The Mysterious Conder Tokens|
By Dewey Maggard, WINS#193
As we think of mail systems, so common to us today, we forget of its birth and struggles. We read stories where men like Benjamin Franklin and other great personages here and abroad were the initiators of our postal Systems. Well, let us say they embellished on an idea. An idea as old as antiquity of any age. When we say postal system, of course we think of our modern day mail systems. Ponder a moment if you will and think of communication. People of any part of our world have always had a yearning to communicate with each other when separated. This communicating idea extended beyond reaching a loved one, but to others as well. Right up to our modern technology era, the horse was the most logical and integral part of this idea. The horse could travel three or four times the distance of an average runner, so it took no time to grasp the idea of dispatching a message by a rider. The pony express idea was not a new idea. World histories reveal this method was used in ancient times. The Dromedary was used in this manner as early as the time of Abraham. We may read of this evidence in the Biblical book of Job. These beasts could average 5 to 7 miles per hour for as much as twelve hours. By ancient standards this was swift. The biblical record gives us numerous references to letters in very ancient times. Emissaries and Kings would use these methods for centuries. In more primitive societies many other methods were used to get a message in distant places. Pigeons for example, and right along beside the horse and camel depending on circumstances especially during war. It is tempting to deal with methods of communications, such as drums, smoke signals etc. There has always been a necessity due to a myriad of reasons for men to get their messages to one another some distant place.
The reason for this story is the heart of it. In merry old England when the entire population was about six million, the mail service was undependable: One J Palmer decided to remedy this situation. He initiated the first mail coach service from Liverpool to London at first, then expanded in diverse directions. So successful was he, that parliament made him Postmaster General with an annual salary of 1500 lbs. The system flourished under his direction so well, that when he retired he was given a pension of 3000 lbs per year. One noble was so impressed with all these efforts that he caused a half penny to be minted to commemorate the undertaking. It is called the Mail Coach Conder Token. This token was minted in the year 1797. The obverse graces a beautiful coach pulled by four horses, the driver cracking his whip, with a coachman guard in the rear. Another example of these nice legacies of the Conder Tokens that makes them desirable to collect was the capture of local history of the time. Whatever seemed important at the time got engraved for posterity. For example, most people of England were familiar with the story of Lady Godiva protesting her husband's treatment of the local citizenry concerning rents and sharecropping. To dramatize her protest she road through the villages in the nude to bring her husband to his senses. This ride has been preserved in bronze on a Conder Token beginning in 1792 through 1794 with approximately 50 different varieties The nude lady with long flowing hair is depicted on the Obverse and the city of Coventry arms (an elephant carrying a castle) on the reverse. This would seem to say, the burden of the people is too heavy to carry for the Earl and his Castle and lifestyle.
There is infinite variety to be had in collecting Conder Tokens: Much political satire, man's achievements including architectural marvels and his goals with a great deal of folklore thrown in. Practically every kind of animal you may think of is liberally depicted. An endless variety for the topical collector may be had in the collection of these historical pieces of emergency. Speaking of folklore, one of my favorites is the Lanarkshire (Glasgow). D & H #6 Conder token. This particular token has a tree with a bird in its branches, a bell hanging from a low bough and a salmon fish with a ring in its nose floating near the surface in the river Clyde at the base of the tree. BY courtesy of Davidsson's LTD of Cold Spring MN 56320 USA, I quote a version of this tale as follows: This version came by way of the late Rev. W. R. Hay, vicar of Rochdale. The arms of Glasgow are- a tree in full leaf, a bird at the top of it, a bell hanging from the tree, and a salmon with a ring in its mouth: The story: A man has promised to marry a servant cook but after having bought the wedding ring refused to Marry her. Upon upbraiding him, he threw the wedding ring into the Clyde, and promised that if she found and brought it to him he would marry her. Some time after in gutting the salmon for dinner, she found the ring in it: on which she claimed the promise and her lover married her.' 'The tree is the woman ready to be married: the bird at the top, her lover who would not come down: the bell, that which should have rung for their marriage: and the salmon that which swallowed the ring: This Penny Conder token I own has on the obverse what has just been described, the tree, bird, bell and salmon floating at the base of the tree. The reverse of this coin has the River God reclining on an urn with water issuing from it, representing the river Clyde as the urn has inscribed on it 'Clyde' this legend refers to the Clyde as never drying up. There is slight variations of this folklore tale but the Scots have a poem (Current) that goes with the story which may be read in Dalton & Hamer Provincial Token Catalog under the above named company which has an updated copyright of 1990 by Allan Davisson.
From this foregoing, further words fail me in attempting to describe the beautiful varieties included in the Coinages known as Conder Tokens. The reverse of this coin imprints the legend applauding the mail service. The inscription on the Obverse as follows; on outer circumference- Mail Coach Half Penny payable in London. On the Reverse; To J Palmer Esq. /This is inscribed/ as a token of/ Gratitude/ For Benefits Reced./ From the Establishment/ Of Mail Coaches- with a cypher J F in lower exegete. These marvelous Tokens served an Emergency need for coinage. There were a few minted in Silver, but the real Change makers were the Farthing, HalfPenny and Penny in Bronze. One of the reasons there are so many that have come down to us in excellent condition is that the wealthy became collectors of these pieces for such was their beauty they must be collected and preserved. This writer knows of no other source where you may find coins in the 1780's and 90's in high grades as Uncirculated and AU or Extra Fine for the low prices of some of these token coinages. This will change in the very near future' and is in fact changing almost daily.
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