Communion Tokens

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Order of Contents

Intro
Articles  15
Books  7
By Nation: Scotland, England, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia
Pictures of Tokens & Paper Tickets
Collections  5
Catalogs  12
Bibliography  1
Website  1
Buy

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Intro

The purpose of communion tokens in Church history since the Reformation was to confirm that communicants at the Lord’s Supper had been recognized by the elders to have made adequate preparation (1 Cor. 11:27-32; 2 Cor. 13:5; Amos 4:12; Jer. 30:21-22; Ex. 19:22; etc.) for coming to Christ’s Supper (in the sight of the Church).  In a day when most of civil society came to church, when church discipline had been previously non-existent before the Reformation (notorious sinners seeking to eat at Christ’s Table) and as multitudes of persons participated at the communion service (many of them travelling from afar to do so), tokens were a very helpful way for elders (who have a main responsibility for guarding the Table from being profaned, bearing the Keys of the Kingdom, Mt. 16:19; 18:18) to keep track of who had been deemed, in the sight of the Church, to have made an adequate preparation for the Supper (as opposed to not having made an adequate preparation thereto).

Tokens have no spiritual significance in God’s worship whatsoever, God not having appointed them any..  Tokens bearing any spiritual significance is excluded by the 2nd Commandment (Ex. 20:4-6) and the Regulative Principle of Worship..  Rather, tokens retain their natural and secular use to simply distinguish between persons, they being an indifferent means which facilitates the carrying out of Biblical principles by elder-oversight..  As such, they are not necessary to be used in the Lord’s Supper.

In history John Calvin and Peter Viret first advocated for the use of communion tokens in January of 1560..  Though the Genevan council did not implement them, the Huguenots in the French cities of Nîmes and Le Mans did in 1561..  Scotland saw the use of written tickets at its Reformation in May of 1560, and would later become the greatest producer of metal communion tokens through history..  From this inheritance the practice continued in America, especially in the Presbyterian churches, though it was not limited thereto (Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists and others also largely used tokens)..  The decline of communion tokens came in the late-1800’s, especially with the rise of liberal theology, which saw little need for a careful, spiritual, examination before the Lord’s Supper.

To better understand the Biblical necessity for spiritually preparing for communing with Christ in the Supper, see our webpage, Preparing for the Lord’s Table..  To see how these Biblical principles were understood and worked out at the Reformation, carefully consider Adam Kuehner’s article, ‘Calvin, Weekly Communion, and the Scottish Reformed Tradition’  Download  30 pp. (though it does not explicitly touch on communion tokens).

Today there are both circumstantial and theological reasons that hinder the usefulness of using communion tokens..  With reference to circumstances, unfortunately, in our pluralistic society today, the natural-born truth that all creatures ought to worship God is suppressed, and hence, often, in many areas evangelical churches are only filled with persons, for the most part, who are real Christians..  Most other people don’t bother going to Church..  In addition to this, some evangelical churches are small enough that the eldership can recognize everyone by face.

Contemporary theological reasons which hinder the use of tokens, besides real, substantial, Biblical preparation (as delineated in Westminster Larger Catechism #171-173) being almost unheard of today, include: 

(1) the growing influence of the unwise (1 Cor. 11:27-32) practice of weekly communion,

(2) not recognizing that a public ordinance of the Church ought to have a public preparation thereto as the Church (by its very nature), with pastors helping the people in this, and

(3) placing nearly the whole of the obligation of preparation upon the individual, the fencing of the minister being limited to a few words from the pulpit in the exercise of the Supper itself (leaving the matter to the discretion of the individual) rather than the elders lovingly and pastorally inquiring into the condition of each of their sheep (and that not simply by a one time general admission, but also with recurring administrations of the Supper).. 

These principles are said to be theological issues because they are able to be derived from Scripture, from the nature of the Sacrament and from how the Supper is necessarily administered in the inevitable circumstances of life..  Hence these principles are not indifferent, so the large share of reformers and puritans thought.

