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  17th Century Trade Tokens


You may remember the humble farthing once being in circulation, or at least will have seen an example of the coin with its distinctive image of a wren. In the 17th Century the farthing was an important part of the coinage, however, during the Civil War, the production of these copper coins ceased leading to a shortage of small change. So that trade could still take place, traders started to issue their own tokens, many made from metal (copper, brass, lead or pewter) some made from leather, most with the equivalent value of a farthing. Trade tokens issued in Yorkshire were mainly circular in shape, but square, octagonal and heart-shaped tokens were also made. These tokens were never acknowledged as official coinage but were widely accepted until 1672 when the production of farthings resumed and privately produced tokens were forbidden by royal proclamation.


In 1891 a catalogue of 17th Century trade tokens was published, by which time many tokens were no doubt lost. This catalogue listed just one token which had been produced in Tickhill, the token's details being as follows: obverse side - 1664 Thomas Turnell; reverse side - TT of Tickhill Mercer. The Parish Register's first reference to Thomas Turnell was at the beginning of 1658 when his daughter Elizabeth was baptised. Thomas was then described as a weaver. By 1660 he was called a mercer, when his son, also called Thomas, was baptised. In two subsequent entries in 1666 and 1668 Thomas was still a mercer, but from 1672 he was listed as a gentleman. The 1672 Hearth Tax accounts show that Thomas's house on Northgate had four hearths; only nine other people occupied properties in Tickhill with more hearths. Thomas was clearly prospering. It would be reasonable to suppose from his one token's survival that Thomas would have produced more than one token, that the tokens were needed and accepted in the Tickhill area and that, in all probability, Thomas was not the only trader here issuing tokens.


Another token was found at Bawtry by W. Peck and recorded in his A Topographical History and Description of Bawtry and Thorne (1813). This brass, heart-shaped, token on the obverse side states: William Maltby Mercer 1668, and on the reverse side: of Bawtrey his Halfe Penny MWR. In rural areas it is likely that mercers traded in a range of goods, not only textiles, and so it is not surprising that Thomas Turnell and William Maltby produced tokens to facilitate trading in this area.                                                                                                              


The 1891 catalogue included tokens issued elsewhere in Yorkshire. Some had designs showing the King's Head, a Rose and Crown or George and the Dragon as expressions of loyalty to the Crown from 1660, while other 17th Century tokens had emblems indicating the traders' businesses, for example:

Place of issue Emblem
Doncaster Drapers' Arms,  Bakers' Arms
Pontefract Grocers' Arms,  Tallow Chandlers' Arms
Sheffield Grocers' Arms,  Drapers' Arms
Wakefield Grocers' Arms,  Apothecaries' Arms
York Grocers' Arms,  Pinners' Arms

 These trades were not represented in Tickhill in the 17th Century according to the Parish Register, although most of them were mentioned in Parish Registers in the 18th Century.                                                            

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