Red Book 70: Gloucester token
The 1714 Gloucester token was an enigma that vexed collectors for more than a century.
In 1776, Sylvester S. Crosby, discussed the piece in his The Early Coins of America but did not picture it, possibly because it wouldn’t have served any purpose. Crosby said two well-worn specimens were known and together they didn’t provide enough information to give a full description.
He wrote, “Of the history of the earliest of these (American tokens), called the Gloucester Token, nothing is known. It appears to have been intended as a pattern for a shilling of a private coinage, by Richard Dawson of Gloucester (county?) Virginia.”
The 1714 dated piece(s) gave a denomination of XII or shilling and showed a building on the obverse and a star on the reverse. Half or less of the legends showed.
Crosby’s second piece now appears to have been a copy of the first.
The first edition of the Red Book credited Crosby with what little was known about the piece. “Known specimens are imperfect and a full description cannot be given.”
That description remained unchanged for some 35 years. In 1981, another specimen was discovered. Combining the two coins, collectors were able to determine the coin’s full legend: GLOVCESTER • COVRTHOVSE • VIRGINIA on the obverse and RIGHAVLT DAWSON • ANNO • DOM • 1714 on the reverse.
The Red Book now reports, “The recent discovery has provided a new interpretation of the legends, as a Righault family once owned land near the Gloucester courthouse.”
Another Gloucester token mystery has arisen since the first Red Book was published. The current Red Book says, “A similar but somewhat smaller piece, possibly dated 1715 exists. The condition of the unique piece is too poor for a positive attribution.”