With a return to the Biblical principles of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, and the change of circumstances which that may bring to our churches, communion tokens may once again prove a useful, indifferent means for encouraging Christians to a due preparation for the Supper and for guarding Christ’s Table for those to whom it is for.

May these resources on this side-light of history be intriguing and edifying to you.


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Articles

Many more articles are categorized by nation in the below subsections.

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1800’s

Warner, Thomas – pp. 5-9 of Communion Tokens: a Descriptive Catalogue of Medals and Tokens struck for the use of Communicants in Different Branches of the American Presbyterian Church  1888  Following p. 9 is a catalogue of tokens.

Fleming, David Hay – pp. 34-35, footnote  in Register of the Minister Elders and Deacons of the Christian Congregation of St. Andrews, vol. 1 (1559-82)  1889

Fleming (1849–1931) was one of the Scottish Church’s greatest historians.  He here discusses the early origins of communion tokens at the Reformation in multiple countries.

Burns, Thomas – Ch. 4, ‘The Communion Token’ & Appendix 4, ‘Kirk Session Extracts Relative to the Use of Tokens’ in Old Scottish Communion Plate, pp. 435-468 & 631-32  1892

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1900’s

Wood, L. Ingleby – Ch. 11, ‘Communion Tokens’  in Scottish Pewter-Ware and Pewterers, pp. 106-114  1907

‘Token, Communion’  in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 11, p. 459  1908-1914

**  ed. Hastings, James – ‘Token: 3. Tokens of the Reformed Church’  in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 12  1908-1927

Particularly full on Reformation history.

Copinger, H.S.A. – ‘Communion Tokens Used in England, Wales and the Channel Islands’  in The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, Seventh Series, Vol. 4 (1964), pp. 319-338

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2000’s

Glens of Antrim Historical Society (Ireland) – “Presbyterian Church Communion Tokens”  2005  8 paragraphs

Simmons, Francis – ‘Scottish Communion Tokens, in Praise of Small Things’  2008  14 paragraphs

Lewis, Peter – ‘Communion Tokens’  2017  4 pp.

Waugh, Barry – ‘What are Communion Tokens?’  at PresbyteriansofthePast.com

Presbyterian Historical Society – ‘Communion Tokens’  8 paragraphs

Dunblane Museum – ‘Communion Tokens’  in Scotland, Perthshire

London Numismatic Club – ‘British Communion Tokens’  51 paragraphs

The Token Corresponding Society and Token Congress – ‘Communion Tokens’  at their homepage.  The specific inter-page link is broken, scroll down the page a little over halfway.

Wikipedia – ‘Communion Token’


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Books

Many more books are categorized by nation in the below subsections.

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1900’s

Shiells, Robert – The Story of the Token as Belonging to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper  1902  220 pp.  9 plates

Shiells was a Scotsman who emigrated to Wisconsin and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church.  He donated his collection to the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Brook, Alexander J.S. – Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries  1907/08  160 pp.

This was a pioneering and rare volume.  Brook died in Jan. of 1908 right before the publishing of this book.  This was the first substantial catalogue of communion tokens, listing over 1,400 of them.  Pages 3-30 give a historical description of communion tokens.

McWhorter Tenney, Mary – Communion Tokens: Their History and Use, With a Treatise on the Relation of the Sacrament to the Vitality and Revivals of the Church  Buy  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1936)

The first chapter of this book is here: ‘Communion Tokens’ at Material History of American Religion Project.

Orr, M.B. – Brooks ‘Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland’ Simplified  Buy  1968  26 pp.

Schmidt, Leigh Eric – Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in tile Early Modern Period  Buy  (Princeton Univ. Press, 1989)

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2000’s

Stanley-Blackwell, Laurie – Tokens of Grace: Cape Breton’s Open-Air Communion Tradition  Buy  2006  164 pp.

Cape Breton is in Nova Scotia in Canada.  “Particularly between 1840 and 1890, but well into the 20th century as well, the sacramental season and its open-air communions was a dominant symbol in the lives of Cape Breton’s Scots Presbyterians.”

