Wilkinson Trade Token

John Wilkinson

Trade token with profile portrait of John Wilkinson and words 'John Wilkinson Ironmaster' on obverse side, image of ship and '1778' on the reverse. The ship represents his iron barge, 'The Trial'.

Attached with thread to a handwritten letter detailing token's history. Part of the Woodcroft Bequest.

After 1775 the Royal Mint suspended the striking of copper coins. The need for small change to pay workers had to be answered by the issue of industrial tokens like this, made by company owners. This token was minted by John Wilkinson (1728 - 1808), a British industrialist known as “the great Staffordshire ironmaster”, his high standard of boring cylinders made James Watt’s rotary steam engine possible. Wilkinson produced several designs for his tokens, all of which feature his head and shoulders on the obverse side, circled with the words ‘John Wilkinson Iron Master’. On the reverse side, there was commonly a picture of a Vulcan or a drop hammer in a smithy. The coin presented here is a rare example as it has on its reverse an image of a brigantine and the date 1788. This was a ship called ‘The Trial’, also nicknamed ‘John’s Folly’, and was the first iron boat, commissioned by Wilkinson and launched at Willey Wharf (on the River Severn) in 1787. Few of these coins were struck to commemorate the event.


Coins, Medals & Tokens
Object Number:
ink, metal (unknown) and paper (fibre product)
coin: 2 mm, 30 mm,
letter: 218 mm x 188 mm
  • visual and verbal communication
  • exchange medium
Bennet Woodcroft Bequest

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