I was delighted to recently come across this 1797 “evasion” copper token commemorating Edward Pellew and the Droits de L’Homme engagement.


These low value copper tokens were struck in the late 1700s and were cleverly designed to evaded laws forbidding the manufacture of counterfeit currency, hence the name “evasion”.   Bill McKivor presents a fascinating short history of these tokens on his Copper Corner website.

If a coin was made that was not an EXACT COPY of the Regal coin, it was considered to be a token, and the law did not apply. Thus, the counterfeiters simply switched from making counterfeit coins to making “Evasion” token coinage that looked somewhat like the regal coin.  These pieces usually had a bust on the obverse — often a likeness of King George III, or some other well known figure — and a seated Britannia or a harp (for Ireland) on the reverse. The legends were often nonsense. Instead of “George III Rex,” the obverse might have “George Rules,” “George Reigns” or “George Sus-Sex”.  Other obverses treated with other personalities, such as “Glorivs Jer -Vis” or “Cornwal Lis – Ind.” The reverse legend on a good coin is “Britannia.” The evasion token might say “Briton’s Happy Isles,” “Bonney Girls” or “Bater Sea.” Humor was often seen — one of my favorite reverse legends is “Hila-rias.” The makers of these lightweight pieces did not worry about being caught — there was little the government could do. The laws of the land did not cover “Evasions.”

Nearly all are in lower grades — as they were MADE to look worn, so the public would accept them.

~Bill McKivor

The obverse of this particular token features a bust with the legend Gloriovs Pe.lew, and the reverse is adorned with a seated figure of Britannia and the legend British Tars, with the date 1797.  Presumably the bust is a standard generic figure rather than an actual representation of Pellew himself, but the date suggests that this token was struck to commemorate the Droits de L’Homme engagement which was widely reported in the press at the time.

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