Shutty, Jr., Michael – Communion Tokens: A Guide for Collecting Scottish, Canadian & United States Tokens  Buy  2013  144 pp.

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By Nation

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Scotland

Excerpt

Wodrow, Robert – p. 25 of ‘On the Life of Mr. David Weems’  in Collections upon the Lives of the Reformers and Most Eminent Ministers of the Church of Scotland  (Maitland Club, 1845)  Wodrow describes the practice from 1588-1655.

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Articles

Pratt, J.H. – ‘Communion Tokens’, part 1part 2  The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, vol. 7, No. 28 (1893), p. 178; vol. 8, No. 29 (1893), pp. 18-20

‘The Controversy Over ‘Communion Tokens”  American Journal of Numismatics (1897-1924), vol. 43, No. 2 (Oct., 1908), p. 61

Briefly describes the then current controversy in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland over whether the use of communion tokens should be continued and re-established, or not.

McMillan, William – ‘Tokens’  in The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church, 1550-1638 (London, 1930), pp. 244-5

Kerr, R. & Lockie, J.R.

‘Unpublished Tokens of the Church of Scotland. With Alphabetical List of Tokens’, part 1, part 2  PSAS 75 (1940-41)pp. 144-83  Listed by place, each token is briefly described, includes Free Church of Scotland tokens.

‘Communion Tokens of the Church of Scotland, 19th & 20th Centuries’  in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1942-3‘, pp. 49-146  PSAS Edinburgh, vol. LXXVII 7th series, vol 5, 1943 

‘Communion Tokens of the Free Church of Scotland’  in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. LXXIX (Vol. VII, 7th ser.) (Session, 1944-45)

‘Unpublished Communion Tokens of Various Scottish Churches’
 PSAS 84 (1949-50)pp. 38-56

‘Further Unpublished Scottish Communion Tokens’
PSAS 87 (1952-53)pp. 118-26

Kerr, R. & J.A. Lamb – ‘Scottish Episcopal Communion Tokens’  PSAS 81 (1946-47), pp. 118-33

Carradice, Ian – ‘Alexander Henderson and an Early Scottish Communion Token’  in The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), vol. 154 (1994), pp. 218-223

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Books

Dick, Rev. R. – Scottish Communion Tokens other than those of the Established Church  1902  101 pp.  2 engraved plates  Includes tokens of the Free Church of Scotland.

Here is a review.

Anderson, James – Communion Tokens of the Established Churches in Northern Counties of Scotland  1906  54 pp.  24 engraved plates  Very rare

Brook, Alexander J.S. – Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries  1907/08  160 pp.

This was a pioneering and rare volume.  Brook died in Jan. of 1908 right before the publishing of this book.  This was the first substantial catalogue of communion tokens, listing over 1,400 of them.

Whitelaw, Rev. H.A. – Communion Tokens: With Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Those of Dumfriesshire  Ref  (Council of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Dumfries and Maxwelltown Ewart Public Library, 1911)  115 pp.

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Bibliography

Woodside, William – p. 17 of Communion Tokens, a Bibliography  2nd ed. 1971  25 pp.  in Token and Metal Society Journal

Includes references to sources for the Free Church of Scotland, Free Presbyterian Church, the United Free Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Secession Churches and the United Presbyterian Church.  Most of the sources are linked on this webpage.

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England

Copinger, H.S.A. – ‘Communion Tokens Used in England, Wales and the Channel Islands’  in The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, Seventh Series, Vol. 4 (1964), pp. 319-338

London Numismatic Club – ‘British Communion Tokens’  51 paragraphs

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Ireland

Article

Glens of Antrim Historical Society (Ireland) – “Presbyterian Church Communion Tokens”  2005  8 paragraphs

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Books

Milne, A.A. – Communion Tokens of the Presbyterian Churches in Ireland. With Notes and Illustrations  Ref  (Glasgow, 1920)  107 pp.  13 engraved plates

“The single best reference dedicated to the communion tokens of Ireland.”

