United Kingdom of Great Britain, J. Clarke's Market Place, Token worth 1/2 Penny 1794

Tokens are private issues, a kind of emergency coins, that were common in Great Britain in the 18th century. The reason for the mass issues of private coins was a shortage of small coins from which England suffered at that time. The British government insisted on the principle that money should consist of precious metals. This belief made the production of small coins a very unprofitable business. But instead of breaking new ground and strike minor coins from debased metals, the British government reduced the minting of change, and at times even suspended it completely. But commerce does not work with valuable gold and silver coins only: for daily business, divisional coins are indispensable. Hence British traders and companies started to issue tokens. Mostly, these pieces had a value of a halfpenny, occasionally also of one penny. Many business people used the opportunity to set themselves a monument and outdid each other in the production of especially pretty issues. That is why tokens depict a dazzling variety of images – portraits, coats of arms, sailboats, animals, and historical as well as allegorical illustrations.