Jeff Rock of San Diego, CA submitted this review of a new book on some very interesting little medals. Thanks! -Editor
We’ve all seen them – ESPECIALLY if you collect copper coins from the 18th century. A series of small, 25mm, medals featuring a bust on the obverse, the name of the individual on the reverse and (usually) the
signature KIRK. It’s been fairly common knowledge that these were issued in England in the 1770s and were put out by The Sentimental Magazine as a promotional item, one medal given away with the early issues of that
Many collectors, especially American, have considered these to be tokens because of their diminutive size, but the magazine that issued them referred to them as medals and, in the UK at least, tradition dies hard; the
fact that "medals" sounds far more grand would have certainly suited a new publication trying to make its mark in the competitive London market. For comparison purposes, these medals are a few millimeters larger
than the US nickel.
There were 13 different people (including three women) depicted on the medals, mostly royalty and the aristocracy, though two outliers are also depicted – Oliver Cromwell more famous for his role in the killing of a royal
(King Charles I), and David Garrick, the famous actor and playwright.
At the time of their issue, in 1773 and 1774, 9 of the 13 people depicted on these medals were still alive (besides Cromwell, the posthumous issues were George II, the Marquis of Granby and the Right Honourable William
Beckford), and they can be seen as both honoring the people they depict as well as a bit of sucking up in the hope of patronage or some sort of recognition that would help increase circulation of the magazine.
American collectors are usually acquainted with the medal depicting Lord Chatham – better known on this side of the Atlantic as William Pitt (the Elder).
The medals often show a bit of light circulation, and it is likely that those saw use as a farthing, which is interesting because they actually predate the 18th Century Provincial Tokens (i.e. “Conder Tokens”) by over a
dozen years. That said, the entire series is available without much searching, with the Chatham/Pitt piece being a bit pricier than the others because of the American connection, but a set of all 13 types in EF grade can be
put together for under $500, and an AU/UNC set would likely run less than double that amount.
While a few smaller articles about the Sentimental Medals have appeared over the years, not much serious study was given to them. That has now changed with the publication of Sentimental Magazine Medals, by Martin
Warburton, a British collector who previously co-authored a book on the Imitation Spade Guinea counters and advertising tokens. This 36-page booklet brings together all of the (admittedly limited) information that is known
on the Sentimental Magazine medals.
The author looks at each type, as well as die varieties in the instances where more than one die pair was used (for those who like collecting by die variety, don’t worry, there are just four additional die varieties, so
the entire set in copper is still a reasonable 17 items – though of course a few more can be added for die rotation and die state as well).
For the first time their order of issue is soundly laid out, with the month and year given – much of this information gleaned from an extremely rare surviving volume of the magazine in the author’s library (and for the
book lover in all of us, the author goes into some detail about the finding and preservation of that volume). Warburton has found that the first medal was issued in March, 1773 for the very first issue of the magazine, and
continued until March of the following year when they ceased (the magazine itself was published until 1777.
Warburton also discusses the off-metal examples known – there are pieces that have long since been called silver which prove to be something slightly different (and likely some false advertising on the part of the
magazine publisher!), as well as gilt, white metal and brass specimens. The engraver, John Kirk, is also discussed. Full color photographs are included for all types and die varieties, and the booklet is printed on
good-quality, glossy paper.
For collectors who have even a passing interest in these historic (yet still inexpensive) medals, the book itself can be ordered from the author. The cost is a very reasonable £10 for UK residents and £12 for those in the
US. Payment can be made via PayPal (in British Pounds) to: firstname.lastname@example.org – and obviously include your name and mailing address. At the current exchange rate that comes
to about $16, including postage – probably one of the least expensive additions to your library this year!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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