Carson, John – Irish Presbyterian Communion Tokens: An Introductory Study  

Here is a review.

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America

Articles

Warner, Thomas – ‘Communion Tokens’, part 1, 2, 3, 4  American Journal of Numismatics, and Bulletin of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society  vol. 22, No. 1 (JULY, 1887), pp. 1-9; vol. 22, No. 2 (OCTOBER, 1887), pp. 34-39; vol. 22, No. 3 (JANUARY, 1888), pp. 62-66; vol. 22, No. 4 (APRIL, 1888), pp. 84-89.

Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society – ‘Communion Tokens of Pennsylvania’  22 paragraphs

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Book

Warner, Thomas – Communion Tokens: a Descriptive Catalogue of Medals and Tokens struck for the use of Communicants in Different Branches of the American Presbyterian Church  1888  50 pp.

Freeland, Paul – Communion Tokens used in Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in America (not listed by Warner, nor in the Rumbel Collection); a Tentative Inventory    1973  28 pp.

Bason, Autence A. – Communion Tokens of the United States of America  Buy  (Greensboro, N.C., 1989)  privately printed  488 tokens, 358 drawings

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Canada

Article

Grenny, F.J. – Catalogue of Scarce Communion Tokens used by Presbyterian Churches of the Dominion of Canada, for Sale  1899  5 pp.

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Books

McLachlan, R. W. – Canadian Communion Tokens: a Catalogue of Metal Sacramental Tickets used in the different Presbyterian churches in Canada  1891  70 pp.

MacLennan, George – The Story of the Old Time Communion Service and Worship, also the Metallic Communion Token of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1772  1924  75 pp.

Bowman, Fred – Communion Tokens of the Presbyterian Church  Buy  1965  The Canadian Numismatic Association

Cross, W.K. – Canadian Communion Tokens: The Charlton Standard Catalogue  Buy  2000  296 tokens with photos of each major type

“From 1770 to the early 1900’s, all tokens used in Canada West, Canada East and the Maritimes are described, illustrated and priced in this updated publication.”

Stanley-Blackwell, Laurie – Tokens of Grace: Cape Breton’s Open-Air Communion Tradition  Buy  2006  164 pp.

Cape Breton is in Nova Scotia in Canada.  “Particularly between 1840 and 1890, but well into the 20th century as well, the sacramental season and its open-air communions was a dominant symbol in the lives of Cape Breton’s Scots Presbyterians.”

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Australia

Grieg, R. M. – Communion Tokens: The Australian, New Zealand and Miscellaneous Series  Buy  (Melbourne: Hawthorn Press, 1964)

Sutherland, Angus – ‘Communion Tokens of the New Hebrides’  2001  6 paragraphs


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Pictures of Tokens & Paper Tickets

Tokens

See especially Ebay.

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Warner, Thomas – p. 19  of Communion Tokens: a Descriptive Catalogue of Medals and Tokens struck for the use of Communicants in Different Branches of the American Presbyterian Church  1888

Brook, Alexander J.S. – ‘Alphabetical List of Tokens’, pp. 103-154  in Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries  1907/08

MacLennan, George – pp. 19-22 of The Story of the Old Time Communion Service and Worship, also the Metallic Communion Token of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1772  1924

Kerr, R. & Lockie, J.R.

pp. 170 ff. of ‘Unpublished Tokens of the Church of Scotland. With Alphabetical List of Tokens’, part 2  PSAS 75 (1940-41)pp. 144-83

pp. 78-80 of ‘Communion Tokens of the Free Church of Scotland’  in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. LXXIX (Vol. VII, 7th ser.) (Session, 1944-45)

Woodside, William – pp. 3-5 & 14-19  of Communion Tokens, a Bibliography  2nd ed. 1971  25 pp.  in Token and Metal Society Journal

Pewterbank.com – pp. 4-6  of ‘Collecting – Communion Tokens’

Crail Museum and Heritage Centre – ‘Communion Tokens’  in Scotland

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Paper Tickets

Search Results at Toronto Public Library  All Methodist examples


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Collections

1800’s

Warner, Thomas – ‘The Great Collection of Communion Tokens’  in Catalogue of the Collection of Ancient Greek and Roman, and English, Foreign and American Coins and Medals; Masonic Medals; and Communion Tokens, pp. 91-92 

Warner, an American, had a collection of 1,185 communion tokens.  They are described as a lot and are not listed out.

