NGC Certifies More than 2,000 Conder Tokens from the Jeff Garrett Collection
Posted on 6/23/2020
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) recently certified more than 2,000 Conder tokens collected by Jeff Garrett, renowned rare coin dealer and former president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA). For Garrett, collecting Conder tokens has been a nearly lifelong pursuit, begun over 50 years ago and culminating with the certification and sale of the collection.
“Conder tokens” is the common term for privately minted tokens struck and used during the late 18th century and early 19th century in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They are named after James Conder, one of their earliest catalogers.
In the 18th century, Great Britain faced a constant and extreme shortage of small denomination coins for everyday transactions along with a preponderance of counterfeit coins in circulation. Starting around 1780, the economic growth spurred by the Industrial Revolution exacerbated these problems.
Yet, the British government was reluctant to provide a good small coin for the masses to use. In fact, at a time when two-thirds of the circulating coins in Britain were counterfeit, the Royal Mint responded by shutting itself down because it was more concerned with people melting coins for their bullion value. Of course, this only worsened the situation.
To alleviate the shortage, businesses took matters into their own hand. The first was the Parys Mine Company, which made halfpenny-sized tokens in 1787 from copper that it mined.
Soon after the appearance of the Parys Mine Company tokens, other businesses began designing and minting their own tokens. By 1795, large numbers of tokens with thousands of designs had been struck and were in common use throughout Britain. The practice was widespread until the Royal Mint once again began producing the penny and twopence in 1797. An act of parliament passed in 1817 that outlawed the production of token coinage (with severe penalties) was its final death knell.
With their myriad of different designs, Conder tokens reflect the social, economic and political lives of people during the 1780-1800 period. The subjects depicted on the tokens range from a hooded Druid (the first token issued) to Sir Isaac Newton, abolition to circus performers, important events to business advertisements and winning lottery numbers.
The variety and sometimes unorthodox subject matter are why Conder tokens were avidly collected when they were produced and remain popular today. Indeed, James Conder prepared his catalog specifically for the purposes of collecting in 1798. Because Conder tokens were frequently saved from the time they were minted, many exceptionally preserved examples exist today.
When Garrett began collecting coins in the 1970s, one of the first numismatic issues that drew his attention were Conder tokens. He loved the remarkable quality of the tokens and the diversity of designs available. They also seemed amazingly affordable compared to US copper coins from the same era.
Garrett commented: “Today a Mint State US Large Cent from the 1700s starts around $15,000. The value comparison led me to believe these tokens would be fun to collect and profitable in the future.”
In the last several months, Garrett made the difficult decision to begin selling his long put-away treasures with the goal of giving others the chance to collect the coins and tokens that have given him years of enjoyment. The entire collection of Conder tokens was uncertified, and he chose NGC to grade and encapsulate them with the “Jeff Garrett Collection” pedigree.
“Organizing this collection for sale has been tedious but extremely enjoyable — a long walk down memory lane!” Garrett added. “There are thousands of different varieties of Conder tokens and collecting them can be a lifelong pursuit, as it has been for me. I hope others find the numismatic journey as fulfilling as I have over the years.”
Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer, summed it up: “Conder tokens are an excellent example of how currency, while a product of necessity, is also a window upon a society’s cultures and ideals. It was a pleasure to certify Jeff’s collection and see a pivotal time in history manifested in these tokens.”
Conder tokens pedigreed to the Jeff Garrett Collection can be purchased from GovMint.com.
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