World Coins

1801 Pidcock Exhibition token in CNG sale

A copper token from Pidcock’s Exhibition was offered in an Aug. 4 auction, selling for $129.80, including the 18 percent buyer’s fee.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

Decades before P.T. Barnum excited crowds in America, showman Gilbert Pidcock brought a menagerie of exotic animals to London.

He was essentially operating a private zoo, dubbed Pidcock’s Exhibition, and to promote the thrilling show, he issued a series of copper tokens depicting various animals in the menagerie.

An example of one of those tokens realized $129.80 including the 18 percent buyer’s fee in Classical Numismatic Group’s Aug. 4 electronic auction.

This example fits into a broad range of tokens that today are known in the United States of America as “Conder” tokens, for an early cataloger of the series.

The 1801 copper halfpenny token was issued in London, home to the menagerie that featured all kinds of strange and exotic animals on display. Gathered from Asia, Africa, India, Australia and South America, these were certainly not beasts normally seen in the middle of London.

Though he began traveling with exotic animals for show in 1779, according to the British Museum, in 1793 Pidcock purchased Thomas Clark’s menagerie at Exeter Change, with which he had been involved for two years.

The Exeter Exchange (popularly known as Exeter Change) was a building on the north side of the Strand in London. It is most famous for the menagerie on its upper floors from 1773 until the building was demolished in 1829.

With few exceptions, all Pidcock’s tokens show an animal from the exhibition on each side, and this example does also.

The wanderoo (lion-tailed macaque), holding a short staff, appears on the obverse. The lion-tailed macaque is a monkey endemic to South India.

Inscriptions on the obverse identify the source for such an exotic sighting, PIDCOCK’S GRAND MENAGERIE, EXETER CHANGE, LONDON.

A crane stands on the reverse, with THE AFRICAN CROWN CRANE, PIDCOCK’S EXHIBITION surrounding.

The token weighs 9.36 grams and measures 30 millimeters in diameter.

With brown surfaces and edge bumps, its condition was assessed at “Near Extremely Fine” by the auction house.

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