A piece misidentified in an auction as a communion token is from a Dutch charity that feeds the poor

Readers Ask column from the May 26, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 05/09/14
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I bought this token in a lot; it was described as a Dutch communion token, which it is not. All I’ve been able to determine is that it’s a bread token. Can you tell me anything more?

Why were they issued? Do the four loaves (as opposed to one, two, or three, which I’ve seen online) on the reverse have any significance?

Any info you can provide is appreciated.

Bud Cushman, Holden, Maine

The reader shared images of what is actually a white metal charity token from the Netherlands.

Hobby researcher O.P. Eklund writes about similar pieces in Charity Tokens of the Netherlands, a reprint of articles that appeared in The Numismatist in the 1940s.

According to dealer Paul Bosco, who specializes in world exonumia, these tokens were not necessarily bread tokens in the traditional sense (where a token might be “good for” a loaf) but represented food being given to the poor.

“It is Dutch, of course, and it could be considered the last in a long line of such pieces, issued by churches/parishes back to the 1500s,” Bosco said.

The token is made in bronze, silver and lead, and, as the reader noted, with different numbers of loaves. Fred Drost, in a 1976 article in Journal of International Numismatics, suggests the four loaves version is double-struck.

A similar token is described in Eklund’s work. One side of the token shows the seated figure of Charity, with a dove perched upon her head and a lamb standing beside her. The side with the lamb includes a legend, vergenoegd en dankbaar, which translates to “content and grateful.”

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