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Made to measure

Trade tokens

18th Century Provincial Tokens (also known as Conder Tokens after an early collector) were privately minted and were the result of a lack of official copper coinage in the late 18th Century. Copper coins of small value were discontinued in 1775 due to a lack of circulation. In part this lack of circulation was caused by the coinage flowing into the larger towns and cities but not returning to the smaller rural towns and villages. However a large part also was the result of counterfeiting.

Real copper coinage could be melted down and turned into three counterfeit coins. This not only increased the ratio of ‘real’ to ‘fake’ coinage but also resulted in what economists call Gresham’s Law. This states that ‘good’ money drives ‘bad’ money out. This is because coinage which is supposed to have the same monetary value has differing intrinsic values. As a result people will hoard the money with the higher intrinsic value, thus removing it from circulation.

The problem with this system however was that companies needed copper coins in order to pay their workforce. As such they introduced substitute copper tokens to be used in the locality instead. The first company to do this was the Parys Mining Company, a copper mining company in Wales. This soon caught on with other companies, resulting in a huge range of these copper tokens circulating. This tokens as they were unofficially minted could have numerous designs on. For some it was used as an opportunity to make political statements or to advertise their business. However most like this one employed standard scenes and images. The government would reintroduce copper coinage with one and two penny coins I 1797, this led to the phasing out of the use of copper tokens. However their use would return in the 19th Century, as industrialisation and the need to pay large groups of factory workers would produce similar supply issues for coinage.