• Metal detecting holidays in England with the World's most successful metal detecting club.20 years plus.

    Twinned with Midwest Historical Research Society USA.


  • Lead tokens - classic designs are long cross and weave/flower patterns

    Lead, as it is soft and prone to oxidisation, has rarely been used for coinage proper, and never in England. However, since it is cheap and easy to melt and cast, coin-like objects of lead, and sometimes also of pewter and tin, were widely produced in medieval times up to the nineteenth century. These lead pieces probably had a range of functions, perhaps a cheaper versions of reckoning counters and as token coinage in small scale dealings, and more certainly, as chits, tickets or passes. Ecclesiastical bodies used such tokens to register attendance at services. In most cases it is impossible to ascribe a particular function to these lead pieces.


    The primary reference on British lead tokens is the two part work by M.Mitchiner and A.Skinner in the British Numismatic Journal:

    The Powell system for lead tokens is a high-level classification which aims to enable the ordinary
    numismatist, detectorist or archaeologist to get a handle on this vague and rather complicated series
    {indeed, a large number of often indeterminatelyrelated subseries}, without descending into a
    level of categorisation which quickly becomes unwieldy. It aims for practical ease of description,
    rather than fine granularity; the latter, coveted by students of other series, is not usually viable for
    crude lead.

    Powell Classification link


    The list of types in the Powell classification system is as follows:
    1 Symbolic petalled flower
    2 Initials
    3 Segments
    4 Lis
    5 Anchors
    6 Ship
    7 Hatching, or grid
    8 Numeral
    9 Irregular or compound geometric
    10 Heads and busts
    11 Tavern utensils
    12 Quartered geometric
    13 Framework
    14 Crosses
    15 Religious
    16 Arms, shields or heraldic designs
    17 Trees, plants and their produce
    18 Birds
    19 Animals, including fish and insects
    20 Merchant marks & other monograms
    21 Inanimate objects
    22 {spare}
    23 Buildings
    24 Obscure characters
    25 Misc objects {royal and imperial}
    26 Misc objects {celestial}
    27 Obscure objects
    28 Outer rim or grènetis/wreath series
    29 Words or significant abbreviations
    30 Unaccompanied simple designs
    31 Circular or elliptical geometric
    32 People, other than heads
    33 Body parts, other than heads and hearts


    Lead tokens Roman to 1700 AD


    1 Symbolic petalled flower

    Formerly just called petalled flower, but renamed to reflect that actual flower heads are now
    no longer included. There was some debate earlier as to whether they should be.
    Apart possibly from initials, the commonest type. The number of petals usually varies
    between three and six, with five or six being the most frequent. Occasional pieces, usually
    larger, have the petals superimposed on a second design.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    The intention of type 1 is to accommodate the ancient stock design where an array of
    petals reach to the rim. Where the head of an actual flower is shown rather than this
    formal stylistic one, and does not reach to the rim, this goes into type 17.




    2 Initials

    Initials {type 2}: Includes all sides where the initials are dominant, or equivalent in
    prominence to that of any random or aimless ornamentation. If there is significant other
    identifiable design accompanying the initials, the side is a type 2 hybrid; although sides
    where small initials flank the main design will be classified according to that design if the
    latter is dominant. Items with both initials and numbers but nothing else are regarded as
    type 2, the initials being seen as dominant.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Type 2 is normally unambiguous on British pieces, except for the initials IS;
    whereupon it is difficult to distinguish between a genuine pair of initials, type 2, and
    a retrograde numeral 12, type 8. The latter number occurs frequently on hop tokens.
    On Roman pieces, it is often not possible to distinguish between initials, abbreviation
    sand full words, rendering distinction between types 2 and 29 difficult.
    On Roman pieces also, it is sometimes also not easy to determine whether one or
    more letters are a Roman numeral, rendering distinction between type 2 and 8
    There is a combination IWC occasional seen, although it is not obvious that that is
    intended; it sometimes has stars in the filed, and may have a religious significance.
    These is amongst the most difficult pieces to place and, depending on what is the
    most prominent feature, may be assigned to type 2, 24, 26 or 9





