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Thomas Spence, Copper Halfpenny, 1796, obv An ass bearing two pairs of paniers labelled 'RENTS' and 'TAX'S'. Around the perimeter I WAS AN ASSS TO BEAR THE FIRST PAIR *, rev A man standing facing right, fettered and a padlock on his mouth. Around the perimeter A FREE-BORN . ENGLISHMAN 1796, edge plain (Conder p.266, 25; Virt p.225; Atkins p. 125, 551; D&H Middlesex 718)
Minor planchet imperfections, otherwise gem uncirculated, lustrous, with a bit of faded color remaining. Rare.
Thomas Spence, (1750-1814), Newcastle schoolmaster and writer who moved to London in 1792, where he set up shop as a bookseller and became an active member of the London Corresponding Society. He allowed his home and shop to be used for meetings and, in May 1794, was arrested along with a dozen others, and remitted to Newgate Prison for his efforts. Upon release he entered the business of selling tokens, publishing a handbill listing twenty obverse and twenty reverse dies that could be ordered paired in any combination, and authoring an early guide to the series, The Coin Collector's Companion in 1795. He issued and sold a variety of tokens before quitting the business in late 1796; his stock and dies passing to Skidmore where they continued to be muled amongst themselves and with others then in Skidmore's posession.