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  • Auctori Plebis Tokens

    The Auctori Plebis Token 1787: Introduction

    Little is known about this unusual token that dates from 1787. The obverse is quite similar to a bust left Connecticut copper, especially the 1787 coppers minted by Jarvis and Co. in New Haven. It also appears the coin was intended for circulation in America as the legends: AUCTORI PLEBIS (By the authority of the people) and INDEP ET LIBER (Independence and Liberty) are anti-royalist. However, the figure of Liberty on the reverse is clearly based on the seated Britannia, resting one arm on an anchor behind her and the other on a globe in front of her, with the crowned English lion resting at her feet. Duncan suggests the coin may be of American origin, while Breen considers it to be from Birmingham. Mossman does not pass judgment on the origins of the coin but explains it was one of the coppers circulating during the Confederation period.

    Breen discussed the similarity of the reverse of the Auctori Plebis token to that found on some English halfpenny tokens, namely the 1793-1794 Emsworth and Norwich tokens (Dalton and Hamer, Hampshire, Emsworth, nos. 9-12 on p. 41 and Northfolk, Norwich, nos 20-21 on pp. 211-212). However, he stated the style of the British tokens was different and the punches did not match with the Auctori so he concluded there was no relationship between these coins and the Auctori Plebis. A 1794 Emsworth token, made for the grocer John Stride, is shown on the following page below the Auctori Plebis for comparison (R. Dalton and S.H. Hamer, The Provincial Token - Coinage of the 18th Century,  Alan Davisson: Cold Springs, MN, (originally published 1910-1918), reprinted 1990, Hampshire, Emsworth, no. 10 and Batty's Catalogue of the Copper Coinage of Great Britain, Ireland, British Isles, and Colonies,  London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1896, vol. 1, part 5, p. 99, Hampshire, item 299).

    In Prattent's 1796-97 book illustrating British token halfpence, the 1787 Auctori Plebis was listed in the index as "American." From this reference we can verify the coin was known in England but the debate continues if "American" means made in America or made in Britain for use in America.


    Breen, pp. 127-128; Charles Duncan, "The Auctori Plebis and Related Pieces," The Colonial Newsletter  14 (April 1975, serial no. 43) 476-479; Thomas Prattent, The Virtuoso's Companion and Coin Collector's Guide,  London: Denton 1796-1797, p. 54 and index (index citation and illustration reproduced in Duncan).

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    Section Contents Auctori Plebis Tokens

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