Weight: 2.2 grammes
Museum number: T.3419
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Copper coffee house token
Russell Street, London, 1649-1672
Copper coffee house token issued by Timothy Child in Russell Street, London.
In 1644 the small change of England and Wales was supressed due to a collapse of confidence in it as a result of over-issue and massive counterfeiting. Amidst the distractions of Civil War and until 1672 with the proclamation of a new copper coinage, there was no provision of low-value money. To fill this gap, many civic corporations and several thousand small businesses issued their own tokens across the towns of England, Wales and Ireland.
These small copper objects greatly aid our understanding of retail and commerce in Britain during the seventeenth century. Spreading only as far as the knowledge of the shop or business extended, they contain information which is very local in nature; from the names of the issuer, the business they were involved in, their address and the token’s value.
The sheer size of London, as compared to other urban centres, meant that there were more tokens issued for example in Drury Lane than in the city of Gloucester. This particular token was issued by Timothy Child at some point between 1649 and 1672 and was to be used as tender in ‘YE COFFE HOUSE IN RUSSELL STREET’. Coffee shops sprung up throughout London following the arrival of the first in St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill in 1652 and became popular venues for men to discuss the news of the day. Whilst egalitarian in nature, there were no rules about the social class of the customers, women were not permitted to enter the buildings which became known in some circles as ‘gossip shops’.
G.C. Williamson, Trade tokens issued in the seventeenth century in England, Wales and Ireland by corporations, merchants, tradesmen etc. E Stock, London, 1889
G. Berry, Seventeenth century England: Traders and their Tokens, Seaby, London, 1988