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    Undated Ricketts's Circus Token, MS62
    Extremely Rare Silver Impression
    Rulau E-PA-428

    Undated (1793-99) Ricketts's Circus, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Silver, Rulau E-PA-428, R.8, MS62 NGC. The story of John Bill Ricketts and his circus tokens, silver and bronze, was told in Roger S. Siboni's article, "The Ricketts's Circus Tokens," that appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of the MCA Advisory. The obverse features the Ricketts family coat of arms while the reverse has RICKETTS'S CIRCUS on two lines with a wreath below and ornamentation above. The 1793 to 1799 date range for these undated tokens is based on the time that Ricketts's Circus operated in Philadelphia. The circus opened on April 3, 1793, to nearly 700 patrons. The end of the affair in Philadelphia occurred in December 1799 when the circus and several nearby buildings were lost to a fire that began when a trusted employee left a lit candle in the building.

    Ricketts's Circus was intended to provide entertainment for Philadelphia's upper class. Box seats were one dollar and general admission seats were 50 cents, a significant amount when a typical member of the working class may have earned one dollar per day. The performances were unlike those of modern 20th or 21st century circuses. Emphasis was on horsemanship and equestrian displays. Siboni writes:

    "In that era, the circus was ordered in a far different format from the one we think of today. The best circuses in Europe would provide a range of entertainment, generally including pantomime, opera, singing and instrumental music, along with rope dancing, balancing acts, clowning, acrobatics and equestrian performances."

    The silver and bronze tokens may have been admission tickets to the circus. In fact, Siboni reports that in October 1796 Ricketts advertised "Silver Tickets" that functioned as season passes. There were 32 theater performances conducted during the 1796-1797 season. These tokens are believed to be a product of the U.S. Mint, the first tokens or medals issued at that facility. Dies for the Ricketts's Circus tokens were included on a U.S. Mint inventory in the middle 19th century.

    Both sides of this important token feature a sharp, well-centered strike with full border denticles. The silver-gray surfaces have splashes of gold and blue-steel toning. These tokens are extremely rare. The Donald G. Partrick Collection has a second silver example (XF details, plugged) that will appear in a future Partrick sale. A third silver example is held in the American Numismatic Society Collection. We know of no others.
    Ex: RARCOA (9/1972); Donald G. Partrick. Possibly Ex: J.N.T. Levick Sale (W.E. Woodward, 5/1884), lot 1164; Benjamin Betts Collection (Lyman H. Low, 1/1898), lot 228; Virgil M. Brand (journal #17863).

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

    View all of [The Donald G. Partrick Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Proxy Bidding Ends
    21st Thursday 4:50 pm CT
    Auction Dates
    20th-24th Wednesday-Sunday
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    (Lots 3900-3973) - 5:00 PM Central Time, Thursday, January 21, 2021.
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    Dallas, TX 75261

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