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  • Kentucky Tokens

    The Kentucky or Starry Pyramid Token (1792): Introduction

    This undated token is thought to commemorate the admission of Kentucky to the nation, and thus is thought to have been produced around the time of Kentucky's admission as the fifteenth state in 1792 but before 1796 when Tennessee was admitted. The names for this coin comes from the design on the reverse consisting of a pyramid made from 15 stars (with twelve points each) joined together with chain links and surrounded by nine groups of emanating rays in the shape of a star. Each star has a letter representing one of the thirteen original states as well as one for Vermont (which entered the union 1791) while at the top of the pyramid is a star with a K for Kentucky. The states are listed as follows: top row K (KY); second row RI, VI (RI, VA); third row V, NC, NY (VT, NC, NY); fourth row MS, MD, SC, NH (MA, MD, SC, NH); and the bottom row D, P, NJ, G, C (DE, PA, NJ, GA, CT). Around this design is the legend "E PLURIBUS UNUM" (One from many). The obverse depicts a hand holding a scroll with the words "OUR CAUSE IS JUST" which probably refers to Kentucky's long standing desire to secede from Virginia and become an independent state, while around the rim is the legend "UNANIMITY IS THE STRENGTH OF SOCIETY." The edge of the token is usually plain but some bear the lettering "PAYABLE IN LANCASTER, LONDON OR BRISTOL." This edge legend led Crosby to attribute the token to Lancaster, however, no Lancaster mint is known. Breen suggests the dies may have been engraved by John Gregory Hancock who was employed at the Westwood mint in Birmingham, as he used the "Lancaster" edge lettering on tokens produced for Thomas Worswick and Co., a Lancaster banker. Breen also suspected some of the various planchet types used for the Kentucky token were also used for other tokens produced by the Westwood mint.

    Breen suggests the Kentucky tokens were popular and circulated throughout the American states, but gives no evidence for this statement. Bowers suspects the coins were primarily made for British collectors as part of the popular British token series we now call the "Conder" series, after James Conder who first classified these tokens in 1798. Since Kentucky token are found in several different weights (mostly from 150-198 grams) it is thought several different batches were minted. Breen suggests the plain edge tokens were put into circulation for many examples are well worn, while the letter edge tokens were kept by collectors as most of them are in mint state. Also, as the various edge varieties are quite rare, it appears they were specially made at the request of collectors. These edge variants include a diagonally reeded edge variety, what may be a unique vine edge specimen, and at least two varieties with unusual legends, the very rare, "PAYABLE AT NUNEATON, BEDWORTH OR HINKLEY" and what may be a unique piece containing the edge, "PAYABLE AT I. FIELDINGS MANCHESTER." In 1996 a hoard of twenty five mint sate examples were found in England.


    See: Alexander, p. 76; Breen, pp. 128-130 and Q. David Bowers, American Coin Treasures and Hoards and Caches of Other American Numismatic Items   Wolfboro, N.H.: Bowers and Merena, 1997, p. 40

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    Section Contents Kentucky Tokens

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