London 17th century tokens – MB100 auction 6 October 2021

MB100098 Charles Morgan's halfpenny with angel reverse W.1340 London

Update: Auction closed on 6 October 2021 – prices realised here. Unsolds available on first come first served basis until 31 October. This collection of just over 200 tokens concentrates on London, the City and Greater London. Williamson and other cataloguers call this area not just London but Middlesex or Southwark or even Surrey. How London has grown and sprawled over the centuries! The collection has several unrecorded tokens, lots of pictorial tokens and a few with stories attached. For example, here’s the hitherto unrecorded 1666 farthing of Richard and Anne Drew as indicated by their initials on the reverse of the token coin D over R A. (For more on 17th century tokens in general check out the Token Corresponding Society website)

Richard and Anne Drew’s farthing, lot MB100046, Half Moon Court, Bow Lane, unrecorded in Williamson

This token was found by detectorist Alan Smith in Blackmore, near Brentwood, Essex, in September 2010 (World Coin News, November 2011). It was subsequently offered on eBay by Smith (the sale date is on the ticket). There was heated bidding on the piece and it was won by the current vendor.

In the Token Corresponding Bulletin (TCS), in a short but brilliant article, Quentin Archer attributes the token to a Richard Drew (and his wife Anne) who was described by his neighbour Lodowick Muggleton as “one of the seed of the Serpent” for being cruel to his servants and apprentice (TCS Bulletin, vol. 10, #7, pp 272-.273).

Who’d have thought a grocer would have such an interesting background? Our lot MB100098 is Charles Morgan’s halfpenny. In his article on this token in the March 17th, 2017 TCS bulletin, Gary Oddie revealed that the issuer Charles Morgan advertised himself in “The Newes” as a seller of “Chymicall Preparasions, besides those mensioned by Mr. (Robert) Boyle in his Book on the usefu’ness of Natural and Experimental Philosophie”.  Think about it: someone experimenting with chemicals in the heart of Covent Garden, in Henrietta Street at the beginning of the age of Enlightenment. What an eccentric character he must have been!

MB100098 Charles Morgan’s halfpenny, Grocer and chemist in Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London

Of personal interest to me are the numbers of tokens issued by women. My favourites are lot MB100191 Susan Drake’s farthing from Topsham in Devon with the wyvern and Grace Harwood’s halfpenny of 1667 from St Saviour’s Dock (lot MB100181). Then there is Elizabeth Wright’s halfpenny featuring three crowns, not recorded in either Williamson nor in Norweb but again written up in TCS bulletin, this time by James Lamb (Volume 10.10 p.376 no.1). A Thames find which accounts for its good condition, this token issuer’s premises were in White’s Alley, Coleman Street. If you want to scroll through the text of the catalogue you’ll find it here and all the images will be online throughout the bidding period and for a few week’s afterwards. Enjoy and remember to bid in time – bidding closes from 12 noon BST on Wednesday 6 October 2021.

MB100080 Elizabeth Wright’s halfpenny in White’s Alley, Coleman Street (now Moorgate).