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Lady Godiva Conder-Pro Bono Publico

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Conder tokens are a wonderfully rich yet affordable numismatic niche. While some would classify these as strictly British pieces, a more liberal interpretation of them would include their limited circulation in the fledgling United States. As such, this thread is in the Coin Tangents forum.


The Lady Godiva piece that I have pictured here is actually quite a bit darker than the image suggests. I lightened up the scan to allow everyone the opportunity to view the terrific design elements. The actual token is a deep, dark chocolate color.


These tokens are more properly known as Provincial Token Coinage of the 19th Century, as the reference book by Dalton & Hamer is titled. The origin of these pieces is tied to the British government's refusal to support copper coinage, the widespread occurance of copper counterfeiting and the one-way flow of coinage from the smaller towns and hamlets to the larger trade centers. To fill the void, merchants began to issue tokens of legal weight and some of the designs were extraordinary. The public largely accepted the token coinage and this, oddly, proved to hasten the downfall of this niche. Within ten years of the initial offerings there were collectors of the series and counterfeiters followed along with spurious, muled token product. The government then stepped in and began to issue copper coinage, thus ending a major chapter in token coinage history.


This piece has a well represented Lady Godiva on the obverse along with the date in exergue. The reverse features an elephant with castle turet on its back. The elephant is curiously drawn, partially because of the imposed constraints of the token, yet no doubt likely also because the artist-engraver had never seen an elephant. Only if one had gone to Pidcock's was one likely to have seen such an exotic creature. The elephant's feet are remniscent of contemporary styles in furniture legs, that is, they look like a lion's hind feet. The beast is also squat and the ears somewhat too large.


The elephant was probably modeled on the idealized Indian elephant as Britain, through the East India Company, was well on its way to controlling the "Jewel in the Crown" by 1793. This particular piece, the size of a half dollar, is one of the more common die varieties for this issue and is not a relatively scarce token. It is worth $50 or less but is quite cool.



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Great read, Tom, and a wonderful piece.


Other oddities of the elephant include the near vertical tusks (in relation to the crest of the head), exaggerated trefoil dextrous tip of trunk, and excessively long tail, also like a lion. The ear is not only too large for an Indian elephant, but it's also shaped much like a bignonia leaf. 893scratchchin-thumb.gif Whacky.



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Tom, this is a great thread, featuring one of my favorite Conder tokens. I have a collection that I bought from a customer a few years ago, but I haven't added much to it. Someday, when I have the time, I'd like to go back to looking at these. Thanks for the educational thread!



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