World Coins

Token suggesting 17th century London lifestyle in upcoming auction

A rare halfpenny token from the Mermaid Tavern in 17th century London is coming to auction.

Images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb

When considering life in 17th-century England, it’s easy to conjure up a certain romantic image.

And it was, at least for the wealthy, some of whom idled away time at the tavern, tossing back ale while holding forth on the political topics of the day.

One such place that played hosts to these convivial confabs was the Mermaid Tavern, on Bread Street, east of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in the city of London.

The tavern also happens to have issued tokens, an example of which is being offered at auction, online, Nov. 17 by Dix Noonan Webb of London.

The token is from a collection of British tokens formed by John Rose, which features nearly 500 lots of the pieces, spanning 300 years and covering all corners of the United Kingdom.

The Rose Collection is broad in its scope, but understandably London-centric, and particularly so for the 17th century series, which remained his chief focus throughout his collecting years, according to the firm.

The tavern halfpenny token is dated 1665, an auspicious date, for the building that housed the tavern would be destroyed the following year during the Great Fire of London.

The token features an interesting spelling, Mearmayd, and a positively charming image of a mermaid, on the obverse.

The reverse identifies the location of the tavern (Bread Street), the denomination (noted as 1/2) and the year.

The Mermaid Tavern hosted the Friday Street Club (also known as the Mermaid Club), a literary society begun in 1603, supposedly by Sir Walter Raleigh, and attended by such writers as Ben Jonson, John Donne and William Shakespeare, though research suggests stories of Shakespeare’s attendance may be apocryphal.

The token is very rare, and in Very Fine condition, according to the firm.

The token has a presale estimate of £150 to £200 ($195 to $261).

Consigned: 1665 halfpenny token from London
Condition: Very Fine
Auction Location: Online
Auction Dates: Nov. 17, 2020
Details: Rare halfpenny token is from the Mermaid Tavern near St. Paul’s Cathedral

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