counting houses to reconcile accounts in different currencies, and most countries had odd exchange rates between their gold, silver, and copper, like, for example, an odd number of copper units equalled the basic gold coin in 17th century France. You’d make stacks of jetons to figure the ration for fractions of the gold coin. The other type of jeton was used as metallic calling cards by rich and middle class people in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet another use of the term is the “glass paste jetons” of ancient and medieval Egypt, which probably substituted for copper coins, and functioned like tokens, standing for a value without having an actual value. Some jetons were substantial enough to be considered small medals, if we wanted to do that.

The word “exonumia” is used to describe all kinds of things that are “like” coins but are not coins. I wrote a blog post on that subject. Basic categories: 1. used like a coin but not issued by a national government, 2. looks like a coin but not made for spending, 3. other things that we are interested in.