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Token of Rob Fideman

Some detectorists say their finds bring them closer to the past. By this most mean closer to the people who lived hundreds or thousands of years since. Their losses, some of which could have caused much stress, provide a link with those who once walked over the same land as we do.

Coins have been used for well over two thousand years but most ordinary folk were very poor and to them the loss of a penny might mean they couldn’t afford to buy food for a couple of days. Ordinarily folk greatly outnumbered those who were well off and this is why most of the coins unearthed by detectorists are low denominations.

I’ve heard it said that tokens, especially those dating from the 17th century, bring us even closer to the lowest section of society, for it was members of that group more than any other who actually used tokens. In the 17th century they had no option, for no other small change was available. Besides bringing us closer to ordinary folk, there is also the link to thousands of traders. Most tokens have on them the name of a trader and his or her place of business. Therefore, it could be argued that coins bring us closer to the past but traders’ tokens bring us even closer.

Illustrated here is a 17th century farthing token, which was unearthed very recently by Colin Barton. We featured another token very recently; that one was fairly common but this specimen certainly isn’t.

On one side is the grocers’ Coat of Arms and a legend reading ROB FIDEMAN OF BURY. Within the inner circle on the other side is R F with a rosette above and on this side the legend reads THE COVNTY OF SVFOLK. Therefore, Rob Fideman, who was a grocer, had his place of business in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.


Most Suffolk tokens aren’t rare and some are fairly common. The specimen found by Colin is an exception, for it is a real rarity. It is unpriced in the reference work by Michael Dickinson, which is usually an indication that a token is rare. I checked through all my available sources but failed to trace a specimen being offered for sale by a dealer or an auctioneer.

17th century tokens that have been in the soil for a few centuries are often in poor condition when they surface. Once again, this is an exception, for it is in close to VF condition. In terms of possible value, if I was cataloguing Colin’s find for sale at auction I would set the pre-sale estimate at £200. With competition from two or more specialists in a saleroom, £200 might prove to be the starting price rather than the final figure at the fall of the hammer.

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