I spotted this Penny Token in a recent antiques fair and thinking it could carry local interest that should not be lost acquired it. I showed it to Brian Green who had not seen anything similar before and I have therefore done a little internet research on the token.

It came from the Collection of a Mr. R.C. Bell who was a Plastics Surgeon who practised in Shotley Bridge in Durham. He was born in 1917 and trained in St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was a distinguished numismatist and author of many books on the subject. His huge collection of tokens came up for auction in 1996 and this token came up for auction again in June of this year.

Basically it is a token struck about 1797 by a firm P Skidmore of Clerkenwell and is one of what was known as their Clerkenwell series. Around the rim is engraved I PROMISE TO PAY ON DEMAND THE BEARER ONE PENNY. Apparently these were trade tokens minted in the late eighteenth century presumably to promote custom. Many were clearly directed at particular businesses but some minted by Skidmore, of which this engraving of Dulwich’s Old College is one, were of notable buildings in London including amongst others, the then House of Commons, the Smallpox Hospital in St Pancras and Addington House in Croydon. Many of the tokens were engraved by a man named Jacobs who engraved his name below the image of the engraved building. The engraving is very well preserved and of high quality, the token being described as rare and of course may now be unique. The coat of arms on the reverse side is fictitious and is repeated on other Skidmore tokens.

I am not a numismatist and am therefore curious to know who might have instigated the minting of a token depicting Dulwich College. Was it a commemoration or was it an attempt to promote the college as a place of learning? I note that another token exists depicting St Paul’s School. Was there an element of competition or rivalry between the two educational establishments? I would like to know whether any readers or Old Alleynians that have more knowledge than myself are able to tell me whether this is an item of local interest or importance and have more information about its provenance.

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