    3 Segments

    Segments {type 3}: Includes any side consisting of three or more segments emanating from
    the centre, except that quartered designs:
    a. classify under type 12 if they have any regular design other than crosses and pellets.

    b. classify under type 14 if they are simple crosses or crosses with pellets in the centre
    of the quarters, i.e. pseudo-medieval pennies.
    c. remain here if they are cartwheel type pieces with the pellets near the perimeter,i.e.
    are not intended to imitate the mediaeval penny.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    As stated above, it can be possible to distinguish type 3 from type 14. The choice
    should be made a far as possible by estimating the apparent intent to imitate the
    mediaeval penny, but there are cases where it is a close call.




    4 Lis

    5 Anchors

    Anchor {type 5}: Fairly non-controversial.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    None. Whilst the anchor may sometimes have some religious significance, such
    cannot be distinguished from maritime uses, pub names etc; in addition to which, the
    anchor is not commonly regarded as religious, so there is never intent to assign it to




    6 Ship

    Ship {type 6}: Likewise fairly non-controversial.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Only when a design is so poorly drawn that one cannot fathom whether it was
    intended as a ship or an irregular geometric, type 9


    7 Hatching, or grid

    Hatching {type 7}: Includes those sides where the entire surface is hatched in an identical
    manner; where the hatching is quartered, it becomes type 12. Various granularities of grid
    may be observed.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:



    8 Numeral

    Numeral {type 8}: Some of these are probably hop tokens, and a pseudo-weight has been
    seen. In addition to sides with low numbers indicating a specific value, those with dates and
    nothing else also come under this category.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Where numbers occur in conjunction with another feature the latter now determines
    the type, rather than the design being considered hybrid as formerly. The most
    frequent combination of numbers is with initials, i.e. type 2 {q.v}


    10 Heads and busts

    Heads or busts {type 10}: Most of the English pieces are pseudo-coin designs which mimic
    the obverses of major series, e.g. Edward I pennies, although that is not invariably so.
    Extremely common on tesserae, where they can represent gods, personifications {of
    attributes}, emperors or private individuals. Whole bodies, rather than heads, are type 32,
    whilst other isolated body parts, e.g. hands or legs, go in type 33.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    None; fairly non-controverisal.

    11.Tavern utensils {type 11}: Bottles, jugs etc.; anything related to eating, drinking, smoking
    or any other activity which might normally be associated with an inn or public house. Bob
    Alvey allocated this number to bottles specifically, but I have extended the application.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    None. Design fairly non-controverisal, although usage can relate to either the public
    house or the church. It is not always possible to distinguish whether casual
    refreshment or the eucharist is referred to, and no attempt is made to.


    12 Quartered geometric

    Quartered geometric {type 12}: Any quartered design where the number of segments is
    necessarily four, except simple cartwheels, which are type 3 or 14 as previously discussed.
    Cases where the four quarters are two mirror-imaged pairs, which one might more correctly
    called halved geometrics, now reside, since revision 1, in type 34.
    One very common type 12 piece consists of four quarters containing alternate horizontal and
    vertical lines, suspected of representing the design of a millstone.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    No problems other than the ambiguities raised with types 3,14 and 34 raised by the above problems


    13.Frameworks {type 13}: This accommodates a number of designs which border between the
    abstract and the real, and which may actually represent objects, the nature of which cannot
    be determined. The design does not cover the whole side, or at least not without significant
    variation; if it did, it would belong to type 9.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    The ladder does genuinely occur as an object on tesserae, albeit rarely, and some
    British type 13s might also be intended as such. This means that there is a potential
    ambiguity between type 13 and type 21


