Silver York Token of 1811

11th February 2017 — 13 Comments

Detectorist Brian Ridley, a detecting forum friend of mine, is very skilled in restoring Dinky-type toys found by detectorists. He also dabbles in creating ‘trench’ type items. He also goes out searching occasionally! In the early 90’s, on one of his permissions, he found an interesting six pence token, which I’d like to share with you.

Courtesy of Brian Ridley the oldschooldetectorist

After reading this, Mark Bingham also sent me one he’d found! Thank you.

This silver token is a relic of one on the many periods of coinage shortfall, which pepper British history. George Cattle and James Barber were goldsmiths and jewellers in Coney Street, York and founded in 1791. The obverse shows the Arms of the City of York above olive and palm branches.

The partnership had gained a reputation as the premier goldsmiths / silversmiths in York and even today, Cattle & Barber Georgian silverware is particularly prized. When the metal price rose to exceed the face value of the coin, which it often did, then people would melt them down, and the mint stopped issuing silver coins because of the cost.

Carpe Diem. Enter entrepreneurs Cattle and Barber. The fluctuating price of silver prompted them to produce tokens privately. Their smart shillings and sixpences contained very little silver and were sold to anyone who would issue them.

An article in the ‘Chronicle’ dated the 12th October 1811 states:

“An issue of silver tokens has been made by Messrs. Cattle and Barber of York. These tokens are of the value of Shillings and Sixpences, and are finished in a neat style, bearing on one side the arms of the City of York, and on the other, their value, with the names of the issuers.”

Robert Cattle started as an apprentice silversmith and later took on James Barber as a partner in his thriving business. They were both to become Lord Mayors of the city.

I suspect that these tokens, produced at the time for J Hunters and Blyth and Co. of Norfolk, Suffolk, Yarmouth and Bury, were also produced in York.

Courtesy of thesaleroom

When the tokens were issued, collecting was well under way and many Extra Fine examples would have found their way into gentlemen’s cabinets. If you are lucky enough to find an example on one of your foray, I’d like to hear from you.


In association with William North, Cattle & Barber also produced silverware, especially spoons. Here you see a set of four fiddle pattern spoons showing a date mark of 1824. As you can see, the finials have each been monogrammed with a ‘W’, no doubt for one of my rich ancestors! 🙂

Courtesy of roseantiques



This week I contributed to a thread on a detecting forum asking if anyone had ever suffered a ‘detecting related’ injury. You may have seen what follows, but it’s worth a reprise. When we first started detecting Mrs John and I had only one machine, which we used to share. She would dig, find a target, then I would wield the spade. Once done, we’d swop roles.

Until one day, which I will never forget! My turn. I shouted, “Found summat!” Lynda happened to bend over the hole to have a peek just as I raised the detector, smashing her in the face and knocking her out!

Any repercussions? Yes. Her wound healed long ago … but I’m still suffering! I think they have a name for the condition now – post-traumatic stress disorder!


Update to WHIRLIGIG blog post

CLICK and scroll down to end of post for the update



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13 responses to Silver York Token of 1811

  1. Now John knocking out your own wife I know it was a accident (Right)

  2. No detecting related injuries that I know of John… 🙂 I have stood up from retrieving a find and thumped my head
    on a branch a couple of times.. but that hardly counts.. 🙂

    Fascinating history on the token and the goldsmiths too… We, as a group, know that coins were ‘denatured’ , as it were, thus leading to
    the copper, nickel and even zinc monstrosities that we have here now. 🙂 But it is fascinating to be able to
    put a name and a bit of history to a particular one,

  3. With any luck John, by the time Linda came around, you had the find safely dug 🙂

  4. you could have dug a six foot long hole while she was out, when she came to, the look on her face would have been priceless.

  5. I have found 4 of the Cattle and Barber tokens, they turn up regularly on our club searches in Yorkshire. Always welcome finds.

  6. Thanks for the read John I’m sure there are plenty of collectors of tokens out there who would love to have that in their collection. Well done Brian for a great find.

  7. I also collect and restore dinky toys that get dug up by members of the Bloxwich club. Any chance of including photos of Brian’s restorations on your next blog?

  8. you knocked out mrs John ….oh my god …hope you never damaged the detector lol

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