Tokens of Firms' Appreciation
Byline: DON RODGERS
COLLECTING trade tokens is an area that often appeals to people who are also interested in industrial archaeology.
There was a shortage of low denomination coins at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. This was due partly to a shortage of silver, the silver coins that were in circulation being very flimsy.
The Copper Kings, as the leading lights in the copper industry were known, saw their chance to issue their own tokens of a better weight, initially in halfpenny and one penny denominations.
These could be used to pay their workers who in turn could spend them locally. Tradesmen were able to redeem the tokens at the company offices or later at designated banks.
As well as acting as advertising for the company, tokens served another purpose - they helped convince the government that it would be a good idea to issue copper coins for general circulation.
Amongst the earliest entrepreneurs in the field were Thomas Williams of the Parys Mine in Anglesey and his friend, John Wilkinson. Their copper tokens were first issued between 1787 and 1793, produced mainly in Birmingham using new steam-powered minting machinery.
The larger token shown here was worth 1d and was issued by the Rose Copper Company of Birmingham and Swansea in 1811. …