GREAT BRITAIN commercial store card 1860s


GREAT BRITAIN, advertising store card, no date (1860s), Obverse: ALLAN SON & Co., DRAPERS, MERCERS, SHAWLMEN, LACEMEN & FURRIERS, Reverse: St. Paul’s cathedral in circle, WATERLOO HOUSE. 69. 70 & 71 ST. PAULS CH. YD. LONDON, silver plated brass, 25mm, F

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Most British tokens of the mid-19th century were brass. Silver plating made them in some way special. Presentation of some sort, probably.

Allan and sons was one name of the Allan business, which operated in London for several decades in the mid-19th century.

In England tokens started coming into use in the 16th century. Scotland and Ireland followed suit. Since the coinage was unified throughout the country there was not as much need for jetons in the counting houses to keep track of various currencies. But the neglect of the copper level of the market made for blooms of tokens in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Each bloom was suppressed by the government, which promised to do better, and, by the mid-19th century, finally succeeded. Token use, having become normalized, continued here and there into the 1980s.

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.