Go down


Post  Guest on Tue Nov 08, 2011 4:34 pm


Unofficial Coinage of Earlier Days.

THE issue of unofficial coinage in the form of tokens was a common practice in the earlier days of settlement in Australia. The need was felt for the use of coins of lower denomination than those in regular circulation, and business firms took advantage of the permission accorded to make issues on their own account, and to make these serve the double purpose of currency and advertising media. Private coinage was forbidden by an Act of Parliament passed in New South Wales in 1868. As the oldest colony in the Australian group, New South Wales was naturally the earliest to feel the necessity for some satisfactory substitute for a copper coinage and for small silver pieces. The first tokens struck in Sydney were those known as the "Tea  Stores," the earliest issue being dated 1852. These were made by J. C. Thornthwaite, who, with his assistant, Parkins, had arrived from London about three years earlier. Accustomed to the finer work of seal-engraving, Thornthwaite found himself in a peculiar  situation when first called upon to prepare dies for tokens; and having no screw-press, he was compelled (pending the arrival of one from England) to complete the work with a hammer or other falling weight. This combination of unfavourable circumstances doubtless accounts for the lack of finish which the pieces exhibit. These tokens, dated 1852 and 1853 were made to the order of Samuel Peek, who lost his life on his return from a trip to England by the memorable and disastrous wreck of the Dunbar. (This person, before his tokens were delivered gladly gave a premium of 1/ to 2/ per £ for copper coin in exchange for gold. His death is referred to, as some tokens are included in the catalogue which were among the cargo of the Dunbar, 1857.) The obverse of the token presents a view of his establishment, numbered "424." It was a "flat," with apparently a shingle roof and a veranda, situate in George-street, near King-street. Probably its erection was carried out without the supervision of a skilled architect. In any case, it was in keeping with those around it, though, while it contrasts strikingly with many of the magnificent buildings recently erected, or in course of erection, in the heart of Sydney, was yet relatively superior to the hut which did duty as the Government House in the Colony. On the reverse Is the helmeted figure of Britannia, sitting by the shield and carrying the trident, as on the contemporary English penny. The date is also added. Peek's name does not appear, though Thornthwaite's initials are on each side. The first token bore the inscription "Established 1835. "Later, on the death of Mr. Peek, the business was reorganised, and the date on the new token was changed to "Established 1836." The same maker also prepared the scarce Jamberoo penny, 1855, which has been truly described as "a rude specimen of colonial workmanship." One side bears the Australian arms, &c, the supporters being modelled in a manner very different from those found on later pieces. For the figure of Britannia on the earlier pieces the original penny served as a pattern, but the engraver, at that time, had probably never sufficiently studied the  contour of the emu or kangaroo, and so failed to note their graceful forms. In any case, as we see them in copper at least they are certainly not charming in appearance. COPPER and bronze tokens—pence and halfpence—formed the chief  currency for many years after 1852. The halfpence are comparatively few. When British money was scarce these pieces formed a very good substitute for a regular coinage, and they are truly said to have served the threefold purpose of "utility, profit, and advertisement." their size and weight are variable, the majority of large size pence being evidently intended for half an ounce each, though some are a little heavier, while others are somewhat lighter. Six pennies weigh almost as much as twelve of the corresponding halfpennies. Both are slightly under the weight of the English coins of similar size struck previous to the year 1860. The majority are dated 1862; with few exceptions the latest issues were bronze, similar in size and weight to the present British pence and halfpence. A Melbourne firm (Warnock) has a penny of each size. The latest struck for New South Wales were Macgregor's, though specimens were issued at a much later date in New Zealand, one being made for Milner and Thompson in 1881; but this is probably the last struck for currency purposes, many others having been made for use in advertising only. AN unpublished treatise, compiled by Dr. Roth and Mr. A. P. Basset  Hull, about 1893, and made available by the courtesy of Mr. William Dixen. of Sydney, gives a graphic account of some of the difficulties colonial makers met with when first endeavouring to meet a public want without the experience of machinery required. Being acquainted with J. C. Thornthwalte, Peek engaged him to carryout his plan; owing to his position as a large shareholder in the Burra Burra copper mines of South Australia, Peek was enabled to procure a supply of ingots of that metal. These, however, proved of but little use to Thornthwaite, who had no suitable appliance for manufacturing sheet copper from the ingots. They then procured some copper rods of the required size and thickness, and George Parkin, the apprentice, was set to work with a handsaw to cut off the blanks one by one. Needless to say, this proved a very tedious and tiring business. FORTUNE smiled at last, for they chanced, after manufacturing a  few by the above method, to make the acquaintance of an individual in the employ of Mr. John Baptist, the gardener at Surry Hills, who, having had some previous experience, showed them how to cut blanks from sheet copper. The funnel of a discarded steamer was thus subsequently utilised. The press used for stamping the tokens was an old affair, and hardly suitable for the purpose, being worked on the same principle as a letter-copying press, incapable of giving the necessary force. They weighted the stamper with some of the copper ingots, but no better results were obtained. They finally had recourse to a