19th Century Tokens from the Collection of the Late Francis Cokayne

19th Century Tokens from the Collection of the Late Francis Cokayne

Francis Cokayne (1871 - 1945)

Francis Cokayne was born on 7 August 1871 at Ashbourne House, Putney, the south London home of his parents, George Edward Adams, FSA (1825-1911), a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, and his wife, Mary Dorothea, née Gibbs (1833-1906). He was the seventh of eight children; his Father assumed the name Cokayne in August 1873 when he was appointed Clarenceux King of Arms. The Cokayne family moved to Exeter House, Roehampton in 1885. Cokayne was educated at Charterhouse, 1884-90, where he excelled at racquets; going up to Oriel College, Oxford in 1890, he continued to play racquets and tennis for his college and passed out with a BA in 1893. Appointed a partner in the City firm of David Bevan & Co, stockbrokers, in 1899, he became a member of the London Stock Exchange. In December 1909, at the age of 38, he married Dorothy Emily Probyn (1889-1963), second daughter of Sir Leslie Probyn, KCMG (1862-1938), a former lawyer and then Governor of Sierra Leone. The family settled at 54 Montagu Square, London; their only son, Thomas Probyn Cokayne (1920-43), a lieutenant in the 70th Field Regt, RA and an escaped prisoner of war, died in Lazio, Italy, in October 1943, but their three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne and Susan, all lived into old age. In 1929 the Cokayne family moved to 1 Bryanston Square, London, and with the onset of War moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where Cokayne died on 31 March 1945.

According to the late James O’Donald Mays, writing in 1991, Cokayne’s interest in numismatics developed while he was at Oxford. Certainly by the mid-1890s he had started to collect tokens, and by the turn of the century was a regular customer of the dealers Lincoln, Spink and Baldwin. He was a shrewd but avid buyer, either through the dealers or in his own name, at the principal auctions between 1900 and 1940, and tickets in his distinctive hand are widely known among present-day connoisseurs of the various series of tokens, tickets and passes that he collected. Because he was active for so long, and had the financial wherewithal to back up his knowledge, Cokayne acquired tokens from many of the best-known cabinets of the day – Lloyd, Davis, Norman, Dudman, Bliss, Dalton, Clements, Harris, McKenzie, Hamer, Fletcher, to name but a few. Regular visits to the coin shops of Edgar Lincoln in Holles Street, Holborn, and to Albert Baldwin in Duncannon Street, and later the Adelphi, where he became a particular friend of Albert’s second son, Fred Baldwin (1889-1970), would invariably result in new acquisitions, although acquisitions from Spink tended to be pieces that Cokayne had spotted in the company’s Numismatic Circular, whether upon the Circular’s publication, or occasionally when the compiler of the company’s token lists had sent Cokayne an advanced ‘pre-publication’ copy.

Apart from numismatics, Cokayne regularly undertook trips to Scotland for shooting and fishing, and to the continent of Europe for sightseeing. A keen naturalist, he also collected butterflies and wild flowers and maintained a notable wine cellar.

Cokayne suffered two burglaries during his lifetime, a result of him keeping his collection at home. Each time the collection was rebuilt, and what remained at the end of his life was the best and most comprehensive collection of British 18th and 19th century tokens ever formed by a single person. Pieces of museum quality abound among this, the last major group of his 19th century copper tokens to be sold; his contemporary silver tokens, catalogued by Fred Baldwin, were sold by Glendining’s in 1946. Most of the following tokens were hand-picked for their unusually fine condition – the 19th century series was struck for a genuine need, rather than as collector’s pieces, so the vast majority only exist in Fine or, at best, VF. One of the prizes here, Lot 916, is by far the most important early 19th century Welsh token in existence, with only four owners from new, but there are many others to delight the connoisseur in the following pages.
Peter Preston-Morley