The Virtuoso’s Companion and the American-related Tokens

The other day I pulled from my library shelf two small volumes, The Virtuoso’s Companion, bound as two books, but actually containing six volumes dated from 1795 to 1797. This was the height of the token-collecting craze in England. This volume, with sharply detailed line engravings, illustrated hundreds of different varieties that the armchair collector, the virtuoso, might enjoy owning. There were no numbers given or descriptions, just illustrations.

The images included here are copper tokens struck in England during the 1790s and bearing motifs directly relating to the United States. Most of them portray President George Washington, who was still in office at the time. The one other is the 1794 Franklin Press copper.

Today each of these is described, illustrated, and priced in the front part of the Guide Book of United States Coins. On the images in the book the lettering around the edge is enclosed in a circle around the rim of one of each pair of illustrations.

Today these tokens have a wide audience and are very popular. I thought you might enjoy this direct connection with the era in which they were first made and in which collectors first appreciated them. Interestingly, on this side of the Atlantic, in America, there was little interest in collecting such things at the time. Those that ended up in cabinets today were brought back from England decades later.

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