Mint State Rhode Island Ship Token in Pewter
    Wreath Below, Breen-1142, W-1745

    1778-1779 TOKEN Rhode Island Ship Token, Wreath Below, Pewter MS60 PCGS. Breen-1142, W-1745, High R.6. Though scholars debate whether the Rhode Island Ship medals or tokens were pro-American or pro-British, there is little doubt that the audience for them was Dutch, both from the inscriptions and from historical evidence. John Kleeberg, in correspondence published with Q. David Bowers in the Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, wrote: "We know that at least one piece did pass through Dutch hands, because the first publication took place in a Japanese book ... and at that period only the Dutch were permitted to trade with Japan (via Deshima)."
    Further information on that book can be found in The Shogun's Painted Culture, a wide-ranging scholarly work by Timon Screech reflecting on the shogunate in Japan. He notes briefly, "Kutsuki Masatsuna, daimyo of Fukuchiyama, was ... one of the chief Westernists of his day. He was also an energetic numismatist and in 1787 published a large book called Western Coinage (SeiyoSenpu) which displayed, in a series of plates ordered by country, examples of tender from most European states and their colonies ..."
    The nature of the SeiyoSenpu makes it impossible to tell what metal was used to make the Rhode Island Ship piece depicted, but it was almost assuredly copper or brass, as the pewter pieces, such as the example offered here, are far rarer today. Though it shows no trace of wear, certain areas of the pewter, including spots on the margins and the bow of the ship, show effects from the passage of time. Still, this is a generally bright representative with excellent eye appeal and great historical worth. Listed on page 48 of the 2010 Guide Book. (NGC ID# 2AUN, PCGS# 585)

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

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