American Journal of Numismatics, and Bulletin of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, vol. 26, No. 3 (JANUARY, 1892), pp. 63-64

Describes a collection in Scotland of over 4,600 tokens.

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2000’s

‘The Collection of Scottish Communion Tokens Formed by Norman Brodie’  in An Auction of Important English and Scottish Coins, pp. 54-57  2002  with a Bibliography

Dunblane Museum – ‘Communion Tokens’  in Scotland, Perthshire

Owns a collection of 6,000 tokens.

Presbyterian Historical Society – ‘Fun Fact: Communion Tokens!’  2012

The society owns ‘thousands of communion tokens from the United States, Scotland, Ireland, and other European countries”, which collection is “one of the largest collections of communion tokens in the world”.


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Catalogs

1800’s

Warner, Thomas – Communion Tokens: a Descriptive Catalogue of Medals and Tokens struck for the use of Communicants in Different Branches of the American Presbyterian Church  1888  50 pp.

McLachlan, R. W. – Canadian Communion Tokens: a Catalogue of Metal Sacramental Tickets used in the different Presbyterian churches in Canada  1891  70 pp.

Grenny, F.J. – Catalogue of Scarce Communion Tokens used by Presbyterian Churches of the Dominion of Canada, for Sale  1899  5 pp.

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1900’s

Brook, Alexander J.S. – Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries  1907/08  160 pp.

This was a pioneering and rare volume.  Brook died in Jan. of 1908 right before the publishing of this book.  This was the first substantial catalogue of communion tokens, listing over 1,400 of them.

Bowman, Fred – Communion Tokens of the Presbyterian Church  Buy  1965  The Canadian Numismatic Association

Bason, Autence A. – Communion Tokens of the United States of America  Buy  (Greensboro, N.C., 1989)  privately printed  488 tokens, 358 drawings

Grieg, R. M. – Communion Tokens: The Australian, New Zealand and Miscellaneous Series  Buy  (Melbourne: Hawthorn Press, 1964)

Freeland, Paul – Communion Tokens used in Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in America (not listed by Warner, nor in the Rumbel Collection); a Tentative Inventory    1973  28 pp.

Cresswell, O.D. – Comprehensive Directory of World Communion Tokens  (Ottawa, 1985)  258 pp.  Scarce

A competent listing; no images.  2nd to Burzinski.

Burzinski, Lester – Communion Tokens of the World  1999  579 pp.  a standard reference, catalogues 7,730 tokens with half of them pictured, only 250 copies were printed

See this review by Michael Shutty, Jr.

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2000’s

Cross, W.K. – Canadian Communion Tokens: The Charlton Standard Catalogue  Buy  2000  296 tokens with photos of each major type

“From 1770 to the early 1900’s, all tokens used in Canada West, Canada East and the Maritimes are described, illustrated and priced in this updated publication.”

Shutty, Jr., Michael – Communion Tokens: A Guide for Collecting Scottish, Canadian & United States Tokens  Buy  2013  144 pp.


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Bibliography

Woodside, William – Communion Tokens, a Bibliography  2nd ed. 1971  25 pp.  in Token and Metal Society Journal


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Website

Collect Communion Tokens

Very helpful articles.


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Buy Communion Tokens

Check out Ebay.

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Related Pages

History of Scottish Worship

Church History

Lord’s Supper

Preparing for the Supper

The Administration of the Supper

Frequency of the Lord’s Supper

Communion Seasons

The Common Cup

Sitting at the Table

Communion Sermons and Table Addresses

Common Bread

Wine

Intinction

All the Works of the Westminster Divines on the Lord’s Supper

Paedocommunion

The Mass – Transubstantiation