Washington Military Bust Tokens: Introduction

This is one of four interrelated Washington tokens of which three bear the date 1783. Two of the four, namely the Draped Bust and the Military Bust tokens, were produced by the same person for they both bear the initials T.W.I. and E.S. This copper token was struck at Bolton's Soho Mint in Birmingham, England between 1820 and 1848, with the 30's or 40's appearing more likely as the token was still in circulation at mid century. For a more complete discussion on the dating and location of these tokens see the introduction to the Washington Draped Bust tokens.

The obverse depicts a laurel wreathed bust facing left in a military uniform with the legend "WASHINGTON AND INDEPENDENCE" and the date 1783 commemorating the end of the Revolutionary War. Clearly, the bust is meant to represent George Washington. However, the central bust punch used for this series was originally produced and used for the Wellington peninsular tokens. Thus, the portrait is that of Lord Wellington. The peninsular tokens were produced for the use of Wellington's army in Spain and Portugal. They were ordered by J. Picard of Hull from the Birmingham factory of the button and medal maker Sir Edward Thomason. The Wellington tokens were struck at Thomason's press with dies and punches cut by Thomas Halliday, a die-sinker located on Newhall Street in Birmingham. Rulau identifies the specific Wellington portrait punches used on the Washington military bust tokens as varieties of the Wellington bust used for the Wellington peninsular token Charlton WE-11, which is cataloged with seven small bust varieties (WE-11A) and eight large bust varieties (WE-11B). However, the Washington bust displays some small differences when compared to Wellington, suggesting the image was revised slightly. On the large Washington military bust, Washington's double breasted coat displays four sets of buttons as well as a collar button while the Wellington double breasted coat is shorter displaying only one or two button holes with the addition of a single button just above the lapel. On the Washington token there is no button immediately above the lapel, rather it was replaced with a button on the collar. Also the epaulet on Wellington extends down below the end of the bust, while on Washington the bust extends slightly below the bottom of the epaulet.

The reverse of the Washington military bust is similar to the Draped Bust token with a female figure seated on a rock surrounded by water. In her extended right hand she holds an olive branch and in her left she holds a staff with a liberty cap on top. On this reverse the pole rests on the figure's shoulder and is more upright than on the Draped Bust reverse, where the pole rests at the figure's forearm. The figure was first used as Britannia on Soho company coinage of 1797. However in the present context with the liberty cap and the legend above her which reads "UNITED STATES" I suspect she is meant to represent Liberty. The initials T.W.I. and E.S. are found in exergue on the reverse referring to the engraver Thomas Wells Ingram and the Philadelphia painter Edward Savage.

There are two major types of this token. There are the "small bust varieties" (Vlack 1 and 1a) in which the bottom front corner of the bust does not extend over the W in the legend and there are the "large bust varieties" (Vlack 2-10) where the corner of the bust extends almost the full length of the W. The variations were first published by Robert Vlack in two plates (included below). Rulau and Fuld expanded the list, identifying a second die combination for the small bust variety (Vlack listed only one; Rulau and Fuld listed the two varieties as Vlack 1 and Vlack 1a), while for the large bust Vlack has distinguished ten obverse dies and seven reverse dies joined in ten combinations. The large bust dies differ only slightly from each other and can often only be distinguished by die cracks rather than differences in the engraving.

A similar military bust is also found on the Double Head Washington Cent.

My appreciation to Den Curtis, ANA Member R-1127697, who informed me of the relationship between the Washington and the Wellington busts, first discussed in the second edition of Rulau and Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington.

Washington Military Bust Die Charts

The following charts created by Robert Vlack in 1961 were produced from negatives in The Colonial Newsletter Foundation Photofiles and were provided by Jim Spilman.

Variation designations are by Robert Vlack consisting of obverse numbers and reverse letters. The charts are presented as clickable 125 dpi jpg images. For fast downloading the upper and lower portions of each chart are also offered separately. The individual obverse and reverse varieties are also presented as 500 dpi images.

Click here for Washington Military Bust Varieties - Plate 1.

Click here for Washington Military Bust Varieties - Plate 2.

Individual obverse and reverse varieties at 500 dpi:
Obverses - Obverse 1 ; Obverse 2 ; Obverse 3 ; Obverse 4 ; Obverse 5 ; Obverse 6 ; Obverse 7 ; Obverse 8 ; Obverse 9 ; Obverse 10
Reverses - Reverse A ; Reverse B ; Reverse C ; Reverse D ; Reverse E ; Reverse F ; Reverse G


See the revision of W. S. Baker's 1885 catalog by Russell Rulau and George Fuld, Medallic Portraits of Washington, Second edition, Iola, WI: Krause, 1999, pp. 35-36, items 4-4A; Breen, 136; George Fuld, "The Origin of the Washington 1783 Cents," The Numismatist,  vol. 77 (November 1964) 1475-81; a preliminary version was summarized in The Colonial Newsletter 5 (June 1964, serial no. 12), 53-58; Robert Vlack, "The Washington Coppers of 1783" The Colonial Newsletter 17 (July 1978, serial no. 52), 635-52, especially 637-43 on the Military Bust varieties and George Fuld, "Coinage Featuring George Washington," in Coinage of the Confederation Period, ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 165-259 on pp. 216-218 and 225-233. Also, on the Wellington tokens see The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Colonial Tokens, 4th ed., by W. K. Cross, Toronto: Charlton, 2000, pp.159-171, especially 167-168.

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Section Contents Washington Military Bust Tokens

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