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Masonic tokens of the eighteenth century

In the last decade of the eighteenth century there was a shortage of small change and the country was flooded with the tokens of innumerable merchants, mostly in halfpenny denomination, issued by Messrs. Bolton and Watts at the Soho Mint in Birmingham. In addition to circulation, tokens were used to express political views, such as the acquittal of Hom Took on November 24, 1794 or T. Hardy in the same year; others represented politicians like Pitt or heroes like Nelson. Entire architectural series of churches and various buildings in London and Birmingham were also produced; in fact, these were a series of local medals. In these circumstances, it would be surprising if Freemasonry did not seize the opportunity to commemorate itself. Opportunity presented itself on November 24, 1790,

Issues of 1794

Gilded brass Masonic halfpenny, Middlesex, 1794
(Atkins 261a, D&H 369a)

On the obverse is the coat of arms of the Freemasons and the circular legend: “Prince of Wales elected Grand Master x 24 November 1790” (PRINCE OF WALES ELECTED GM x 24 NOV. 1790). There are various options with striped or smooth shield bearers, with or without a comma after NOV. On the reverse side, in a triangle, is Cupid, or, according to other assumptions, the genius of Freemasonry, sitting on a cloud with his right hand raised with his index finger pointing upwards and holding a plumb line in his left hand; below are a hammer and a trowel. At the top of the triangle there is an eye with rays diverging downwards, under the eye is the letter G; in the right corner there is a square with a compass, and in the left - a book; outside on the sides of the triangle are three words: “Wisdom Strength and Beauty” (WISDOM STRENGTH & BEAUTY). The circular legend reads: “Let there be light. And there was light” (SIT LVX ET LUX FUIT). There are various options for the length of the rays and punctuation. The edge inscription is represented by the following options:

1. Smooth, not in the ring. Atkins, 264h.
2. “HALFPENNY PAYABLE AT THE BLACK HORSE TOWER HILL • x •” Atkins, 261, 262, 264.
3. “HALFPENNY PAYABLE AT DUBLIN CORK OR DERRY” Atkins, 264d.
4. “MASONIC HALF PENNY TOKEN MDCCXCIV” Atkins, 262d.
5. “MASONIC HALFPENNY TOKEN MDCCXCIV x•x•x•” Atkins, 263, 264b.
6. “MASONIC TOKEN I SKETCHLEY FECIT 1794 . + . + . + “Atkins, 261a, 262a, 264a.
7. “MASONIC TOKEN BROTHER SKETCHLEY BIRMINGHAM FACIT” Atkins. 263a.
8. “MASONIC TOKEN J. SKETCHLEY RA & PGS BIRMINGHAM FECIT. *” Atkins, 264c.
9. “PAYABLE IN LANCASTER LONDON OR BRISTOL” Atkins, 261b, 262b, 264e.
10. “PAYABLE AT LONDON .+.+.+.+.” Atkins, 261c, 262c.
11. "PAYABLE AT LONDON OR DUBLIN" Atkins, 261d.
12. “PAYABLE AT RICHARD LONG'S LIBRARY • x •” Atkins 264f.
13. "PAYABLE AT W. PARKERS OLD BIRMINGHAM WAREHOUSE" Atkins, 264g.

Edge lettering on the tokens at points 6, 7 and 8 indicate that they were issued in Birmingham for the auctioneer, printer and publisher James Sketchley. In the ledge inscription at number 8, his Masonic office is mentioned; he took the degree of Royal Arch (Royal Arch) and served as the Grand Steward (Grand Steward). Variants of tokens have been found, where the obverse side presented above is the reverse side in combination with other obverses.
On the reverse side of the next halfpenny is a bust of the Prince of Wales with a circular legend: “George Prince of Wales. Halfpenny” (GEO PRINCE OF WALES HALF PENNY).

