The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 50, December 11, 2016, Article 9


Regarding the "Wolfe Tone" trial piece from the Charles Barber estate we discussed back in 2001, Gawain O'Connor writes:

It looks like this token has appeared on eBay, which shows the reverse as crossed Ireland and United States flags. I wonder if any one has found out more about it and the Charles E. Barber connection.

The '98 Centennial Association of America had planned a massive pilgrimage to Dublin for the August 1898 festivities, but the Spanish-American War intervened.

E-Sylum readers (some of you, anyway) have long memories. Thankfully, so does our online web archive. Here's the original question, which appeared before we included images. I added one from -Editor

Wolfe Tone trial Saul Teichman writes:

Here is a puzzle for the E-Sylum folks. The trial piece below, struck on cardboard, was part of the Charles Barber estate and was given by Stacks to the Smithsonian in 1967 along with 2 other cardboard trials which are much better known - Pollock 3512/15 and Pollock 3518/21. The latter two are illustrated on the website

It appears to be a trial piece for a token of some sort containing a portrait and the words "Wolfe Tone" and "1798" around. Does anyone have any idea what this is or if there are any tokens out there that ever used this design?"

Here are the responses compiled on The links are broken, so i haven't bothered making them clickable. -Editor

Thanks to the Numismatic Bibliomania Society and also Andy Lustig, we have found out that the image on the cardboard trial is that of Theobald Wolfe Tone.

Other responses include the following.

Harold Welch writes: "Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) was an Irish lawyer who was an original founder of the United Irishmen, a group dedicated to leading an Irish uprising against the British. Tone was a disciple of Thomas Paine and a friend of James Madison (who was serving as American Minister to France). Tone was in France trying to persuade the French Government to invade Ireland, assuring them that an invasion would be accompanied by a general uprising of the Irish people against the hated English.

Eventually, an invasion fleet of 143 sail and 15,000 men was dispatched accompanied by Tone as "Adjutant-general Smith." Bad weather and poor seamanship led to the dispersal of the fleet before it ever landed. Despite Tone's efforts, the French would never commit to anything further than a few minor raids. Tone was captured on one of these raids and sentenced to hanging. On the day before he was scheduled to be executed he cut his throat with a penknife and died of the wound a few days later, November 19, 1798.

I have no knowledge of the medal in question or what interest Charles Barber may have had in Wolfe Tone."

David Fanning writes: "Theobald Wolfe Tone is the founder of modern Irish Republicanism. He led the United Irishmen, a non-sectarian movement which was devoted to driving the British out of Ireland. He was a Protestant, as were a number of other leaders of the movement, giving the lie to the British notion that the conflict is all about religion. The Uprising they led in 1798 was unsuccessful, and Tone and the other leaders were condemned to death. Tone took his own life in prison under very weird circumstances--some believe he was murdered. All that said, I don't know anything about the pattern trial."

David Lange writes: "Stylistically, the piece illustrated does appear to be the work of Charles Barber. The proportional size of the busts to the borders indicate that it was a pattern gold dollar or a token of similar size. The date 1798 suggests that it may have been intended as a commemorative piece to be issued in 1898. A check of the Congressional Record for 1897-98 might turn up some clues."

Finally, NBS Board member Bob Metzger adds these web references: "There's some background info on Wolfe Tone at

You can buy a miniature of him at:

He also appears on an Irish postage stamp.

We wish to thank everyone who responded.

Here's the Token Catalog lot description. -Editor

Wolfe TOne token obverse Wolfe TOne token reverse

WOLFE TONE 1798 / (man facing left)

(crossed U.S. & Irish flags)

TC-54447 *** Gilt brass. This medal was issued by Irish Americans? Photo is courtesy of ebay seller Xonumia.

To read the complete description, see:
TokenCatalog #54447 (

Saul Teichman writes:

Only took 15 years to find one !!

Thanks, Gawain! Can anyone tell us more? -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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