100708 | GREAT BRITAIN. England. William I 'the Conqueror' silver Jeton.
100708 | GREAT BRITAIN. England. William I 'the Conqueror' silver faux-engraved Jeton or Gaming Counter. Issued circa 1635-1637. Series 5: Sovereigns of England: Half length (24mm, 2.00 g, 12h). By the school of Simon van der Passe.
WILLIAM THE CONQVEROR DVX NORMANDY, helmeted and armored bust left, holding sword and shield / Crowned and garnished shield within ornate border. Mitchener p. 1675, 3. Good Very Fine. Lightly toned; inconsequential edge cut at 5h on the obverse.
Gambling and games of chance have served as a form of entertainment and excitement during much of recorded history in one way or another, and many of these games necessitate some form of accounting during play. In early modern Europe, jetons were commonly employed for these purposes and allowed for skilled engravers to promote their artistry. One such engraver was Simon van der Passe, born in Utrecht circa 1585.
Van der Passe worked in England from 1616–1621/2, having founded a school after being exempted from the royal monopoly given previously to Nicholas Hilliard. This exemption allowed for the "graving and imprinting medailles" and small portraits of the king, and van der Passe utilized his technique for the production of numerous series of jetons or gaming counters, initially employing portraits of the Stuarts, James I and later Charles I with his wife, Henrietta Maria. Though Simon would return to Holland in 1621/2, his London-based school continued under the management of his brother, William. Subsequent issues of these jetons would feature Gustav Adolph and his wife, Maria Eleonora, the sovereigns of England, 'classical portraits' of historical and biblical figures, 'street cries,' and the commonwealth.
Of even greater interest and debate among numismatists over the past century has been the method of manufacture of these jetons. Their appearance at first glance would lead one to believe that they have been individually engraved owing to their incuse design. It is thought that, in fact, these ornate counters were skillfully cast and polished in order to generate this 'faux-engraved' effect.
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