    Crosses {type 14}: Not necessarily religious, although it may be. The cross should not
    obviously be the single letter X; if it does, the piece belongs in type 2, if British, or type 8, if
    Roman; otherwise, any design, abstract or real, which:
    a. depicts two crossed lines or objects only as the major device, or
    b. indicates by the central positioning of any pellets within the quarters of a cross that it
    is meant to simulate the mediaeval penny.
    Wide crosses with gridded arms, and occasionally paddles at the tips, now remain in type 14
    provided there is no extra subject matter other than casual ornamentation {e.g. pellets or
    annulets}. A few of them resemble mill-sail sets, and were formerly assigned to the now-
    obsolete type 22.
    Quite frequent is a small dumpy piece, conical and hence much thicker than anything else in
    the series; one suspects, albeit without too much proof, that it might have been used as part
    of a game.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Ambiguities with types 2,8 and 12 exist, some of them rarely encountered; that with
    type 3, where on occasion there can be some difficulty as to whether a cross rather
    than a cartwheel is intended, can be more difficult. If the cross is regular, type 14 is
    usually assumed; but if the arms are splayed so that the angles depart significantly
    from 90 degrees, type 3 may occasionally be preferred.
    On a Roman piece, a single X is assumed to be a number, i.e. type 8.

    Very unusual double sided type 14 medieval lead token

    Very rare find, 15thC type 2 lead long cross and pellets lead token but with a detailed obverse. Appears to be two sword/daggers with the letter N








    15.Religious {type 15}: Anything which depicts obvious religious symbolism or use, e.g. a
    crozier or a mitre, apart from simple crosses covered by type 14 above. Pieces which are
    known to have had religious use but which have designs which are not obviously religious
    should be categorized as if they were secular; the categorization refers to design, not use.
    Ecclesiastic officials, e.g. bishops, monks, pilgrims and saints, should be classified as type
    10 or 32 according to how much of their body is visible.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Drinking vessels tend always to go in type 11, regardless of whether their usage is
    secular or religious; which, frequently, one cannot tell.
    There is frequent difficulty in determining whether an inanimate object with
    religious associations should be in type 21 rather than 15, especially when the
    religious connotation is quite obscure.

    A single star of David would be assigned to type 30 if unadorned and to type 9 if
    embellished, on the grounds that random design rather than Jewish origin is the more
    likely reason.
    Many ancient pieces depict full-length people in the act of sacrificing. These go in
    type 32 by preference, because the person is more prominent than the reason for the




    16 Arms, shields or heraldic designs

    Arms, shields or heraldic designs {type 16}: Anything where the major type is a shield or
    other form of compound heraldic device; takes preference over the types pertaining to the
    particular subject matter, except that single royal symbols remain in type 25.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Little ambiguity, except where occasionally part of the shield goes off the flan, in
    which case a judgment has to be made as to whether a shield is intended or whether
    the supposed remaining part of it is just a collection of geometric doodles.
    There can also be doubt as to whether the content on the shield is royal or not,
    causing doubt as to whether the piece goes in type 16 or 25.
    Shields with one or more lis on are debatably type 4 or 16; and, if crowned 4,16 or 25.

    16thC Elizabeth 1st lead token 2.75g, 17.85mm - Portcullis with E at centre

    Obv ***** ERIXE.DEI

    Rev XXIIII

    17thC token like the Obv of a Charles 1st coin with the shield and harp.

    The legend reads SVFFOLK which means it is a Suffolk token


    17.Trees, plants and their produce {type 17}: Anything botanical except national symbols, e.g.
    the rose covered by type 25, and the ancient stylised petal design of type 1.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Ambiguity usually only arises in the two cases, regarding types 1 and 25, mentioned
    Occasionally flower heads are encountered which are more realistic or decorative
    than the stylised type 1; these go in type 17.


    18 Birds

    Birds {type 18}: Any birds except national symbols, e.g. the eagle covered by type 25.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Usually fairly non-controversial, ambiguity only arising in rare cases where the
    creature cannot be recognized with certainty a bird. Depending on the alternative
    conjectures, a would-be bird could be confused with a variety of other types, most
    noticeably type 32.



    19. Animals, including fish and insects {type 19}: Self explanatory. Same proviso regarding
    national symbols as the last two types. Fish are rare on British pieces and insects virtually
    unknown; on tesserae, both are occasional, the dolphin being the most common.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids

    Very few ambiguities, except as with type 18 where poor condition prevents
    identification of the subject matter. It is common not to be able to distinguish which
    of a number of animals is intended, but in any case they are all type 1

    20.Merchant marks & other monograms {type 20}: These were frequently used by the more
    prominent tradesmen until at least the late 17th century.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Usually fairly non-controversial; only an outside chance of confusing a merchant
    mark with a type 9 geometric doodle. The fact that merchant parks were usually
    well-executed helps keep the distinction clearer
    21.nanimate objects {type 21}
    This type, formerly handled as per Appendix A, previously only related to trade equipment
    and produce, other than milling; it has now taken on a wider meaning, as a consequence of
    which types 21 and 27 have been combined. Because most inanimate objects prove
    ultimately to have some likely relation to trade and business, even if only indirectly as a
    business sign, the original number for trade pieces, 21, has been retained for the combined
    category. There are certain types of inanimate object which have their own categories, e.g.
    11 for eating and drinking utensils, 13 for structures, 16 for shields; where this is the case,
    these types should take preference.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Symbols which take the form of trade guild arms, depicted on a shield, go in type 16.
    Some depictions cannot be clearly distinguished as to whether, for example, they are
    gloves and boots rather than hands and feet. The practice was at one type to put
    them to put these into the inanimate category, but new type 33 and 36 have since
    been created
    23.Buildings {type 23}: Any buildings other than mills, which go in type 22. A variety with
    three very thin towers is believed to be a late mediaeval tax token.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Fairly non-controversial, although very rarely there might be confusion with an
    irregular geometric of type 9, if the intention of a minimally-skilled engraver was not
    24.Obscure characters {type 24}: Any characters which are not obviously letters {type 2} or
    numbers {type 8}, although they may be crude attempts at one or the other.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    The only confusion arises from whether the characters can be identified or not; a
    decision one way would assign to type 2 or 8, a decision the other to type 24.


    25.Miscellaneous Objects, Royal {type 25}: Symbols such as crowns, roses, eagles and the
    like. The late Elizabethan pieces with double-headed eagle on one side and crowned rose on
    the other, c.1570-1600, are a notable example, although they are not part of the run of crude
    agricultural pieces.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    The main confusion arises from whether the items depicted are interpreted as royal
    or not; a decision one way would assign to one of a variety of types {e.g. 4,16,17,18,
    19}, a decision the other way to type 25.
    Crowned heads are assigned to type 10, i.e. that type takes preference.
    Shields with one or more lis on are debatably type 4 or 16; and, if crowned, 4, 16 or 25

    26.Miscellaneous Objects, Celestial {type 26}: This contains such items as the sun, moon, and
    stars; also globes, although these could be a reference to a tavern or playhouse of such a
    name, rather than to the heavens. There were two total eclipses of the sun visible from
    England in 1715 and 1724, and it is conjectured that these may have been the inspiration for
    the occasionally found crescent and stars type. That of 1715 was particularly spectacular,
    covering most of England in an approximately diagonal North-Eastern sweep; the northern
    boundary of totality passed through Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the southern through
    mid-Kent. That of 1724 described an East-South-Eastern path across the West and South of
    England, the northern boundary running somewhere along the line of Aberystwyth-
    Gloucester-Eastbourne; a larger number of the lead token areas, which are predominantly
    eastern, are likely to have escaped totality, although they would still nearly all have
    experienced a very great dimming of light.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    The only confusion arises on cartwheels with short limbs which may represent a
    radiant sun. If the cartwheel’s spokes are significantly short of the rim and are not
    bounded by an outer circle, the piece is considered to be a type 26 rather than a type
    3, especially if it depicts a central hub.



    27.Obscure objects {type 27}:
    This type was formerly "Miscellaneous Objects, Secular" {type 27}, and handled as
    described in Appendix A. Nearly all the items which formerly populated it have been
    reassigned to type 21, with type 27 only being retained as a sump for those items which
    cannot be identified. Effectively type 27 is now to type 21 for objects what type 24 is to
    type 2 and 8 for characters
    28.Outer rim or grènetis/wreath {type 28}:
    The former practice of describing all grenetis pieces as type 28, and handling them as per
    Appendix A, has been abandoned. This type will now only be used when there is a grenetis
    and nothing else; for all other pieces:
    the type number will be determined by the design content within the grenetis
    the grenetis itself will be treated as a supplementary property, lending itself to some
    such of "Type N with grenetis {or wreath, as appropriate}", accompanied often by
    some specifics as to the type of grenetis.
    A wreath is merely seen as a specific type of grenetis, and treated similarly.
    29.Words or significant abbreviations {type 29}: Complete words or names are rare on British
    lead tokens, but not unknown; on Roman, they are quite common.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    There can be some doubt on occasion, in the Roman series, as to whether a word or a
    set of initials is intended. If three letters are thought with reasonable probability to
    constitute an abbreviation, type 29 takes preference; otherwise type 2.
    Similarly, an abbreviation and a Roman numeral can be confused; if X is involved a
    number is assumed, on balance, otherwise it is assumed to be an abbreviation or set
    of initials

    30.Unaccompanied simple designs {type 30}: Accommodates pieces which contain one or
    more of a single type of simple geometric design, the latter not being identifiable as objects
    capable of inclusion in type 21 or 27; as opposed to obscure blobs, which are unclassified
    until identified. Groups of pellets are the most frequent example; one piece has been seen
    which is reminiscent of a Durotrigan stater.

    31.Circular or elliptical geometric {type 31}: Either a set of concentric circles/ellipses, with or
    without a central hub, or a design consisting primarily of circles/ellipses and their fragments.

    32.People {type 32}: Anyone standing, sitting, riding, walking, running or lying down; in
    other words, anything which shows the whole person, rather than a mere head or bust. The
    latter go in type 10, whilst other isolated body parts, e.g. hands or legs, go in type 33.
    Excessively common in the Roman series, and also in those mediaeval series, e.g. French,
    which depict patronal saints.
    Occasional overlaps and hybrids:
    Full length depictions of people riding animals are type 32 rather than type 18
    33.Body parts, other than heads and hearts {type 33}: An attempt was made during the first
    revision to remove parts of the human body, which did not obviously fit elsewhere, from
    types 21 and 27 {q.v}. Hearts were placed here during the first revision, but were further
    removed to type 36 during the second

    34. Halved geometrical {type 34}: An attempt during the first revision to remove from type 12
    those designs which are based on halving rather than quartering of the main field.
    35.Toothcomb or halfbeard {type 35}: Introduced during the first revision to accommodate
    certain pieces found in Forgeais, this is an exclusively French type, borrowed from certain
    elements of their local coinage, in which the lower half of the design consists of a series of
    parallel lines. The upper part can be various, but often appears as the components of a face,
    albeit sometimes rather strangely rendered. In practice this may just be some combination
    of crosses, annulets and pellets which comes across as nose and eyes.
    J.N.Roberts' "Silver Coins of Mediaeval France", p.269, explains that the type derives from
    the French region of Champagne, where a numismatic pun was effected by putting a comb
    {peigne} in the field {champ} of a coin.
    36.Hearts {type 36}: These being fairly obviously symbolic, rather than representation of
    actual body parts, have now been removed from type 33, where they were placed by the first
    37Scenery {type 37}: Self-explanatory, although very rare on lead