Masonic halfpenny by James Sketchley, Middlesex, 1794.
(Atkins 157a, D&H 367a)

Two versions of the edge inscription are known:
1. “PAYABLE IN LANCASTER LONDON OR BRISTOL” Atkins, not local, 157.
2. “PAYABLE AT LONDON OR DUBLIN x•x•” Atkins, 157a.

Masonic halfpenny, Not Local, 1794 (Atkins 159, D&H 368)

In the above version, the Prince of Wales is shown in profile, the circular inscription reads: “George Prince of Wales” (GEORGE PRINCE OF WALES). Edge inscription: "PAYABLE IN LANCASTER LONDON OR BRISTOL".

Masonic halfpenny, Middlesex, 1794 (Atkins 747, D&H 958)

This halfpenny bears the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales with the motto below and a circular inscription: “LONDON AND MIDDLESEX. HALFPENNY.” Edge inscription: “PAYABLE IN LANCASTER LONDON OR BRISTOL”.
The stamps of the tokens with the image of the Prince of Wales were engraved by Wigan.

Issues of 1795

Masonic penny, Middlesex, 1795 (Atkins 71, D&H 33)

On the obverse of the penny is the coat of arms of the Freemasons described earlier with the circular legend “For the Common Good” (PRO BONO PUBLICO). On the reverse side Cupid in a triangle with Masonic symbols with a circular legend “Masonic Penny 1795” (MASONIC PENNY 1795). Edge inscription: “Made by Latvich in Birmingham” (MANUFACTURED BY W. LUTWYCHE BIRMINGHAM • x • ).

Masonic halfpenny, Middlesex, 1795 (Atkins 181, D&H 373)

On the obverse there is a bust of the Duke of York, a circular legend: “FREDK. DUKE OF YORK”, and under the bust the text: “HALFPENNY 1795”; the verso shows the coat of arms of the Freemasons described in the first example (Atkins 261).
Two variants of edge lettering:
1. “PAYABLE IN DUBLIN OR LONDON • + • + • ” Atkins, not local, 181.
2. Corrugated. Atkins, 181a.

The following Masonic token also shows the Freemasons coat of arms from the first example (Atkins 261) on the obverse, below which are a square with a compass and a circular legend: “For the Common Good” (PRO BONO PUBLICO). The reverse side shows the IHB monogram, above which there are scales, and in the lower part - the year of production 1795; the circular legend reads "EAST GRINSTEAD HALFPENNY".

Masonic halfpenny, Sussex, 1795 (Atkins 21, D&H 22)

Two versions of edge lettering:
1. PAYABLE AT I + H BOORMAN • x • ” Atkins, Sussex, 21.
2. “PAYABLE IN LANCASTER LONDON OR BRISTOL ” Atkins, 21a.

Issue of 1796

Only one token was issued this year, the Middlesex halfpenny, pictured below.

Masonic halfpenny, London Correspondent Society,
1796 (Atkins 209, D&H 291)

The obverse side of the token depicts a man hanging from a gallows, above which are the letters “P” and “T” with an eye between them, next to the Phrygian cap on a pole, a monument with the inscription “PEACE” and the date 1796, as well as a medallion thrown to the ground with an anchor symbolizing hope, a cross and a crown; the circular legend reads: “LIBERTY • AND • NOT • SLAVERY”. On the reverse side there is an obelisk, Masonic symbols and a circular inscription: “God the First Architect” (GOD • THE • FIRST ARCHITECT). Edge engraved. The obverse side of the token, issued by the Correspondent Society of London, is not in the Masonic style and is political in nature, the letters “P” and “T” refer to the Right Honorable Prime Minister William Pitt Jr., who opposed the slave trade. The issuance of this token shows that the Freemasons supported these beliefs.

Without a doubt, Masonic tokens not mentioned in this article were issued.

Lieut.-Colonel HW Morrieson, FSA, Masonic tokens of the eighteenth century, BNJ, 13 (1917), 165-68