Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Token History

Back in January, Darian Zam of the Long White Kid blog alerted me that someone was selling a Benjamin Gittos token on Trade Me. Unfortunately, I lost out on that particular token (final bidding occurred right when the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society’s February meeting was happening on 4 February), but — another one came up on the lists two weeks later. That time, I won the auction.

 I’ve been after a Gittos token for years, ever since first reading an article in the Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal from April 2001 called “The Money Merchants” by John Cresswell. In the earliest days of our country’s money system, while there were paper notes or their equivalent in circulation, there was apparently a shortage in coins. Businessmen took up opportunities provided by die-sinkers and coin manufacturers in Australia and England, such as Thomas Stokes of Stokes and Martin in Melbourne, his successor Joseph Taylor and Joseph Moore of Allen & Moore in Birmingham to order numbers of penny-sized tokens, as a durable form of early advertising. The Gittos token, for example, is nearly 150 years old! 

According to Cresswell, “The firm of B Gittos obtained supplies of their penny from Stokes of Melbourne in 1864 and once in circulation, these became a common feature of small change throughout the Province.”

Benjamin Gittos was a shoemaker in Auckland by 1854, entered into the leather and grindery business by 1857, built a new brick shop in Wyndham Street in 1863, and in 1864 both produced his penny token and took up land beside the Oakley Creek in Avondale for the first of the Gittos family’s tanneries.So,  this token is, to me, part of Avondale’s light industrial history — something I was dead-set on obtaining for its historical value alone. 

One side says: “ B. Gittos, Leather Merchant, Importer of Boots & Shoes, &c., &c.” The other: “Wholesale & Retail Leather & Grindery Stores, Wyndham Street, Auckland NZ, 1864.”

At the time of losing out on the first Gittos token, I went for a consolation -- which turned out to be this next one.



I think someone along the line may have worn this, judging by the hole at the edge. I was attracted to it as it served as a memorial to the late Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. But Samuel Hague Smith had his own story to tell.


He was in Auckland from c.1859 to around 1876, leaving for Australia never to return after the death of his wife a couple of years before. But in the interim, he served on the Auckland Provincial Council -- so this piece is a bit of a hark back to that administration body. The date isn't known, but it would be after  1861 and before c.1970, after which he turned to sharebroking.



Finally, this. Tiny, made from aluminium -- this is said to be a penny token from the Dunedin Tramways. I do question whether this is real, or something churned out for later collector interest. But, as it didn't cost a bomb, I find it interesting.

20 comments:

  1. Great! I am glad you won another one. I didn't see it come up this time around. Got to love those "saved searches" and suddenly Trademe is looking a whole lot better since Ebay have removed the ability of all sellers to leave neutral or negative feedback on bad buyers. What a crazy decision.

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  2. Cheers, Darian -- and thanks again for the head's up! It was just utter chance that I spotted the other token. Meant to be, I reckon.

    Quite a neat site to use, TradeMe. Helps with my postcard addiction ... ;-)

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  3. Great post Lisa. It's fantastic you were at last able to obtain the Gittos token. Thanks Darian for putting Lisa onto that.

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  4. lovely lovely! I do have to try and hold back myself from trawling trademe all the time for ephemera etc. Glad you got your wee token :)

    Hope all is well!

    Sarndra

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  5. G'Day Sarndra! Long time no hear -- and cheers! Yes, still keeping an eye on potential cool stuff, I have to admit ... ;-)

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    1. Oh hello! LOL only just seen this. Yes i've been mental busy with life and online courses. Even my blog has suffered!

      Hugs
      Sarns

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    2. All part of life just happenin', eh, Sarndra? :-)

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    3. You aint kidding! Wish it was a bit slower at the mo. Selling my house in Christchurch also. Won my Ombudsman case and trying to move on,...had enough of sucky tenants and evicted the previous one at the beginning of last month - he owes me $2000 *sigh*. It's ironic when all i hear is about people in Christchurch screaming out for rentals. Feeling a tad stressed at the mo but i'm sure things will work out soon :)

      S

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    4. Glad to hear you've had the win. Keep taking the deep breaths, hopefully the stress time for you will ease off. I know what it's like to be in ever-decreasing circles, and with stuff piling up. Status quo for me! ;)

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  6. I have images of tokens issued by a grocery here in 1859. They were quite curious at the time so I saved the pictures. I'm hoping to find out more about it as I go through the uncatalogued images at the local museum during my Friday voluntary work as there are heaps of pictures of old businesses of yesteryear. I like the idea of people issuing their own coins in the same way a few people have founded their own principalities.

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  7. Yeah, same here. When I used to actively collect stamps (haven't since the late 1990s, but still have the collection), items from the Principality of Hutt River were cool to come across. That sense of independent action in the face of authority, I guess ...

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  8. We found another such token during excavations along Wynyard St for the new School of Business. From "Somerville Wholesale Family Grocer City Mart". The token had a face value of one penny. Details at http://www.clough.co.nz/reports.htm Monograph 2 pgs 153-4.

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  9. Very cool link, Simon! Many thanks -- I'll add that to the sidebar shortly.

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  10. Finally! I can identify this design I've found on more than one site here as cable pattern (pg 153). A very common pattern; I've seen it many, many times in both NZ and Australia and must have been knocked off by many companies in that era. I couldn't find absolutely anything on it when I needed to after hours of searching; which was really frustrating knowing how many times I've seen sherds of it over the years. I foolishly assumed that it would be a piece of cake. Apparently not...it's actually quite hard to find a good resource of common Victorian patterns. What else did you find out about it, if anything?

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  11. Why not send Simon an email via his contact website (Clough & Associates), Darian?

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  12. Yeah, it's probably a smarter option.

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  13. Simon was kind enough to answer my questions and put me on to his database http://bickler.co.nz/china/ which I think would have taken me ages to find - if at all. It has inspired a friend to start and Australian one for patterns and makers marks. Hopefully I will contribute since I spend a great deal of time with my eyes on the ground rescuing bits of old ceramics to take home lovingly scrub clean, scan and archive.May as well put them to some use...

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  14. I don't know if anyone has replied in between times on the Dunedin Tramways token but yes, it's genuine. Recent research (Royal Numismatic Society of NZ Newsletter) says they were used for a very short time in 1906-07, sold in packs of 14 for a shilling (so you got two rides free), but they weren't popular and were withdrawn. "New" (i.e. original, unopened) packs are still available as a result.

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