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A Brief Description of Condor Tokens

By Cliff Lawless    |   Wednesday, 28 November 2007

A Brief Description of Condor Tokens

During the latter part of the 18th century Britain found herself with a severe shortage of small denomination coinage. Royal Mint issues of copper farthing and halfpenny coins had ceased in 1775 and none were forthcoming for 23 years. This shortage, coupled with the onset of the industrial revolution and the movement of more people into factory jobs, prompted the Parys Mines Co. in 1787 to mint and issue a copper penny token to pay their workers (see photo at left).

This near one ounce copper token, with promise to pay bearer one penny on demand in London, Liverpool, or Anglesey, immediately became popular with the public and was readily accepted as payment. Other tokens soon followed from all types of merchants and businesses.

The majority of the tokens of the period (1787-1797) were of the halfpenny variety although farthing and penny tokens were also issued. Most of the earlier issues bore the denomination, a promise to pay the bearer, and instructions on where they could be redeemed.

As more and more tokens were issued the emphasis changed from commercial use to designs that were clearly meant for advertisement and promotion. Tokens such as those issued by self proclaimed cheapest bookseller in the world, James Lackington and the proprietors of the Lyceum Theatre are certainly of a promotional nature even though both bear the promise to pay as an edge inscription.

Advertising tokens were soon joined by tokens with political themes, tokens depicting famous structures (buildings, bridges, etc.), and others commemorating historical events and people. Many of these tokens were issued strictly for collectors and did not necessarily include the denomination or a promise to pay.

In 1797, with growing concern about the proliferation of token coinage, Parliament began to issue a new penny and two-penny piece and made the production and issuance of private tokens illegal. This effectively ended the era of Conder Tokens.

Why are they called Conder Tokens?

Named for James Conder, a draper in Ipswich. Conder was a collector and early cataloger of Provincial Tokens. He also issued his own token advertising his drapery warehouse.

Collector Advantages

Because of popularity with collectors at the time of issue many high grade examples survive. That fact, along with the relatively small number of Conder collectors today, helps keep the prices very reasonable.

There are many directions you could go with your Conder Token collection. You might collect Conders by county or town, trade or industry, you may go for the political issues, maybe historical events...whatever you like. There are literally hundreds of different token designs in the series.

Well preserved copper coins and tokens can be beautiful. I particularly like tokens with a nice patina. That's the attractive colors a token may exhibit. This is caused by oxidation on the surface of the metal. When it's ugly and heavy we call it tarnish but it's the same chemical process.

And finally, history. These tokens are over 200 years old. There are interesting stories about the issuers, about the businesses they operated, about the political scene at the time, and much more. If you are looking for a new collecting interest, I highly recommend Conder Tokens.

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