In the seventeenth century there was a need for coins smaller than the penny piece, which was the smallest minted by the Realm at that time. In 1649 following an act of Parliament, various towns were allowed to issue tokens of a value of ¼d. or ½d. and this was subsequently extended to individual traders. A proclamation of Charles II in 1672 relating to the prosecution of offenders stopped this practice. It was said that tokens could be produced so cheaply that traders were making money out of just issuing them, and from that date ‘farthings’ , as they were known, were coined by the Mint.
In Oxford there were 70 issuers of tokens, only surpassed by Norwich (92) and Exeter (82). In the smaller towns or villages usually only one person issued tokens – in the case of Harwell, John Hanson, 1666. In Wm. Boyne’s book called “Trade Tokens of the seventeenth century” it is stated that only one trade token was ever issued in Harwell. A book called British Tokens & Their Values, published in 1970 by Seaby’s Numismatic Publications, Ltd. repeats above information and says it was equivalent of ¼d. A token in fine condition was worth £2.50.
According to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the coin is inscribed:
O. IOHN HANSON.IN = Fullblown rose. R. HARWELL. BERKS 1666 I.A.H.
The Harwell Parish Register gives the following:
- Baptised Anne Hanson, daughter of John and Anne, the 8th day of January.
- Baptised Mary Hanson, daughter of John and Anne, xxij day of February.
There are a further three entries of daughters – named Hannah, Margaret and Martha, the last being 1673.