Collecting: English Tokens related to the Lace Trade – Part I, 17th and 18th centuries

12/9/2011 – Updated to add the St. Eeds token, Peter Reynoldes  and James Brierly examples.
11/13/2016 – Added the silver gilt Leighton version.

After noting the stolen lace token article in LaceNews, several readers have asked for more information on English tokens. This is also an excellent opportunity to start a new category, which will be come a regular Wednesday LaceNews feature – highlighting a lace or lace-related collectible.

Tokens were small change coins issued by a merchant under government license, or by the merchant himself for local use. In virtually all cases tokens were a response to an emergency shortage of coinage. Three references discuss lace-related tokens:
Thomas Wright, “The Romance of the Lace Pillow”. 1st ed 1919, 2nd ed vol 1 1924, 2nd ed vol 2 1930.
Dalton & Hamer, “The Provincial Token-Coinage of the 18th Century”, 5 volumes, 1910-1918.
Christine & David Springett, “Success to the Lace Pillow”, 2nd ed., 1997.

English Tokens of the 17th century were issued from the late 1640’s to the late 1670’s. This coincided with the ‘Interregnum’ period of Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of the monarchy of Charles II the crown started issuing its own copper coinage in 1672, and the private issues were declared illegal. The 17th c merchant tokens were of copper, handmade, small and thin, and rarely survive in good condition. Four lace-related ones have been recorded:

1) James Brierly, a lace dealer of Olney. The obverse has his name and the letters B.I.M. (the B is for Brierly, I is for James, and M for his wife’s first name) The reverse says “of Olney 1658”. The example below was sold at auction May 4, 2011 for $130.  16mm diameter, 0.99 gm weight.

2) Peter Reynoldes, Buckingham: Reynold’s name is on one side with a strip of lace on one side. On the reverse, ‘of Buckingham 58’ is written around the circumference,  RPF in the center. A drawing of this token is contained both in the Wright (shown below) and Springett books. The example illustrated below was sold at auction in England, November 28, 2001 for 190 GBP. The auction catalog notes that only two other examples are known, both in private hands. The catalog also describes Peter Reynoldes (†December 1671) as a lace buyer and churchwarden. He married Frances Woodcocke in December 1637, so the ‘F’ on the coin would be her first initial.


3) Iohn Rennals, Buckingham, 1668. John Reynolds was a lace buyer; married firstly Elizabeth Goodman, September 1653 (†1654); his second wife’s name was Elitia and she was still living in 1673. Reynolds was a signatory of the Orthodox Confession of 1679. This one seems to have come in three variations. All have “Of Bvckingham, his halfe-penny” on the front.
1. On the reverse, one variation has a strip of lace and a cinquefoil on the rim.
A very worn example of the first type is shown below. The strip of lace can just barely be made out in the right-hand image. It is ~2cm in diameter and weighs 2.0 gm.


2. A second example has the cinquefoil and initials I.E.R.
3. A third example has the I.E.R. and a sexfoil (only one known example exists). I think the spelling of the name on the last two might be John Rennals.

4) Two variations from St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, which were produced by the town itself. These are extensively described in a paper in the British Numisimatic Society Journal Vol 55 #11, “A Hoard of St Neot’s ‘Lace-Making’ Tokens from Eynesbury” (St Neot’s Paper.) In June 1983 a hoard of these tokens were discovered hidden on top of a beam in a 17th century timber frame building in Eynesbury, St. Neot’s, Huntington, Cambs.  The ‘hoard’ consisted of fourteen tokens.
1. Obverse. “The overseers of” on the outside. “Their halfe penny” in the center
Reverse. “The Towne of St. Eeds” around the outside. Two seated women making lace are in the center. The token is shown below it is ~2.1 cm in diameter and weighs 1.65 gm.  Note the hole, this might have been used as a bobbin spangle, but that is only speculation.

2. Same as 1., but the name of the town is St. Neots.  This token is shown below. It is ~2.1 cm in diameter and weighs 0.95 gm. These two examples are basically the same size, but the difference in weight is striking. The St. Eeds example is in much better condition than the St. Neots one. I have not been able to find a town of St. Eeds, but St. Neots is well described on Wikipedia. They are apparently the same town.

17th century tokens come up for sale very rarely, and good examples go for several hundred dollars.  Then again, the St. Neots example above was picked up on Ebay in 2011 for $46.00. These tokens are contemporary with Leonard Wheatcroft’s Bone Lace Weaver (

Another coinage shortage appeared in the late 18th century, when the  English Royal Mint almost ceased production. Tokens here are larger than the 17th-18th century variety, around the 1/2 penny value. Primarily machine made, they might be used for trade (in goods, not normally for currency), advertising, or politics. As a class they are known as ‘Condor’ tokens, after the first author to write about them.
Two famous lace-related tokens were issued, both with similar front images of a seated lacemaker,  but with different reverse. Both have several edge variations:
1.  Leighton Berkhamsted 1794: Dalton and Hamer list five different varieties of this token. They all have identical images and legends, but different edges. They are noted as having been engraved by Wyon and struck by Peter Kempson of Birmingham. The different edge varieties as follows:
a: Milled edge
c: Edge inscription “PAYABLE AT JOHN ROOK NORWICH”.
d: Edge inscription “CHAMBERS LANGSTON HALL & CO.” (a haberdasher of 46, GutterLane, Cheapside, London).  The usual copper version is shown below. One ton were reportedly struck, and they are quite easy to find at auction. The example below  is 2.9 cm in diameter, and weighs 10.1 gm.
e: Plain edge.

There is also a  proof version struck in silver. The example shown below is gilt in gold.


2.  1795: Moore’s Lace Manufactory 1/2d token.  A half ton of these tokens were reportedly struck, and can easily be found at auction.
a: Coarse milled edge.  An example is shown below. It is 2.9 cm in diameter, weight is 11.5 gm.
b: Fine milled edge.
d: Plain edge.

I don’t know if a silver proof of this version was struck.

19th century tokens will be discussed next week. Lace-related 19th century examples have never been adequately documented, and represent an excellent collecting opportunity.

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