Garys January Coin of the Month (Volume 3, Number 5) is a NGC MS-64 RB, 1795 Great Britain Halfpenny Conder Token (D&H-23).
The Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th Century dramatically changed the labor market throughout Great Britain. This resulted in an increased need for small copper currency. However, the supply of government issued coins failed to meet the needs of commerce for the newly industrialized British economy. In response, a large number of merchants throughout the British Islands issued copper tokens redeemable for goods and services. This resulted in thousands of differing merchant tokens circulating throughout the British Islands. Those tokens commonly referred to as Conder Tokens are named after James Conder who first cataloged them.
The tokens were a hit with both the storekeepers and the buying public. Most of the merchants loved the tokens because they could use the device designs on the tokens to advertise their business. Other merchants used the tokens to make a political statement and this token falls into that category.
John Stride, a grocer and tea dealer operating a business in the small port town of Emsworth in Hampshire County issued this 1795-halfpenny token. The obverse device features a profile bust of Admiral of the Fleet, Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe and commemorates The Glorious First of June naval battle with France in 1794. The reverse device features Britannia seated on a globe over the sea holding a spear in her right hand and a laurel branch in her left. The reverse legend reads, Rule Britannia while the edge inscription reads, Emsworth Halfpenny Payable by John Stride.
In the last decade of the 18th century, all of Europe was in fear of the French Revolution reaching beyond the borders of France. With France already at war with four of her neighbors, she finally declared war with Great Britain on February 1, 1793. This action resulted in Great Britain placing a naval blockade on Frances seaports. Suffering from the effects of a famine and in desperate need of food and supplies, France turned to the United States for help. The United States in response sent vital grain and provisions to France via a convoy protected by Frances naval fleet. On June 1, 1794, the British fleet under the command of Fleet Admiral Howe engaged the French fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse 400 miles off the French island of Ushant.
The fighting was furious with heavy casualties on both sides, which in the end resulted in a tactical victory for Great Britain and Frances fleet severely crippled. However, the French could also claim a strategic victory in that the convoy of supplies arrived safely in France. Naturally, both the British and French press had a different spin on The Glorious First of June with both sides claiming victory.
This famous naval battle leads into the allegory of this token. When a person sits on a representative object like a throne representing a country or a seat in a government, that person is in effect ruling over the persons represented by that object. This token features Britannia representing Great Britain as having mastery or dominion over the worlds oceans by sitting on a globe set upon the waters. The spear represents her enforcement arm and the laurel branch victory. As if there were any room for interpretation, the legend, Rule Britannia makes the allegory of this token quite clear.
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