GREAT BRITAIN evasive halfpenny token 1773


GREAT BRITAIN, token, 1773, Obverse: bust R, GEORGI___ III REX, Reverse: Britannia seated R, ___TAN NIA 1773, copper, 28mm, 7.45g, evasive halfpenny, dies cut to look worn, looks fair, probably VG

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For most of the 18th century the government neglected the copper coinage because it was unprofitable. People made illegal tokens and counterfeits, production of which latter was a capital crime. The counterfeiters made things with blundered legends on distorted designs so they could say they were just tokens, which were illegal but not a hanging offense.

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.

A token is used like a coin but is not a coin. Rather, it stands for a coin without the value of the coin. Maybe its copper, but says its value is the same as a silver coin. Usually tokens were made privately, but sometimes governments got involved.

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.