drop-hammer worked with a block and pulley, somewhat resembling the machines used on a larger scale for driving piles. This method answered only too well, as it not only gave the sharp blow required, but sent the dies flying in all directions, simply bombarding the inside of the workshop and rendering it somewhat unpleasant and unsafe for the occupants. Such, then, is a short history of the difficulties the first die-sinker of the copper currencies had to contend with, and, taking all in all, the result reflects great credit on his industry and perseverance. The first tokens thus struck comprise those for the Tea Stores (Peekand Co.), Sydney, for Thornthwaite himself, for Allen, of Jamberoo, and for Bell and Gardner, of Rockhampton. Those manufactured for Allen were refused by that trader on account of what he considered their bad workmanship. The whole quantity was subsequently disposed of by Thornthwaite at a penny each to the toll gatekeeper at Annandale, who passed them on in change to the hapless wayfarers. IN 1849, for the first time, we hear of copper tokens, and the honour of priority belong to Melbourne. In the Melbourne "Argus" of October 20,1849, the following appears:—"To obviate the extreme inconvenience occasioned by the scarcity of coppers, particularly by grocers who have not "infrequently to pay a premium of from sixpence to a shilling a pound for their Saturday night's supply, Mr. Councillor Ann and has had coined at Birmingham a large supply of penny pieces, having on one side the figure of Britannia, and on the obverse the inscription Ann and, Smith, and Co., family grocers, Melbourne. Though Ann and, Smith, and Co., of Melbourne, were the first to issue copper tokens in 1849, they were not dated. The first dated regular issue is that made by Thornthwaite for Peek and Campbell, of the Tea Stores, Sydney, in 1852. It consists of a penny which is very rare, and two varieties of halfpence. The following year, 1853. a further issue of pence was made for the same firm"    Each year increasing numbers of fresh issues were made in the various Australian Colonies and New Zealand, the climax being reached in 1863, when no less than 33 firms -or individuals adopted the practice, in many instances issuing several varieties, and in one case (Thomas Stokes) no less than 50 dated pieces of different design, FOLLOWING is a list of tokens Issued in Queensland, with the names of the medallists who struck them and the dates of issue:—Id., W. and B. Brookes; Brisbane, 1863; struck by W. J. Taylor, London. 1d., Flavelle Bros., Sydney and Brisbane; W. J. Taylor. 1d., D. T. Mulligan, Rockhampton; W. J. Taylor. 1d., Bell and Gardiner, Rockhampton; J.C. Thornthwaite.  1d., J. Sawyer, Brisbane, 1864; Thomas Stokes, Melbourne. 1d., Merry and Bush, Queensland, 1883; W. J. Taylor. 1d., J. W. Buxton, Brisbane; medallist uncertain. 1d., T. F. Merry and Co., Toowoomba; W. J. Taylor. 1d., Stewart and Hemmant, Brisbane; W. J. Taylor.. 1d., T. H. Jones and Co., Ipswich; Heaton and Sons. 1/2d., D. T. Mulligan, Rockhamton; W. J. Taylor. 1/2d., John Pettigrew and Co., Ipswich, 1865; W. J. Taylor. 1/2d., T. F. Merry and Co., Toowoomba; W. J. Taylor. 1d., John Pettigrew and Co., Ipswich, 1865; W. J. Taylor .
First Silver Tokens Issued in Australia THOSE first struck in New South Wales were made by Thornthwaite, and bear his initials. They are dated 1854. Two were made to the order of Campbell, of Morpeth, one of them having the words: "James Campbell. Morpeth," in an outer circle, while a floral device is surrounded by "General Stores." On this specimen the arm of the numeral 3 is curved, on other sit is straight, being heavier at the end. Another variety shows a small dot at the end of the arm while the decorated 3 on another is easily distinguishable. One of them was struck for Richard Lamb, of Sydney. Except for that which bears Campbell's name, they are almost identical. The design of the Australian Arms (as on the Jambrroo token) on the obverse is surrounded by "New South Wales, 1854." On the reverse is the numeral indicative of the current value, surmounted by the rising-sun crest, and with the words, "Silver Token." It is said that the silver in those pieces, being of sterling quality, was at the time worth more than three pence. So it will be understood that their currency was as short as their issue was unprofitable. They were preceded, however, by the very scarce shilling issued by a Tasmanian firm(Macintosh and Degraves) in 1923. On this the name, &c., is on the obverse, around the words, "One Shilling Token," the reverse bearing the word, "Tasmania," over a kangaroo, with the date beneath. Another well-executed shilling token has an observe bearing the words, "Victoria-Australia on a raised grained rim. In the "field" is the head of her Majesty, Queen Victoria. On the reverse appears the value, "One Shilling," with a corresponding numeral in the centre. There is also a sixpence of the same design, differing only in the words and numeral denoting its value. These last two are patterns only, not having been issued, and are exceedingly rare. They occur only as "proofs," in gold silver, and copper. While the metal and weight of the early pieces of threepence each were both quite satisfactory, the contrary, was the case with the later issues. The former were consequently quickly melted, while the others circulated in large quantities, though wear soon exposed their baseness; and it is said that the issuers were compelled to withdraw all that were obtainable, confiscation of the plant being other wisethreatened. Hogarth, Erichsen. and Co., Jeweller, Sydney (1860), issued eight varieties of silver threepenny tokens, mostly of inferior metal. It is said that a four penny piece was also struck by this company in 1860. The edge of the token was roughly milled. This tokenis very rare. J. C. Thornthwaite also struck a sixpenny silver token (one copy only). We have to acknowledge indebtedness to the works of Messrs. Stainsfield. Andrews, Atkins and Hyman for much of the information contained in this article, which was collated by Mr. V. Read.

Newspaper article
November 1928
The Queenslander


Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum