Get your Teeth into Feilder’s Sugarloaf Token

5th February 2018 — 14 Comments


Because the copper coinage in England was in disarray there were literally thousands of privately issued low denomination tokens issued in and around London during the 17th century and later.

Ordinary tradesmen issued farthings and halfpennies that were redeemable at their shops or premises. The tokens were struck or pressed on blank flans made of thin copper or brass and usually bore a design on both sides.

A token from 1664 found by Michael Jones whilst searching (eyes only) down by the Queenhithe Dock on the London foreshore is particularly interesting. The condition is quite remarkable for a coin over 350 years old that has travelled (presumably) over 40 miles from Sonning-on-Thames to its final resting place near the dock.

Francis Feilder’s Token 1604 – The inscription reads SVNNING : TOWNE . 1664. Reference: Williamson, G. C. 1889. Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century. Elliot Stock: London.

Coins from Sonning in Berkshire are quite rare and there is no record of anyone by the name of Fielder or Feilder in the parish records from this date. However, the name can be found in neighbouring parishes so the issuer may have lived elsewhere.

It’s interesting to note that a year after its issue, the bubonic plague (Black Death) caused the death of around 100,000 London citizens, and two year’s later, the devastating Great Fire of London in which seven-eighths of inhabitants lost their homes. And, if you’ve guessed that I don’t have much to say about this token, then you’d be right!

We know the name of the tradesman and where he was based. From the depiction of a sugar loaf (a cone with a rounded top) on the obverse we can guess that Francis Feilder (sic) was a grocer from Sonning, but that’s about it. The sugarloaf was the traditional form in which refined sugar was produced and sold until the late 19th century when granulated and cube sugars were introduced. If any reader can provide more information then I’d be grateful. My research technique (basic) has come to nought.

Michael is a member of the East Norfolk MDS (Pathfinders) and he visits the foreshore on a regular basis. He usually retrieves buckles but tells me that this token is his best find to date. He shares all relevant discoveries with the Museum of London.



Courtesy of Brian Ridley

Brian Ridley of the Northern Relic Hunters forum contacted me with a pressed copper token he found last year in Scarborough. The other side is blank and reminds me of an earlier blog post.

This token would have been given by a tea retailer for the purchase of 1/4 pound of tea. Customers were given a token with each purchase, and when enough had been collected, they were able to exchange them for various gifts. Late 19th to early 20th  century. ‘Ardill’ was the name of the mint. Edward Fletcher says:

“The London and Newcastle Tea Company had a free gift sales campaign up and running as early as 1875, with a network of agents across northern England, Scotland and Wales. These retailers sold the company’s tea in packet sizes ranging from 2oz to 1lb, giving a brass check with each purchase. Customers were invited to save the checks until they had acquired enough to claim a prize such as a toy, an item of crockery, or a household gadget.” Tokens & Tallies 1850-1950.


Flattery will get you everywhere!

A recent communication: “Hi John. With the experience you have, I wonder whether detectorists have been able to detect amalgam fillings in human teeth. Any references would be welcome. I am perhaps using the wrong keywords in Google, but up to now have been unsuccessful in finding information.”

A rather enigmatic request and, I suspect from a non-detectorist, which I couldn’t ignore. I placed a pinpoint probe in my mouth and it went berserk. But, when I tried it on the outside, next to my cheek, there wasn’t a sound. Then discovered it had been inadvertently switched off! Mrs. John suggested that she could bury me and try swinging her detector near my face. I declined. I think she was joking!

Amalgam Fillings

I probed further and found out that the context of the question was forensic and concerned the possibility of finding burials in shallow clandestine graves by detecting amalgam teeth fillings. Amalgam, used by dentists, is a mixture composed of copper, silver and tin, bound together with around 50% mercury.

The questioner said, “All this is out of my field of expertise, but I have now contacted Minelab. From what I can see they are the largest manufacturer of specialised detectors.”  I made my excuses and left.   🙂

“Amalgam is the old style of dental restoration and is a very strong material that can last decades. There is much concern and controversy about the mercury in amalgam fillings and when people develope health problems, it can be difficult to isolate the cause. ALKI Dental


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14 responses to Get your Teeth into Feilder’s Sugarloaf Token

  1. Mrs. John suggested that she could bury me and try swinging her detector near my face” LOL.

    Funny comment there John!!! But an intriguing article on tokens..We have similar styles on this side of the pond, but ours are in all different shapes, styles and materials.. aluminum and brass are the most common… but there are even some made from gold and silver.

    And the ones here are usually a ‘good for’; bread, milk,game of pool, cigar.. that sort of thing.

    But there are the odd ones that are good for fractions of cents.. 6 1/4, 12 1/2; that sort of thing.

    Thank you for history on token on your side of the pond


  2. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 5th February 2018 at 2:44 AM

    Interesting article, but I see even back in the 17th century that people can’t agree to a name?

    Shouldn’t that be Sunning Towne and not Sonning?

    I’m going to have to look that up now.

    I find it hard to believe that the lovely Mrs. John would want to bury you in the garden……shoving a metal detector in your mouth on the other hand………hahahaha…..

  3. I think she was joking! No John she wasn’t.

  4. Both interesting posts John, the token one has a special place, and hopefully will bring some good additions.

    As for the second, I dread to think how much mercury I carried around in my mouth, before losing all of my gnashers..

    Good to see you again.

  5. Rule of thumb John is that the word “of” on a 17th Century Traders Token signifies that the trader resides in the town. If he lived outside the words “in or at” would be used. Tokens from this period use phonetic spelling & it is known that Peterborough is spelt in a dozen different ways on the many tokens issued there. The Francis Feilder token featured here is in superb condition & would grace any collection. Incidentally members of the Feilder family issued a number of tokens in Kingston on Thames in Surrey but it is not known if they are related.

  6. John
    Very year on our trips to detect England i usually find a token or two. I think i found two last september in Norwich area. Also found in whittchurch area. I collected tokens for many years in colorado and know how interesting a difficult they are to classify and find the history. I would be interested in finding a good home for the ones i have if you would know someone willing to trade?
    Also i have tried to order your magazine several times on line after my free subscription expired with negative results. Doesn’t like American monkey i guess.
    John Steele

  7. John … regarding your last paragraph. Tell me more via email and I will ask the editor to take it up with the distributor.

  8. I really like tokens; they are specific and useful references to local history. All I found was this re the Feilder token… Thanks again John!

  9. regardless of murky history, that’s a gorgeous token. As for mercury cured amalgams, my pinpointer is (happily) silent.

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