Commonly used in the late 19th century, they became mandatory in 1913 with each token stamped with a number and the colliery or company name.
In short, they are emblematic of Britain’s rich industrial heritage as it fades into history.
From lowly beginnings – with most trading online for a pound or two each – these have become among the most desirable of all mining collectables and a rising star of paranumismatics. (the study of coin-like objects such as tokens and other items used for a variety of purposes including in place of legal currency).
Halls’ (20/12% buyer’s premium) December 8 sale in Shrewsbury included a large collection and the auction house was surprised at just how much interest they generated. Tokens come in a variety of shapes and materials but, typically, it is the pre-1947 brass or white metal tokens made before the creation of the National Coal Board (NCB) that are most desirable.
Collectors also look out for regional rarities (many will choose to focus on their local pits) and the wider range of ‘checks’ that were used for activities from shot firing and rescue missions to pithead baths and pints of beer.
The collection, offered in four lots, was chiefly focused on checks from Shropshire and south Wales.
A group of 202 pieces attached to a fabric-lined board was guided at £600-800 but sold online at £6500 while an album containing 51 tokens pitched at £150-250 made £3000.
Pictured above are elements from a lot of 45 tokens that included two unusually large brass checks issued by John Lancaster & Co used for day workers at the Lower Deep Pit and the No3 Griffin pits in the small village of Blaina, south Wales.
The group was pitched at £120-180 but made £2100.