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Mathew Carr Halfpenny Token

Pictured here is a 17th century halfpenny token, which was found by someone named Martyn and the images came in from Sandra. When I looked at the token I was immediately intrigued by it. I simply glanced at the email and then set to work, thinking Martin Depear must be the finder and his sister, Sandra, the photographer. This was a case of more haste less speed, as will become apparent later on.

Searching for Mathew Carr in Lincolnshire

Partly on the obverse and partly on the reverse the full legend reads: MATHEW CARR ’69 AT YE ROSE TAVERN AT YE OVLD SWAN. Within the inner circle on one side is a rose. On the other in four lines is HIS HALFE PENY MCM (the C stepped up from M M). The legends are clear, as is the name of the issuer. However, there is a problem: the place of issue is missing. Martin Depear is based in Lincolnshire, so I started to search that county for Mathew Carr. However, I failed to find him there so broadened my search to cover Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk; I then went further afield but still couldn’t trace Mathew Carr.

Finding Matthew Carr in London

Lots of 17th century tokens never moved out of the locality in which they were issued. Most of those that did didn’t travel very far. However, a few did manage to travel a long distance from where they were issued. I eventually decided this must be one of them. Quite a number of London tokens didn’t have a definite place of issue. I decided that should be my focus. There was a snag to this: most counties didn’t issue many tokens but in London there were thousands. I started to go through Michael Dickinson’s reference work, page by page. After 53 pages I was beginning to think I was wasting my time when I came upon number 3084B. I had found it, at last! Martin’s token was issued by Mathew Carr in 1669 from his tavern in Thames Street, London.

Condition and rarity

There is slight pitting to one side but this token is otherwise well struck and in VF condition. Furthermore, it is extremely rare, which makes it all the more outstanding. I have trawled the internet but failed to trace another specimen being offered for sale by a dealer or by an auctioneer. This is great news for Martin but had it not been so rare I’d probably have pinned it down after three minutes, rather than three hours!

Lesson learned

Earlier on I had sent an email to the finder of the token, who I took to be Martin Depear, asking for the name of the place and county in which the token had been found. Later in the day, when I switched on the computer again to let Martin know that he had unearthed a great rarity, I realised I had made an almighty error. There was a reply from Sandra to my earlier email, saying it was her husband, Martyn, who had found the token whilst detecting in Kent. I had thought the first inquiry had come from Martin Depear’s sister, Sandra, when it had been sent by Sandra Bodkin on behalf of her husband.

Before I even started to do all the necessary research I had noticed that I had a Martin and a Martyn. That should have warned me that something was wrong. Instead of checking I dived in with both feet. Fortunately, everything worked out well in the end. In future I will make sure I don’t make the same mistake again.


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