The answer to this problem was solved by an Anglesey copper mine that turned the copper it mined straight into coin – not by copying the regal issues, which carried the death penalty for counterfeiting, but by making its own coins and calling them ‘tokens’.
The idea, which had great advertising potential, caught on with merchants and shopkeepers throughout Britain.
On October 11 AH Baldwin is selling a remarkable collection of late 18th century token halfpennies. Many are in mint condition and were last sold at auction at the beginning of the last century.
The Patrick Deane Collection is particularly strong on political tokens – many of them from the series produced by the radical Thomas Spence as he agitated for reform of the British Parliament, an end to land ownership and freedom of speech.
Spence issued a whole series of halfpennies showing his portrait with prison sentence on one side and political themes on the reverse.
He produced a marvellous image of a Free Borne Englishman: a man standing in shackles with a padlock through his mouth, or another with a civilian being pressganged into the navy by a sailor wielding a club with the legend British Liberty Displayed (see above). It is guided at £130-170.
Although Spence produced the majority of political tokens at this time other viewpoints were also represented.
William Mainwaring, a Birmingham button maker, produced a marvellously satirical and anti-French token in 1794 – on the one side is the legend May Great Britain ever Remain the Reverse and on the other side is a map of France surrounded by daggers, with fire in all corners, France divided, Honor trodden under foot, the throne upside down, religion divided, glory scored out and blood stains all over.
Pictured above is one of four examples of Mainwaring’s tokens offered in lot estimated at £80-120.