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Spence's Countermarks on Tokens

No matter how you feel about Thomas Spence (1750-1814) and his political views, he was an amazing person. A self-taught working-class man, he invented a new phonetic language, became an English teacher, developed a plan for the redistribution of property and was the author of radical political reform, and also issued an unusual series of political conder tokens. Spence's ideas lived on for many years after his death and influenced 19th-century thinkers such as Robert Owen (1771-1858), famous for his social experiment at New Lanark.

Much has been written about Spence's life before, and it only remains for me to express my admiration for this man.

One of his lines of token production that has been overlooked was the series of countermarks described by Robert Thompson in the British Numismatic Journal (Robert Thompson, The dies of Thomas Spence 1750-1814, pp126-162, plus die linking chart, plates VI- VIII, British Numismatic Journal Volume XXXVIII, MCMLXX). Thompson lists twenty-seven types of overstamps, and although he gives illustrations of all of Spence's tokens, he does not show the examples of overstamped tokens he mentions. The punches could be combined in various ways to produce political slogans. I have about 100 counterminted Spence tokens in my collection, 80% of which were purchased from John Whitmore a few years ago. My initial research into this group of tokens showed that they were part of an extensive collection published by Batty.

Overminted tokens are quite rare. I have a Dalton & Hamer Middlesex 676 token-overminted copy - Thomas Spence's token overmint made on his own token! One evasion token (L. GORDIUS REYS, DELECT TATRUS, 1781, Atkins 333, Cobwright G.1040/D.0090) has the word “PAROCHIAL” across the bust and the word “LIBERTY” (freedom) across the harp; another curious example on the penny 1797 Cartwheel (Wagon wheel) on the obverse is overstamped the phrase: "NO, LANDLORDS, YOU FOOLS, SPENCE'S PLAN, FOR EVER" (No, landowners, you are fools, Spence's plan, forever); ten countermarks on plain blanks, and the remainder chiefly on counterfeit George III halfpennies. I have divided this article into two parts. In the first one, I simply illustrate 25 of the 27 countermarks.

In the second part, I present interesting countermarks from my collection.

Spence's Countermarked Tokens by Alan Judd, first published in the Conder Society