Token Circulation

Very little research has been carried out on how far tokens circulated. Here, the recording of finds by Norfolk’s Identification and Recording Service (I&R S) has an enormously important part to play. There are large numbers of tokens recorded in the I&R S archives, a result of a fruitful liaison with metal detectorists that dates back to the 1970s. Since the start of 2007 Adrian Marsden has made a note of each find and some older records have been found in the paper archives – although many more remain there for future retrieval. The total of records now on Adrian’s list – over 2,500 – enables distribution maps to be produced that can begin to answer the question of how far tokens travelled.

There are some problems. Since the I&R S only knows of finds that are reported and recorded, non-reported tokens cannot feature on the list. Furthermore, in areas where metal-detecting is not taking place, a similar blank will feature on the map. Nonetheless, the maps produced are useful. In each case each token is represented by a dot placed in the parish where it was found. Where large numbers have been found in one parish, the larger dot represents a particular number of tokens given in the key.

It becomes clear that the private issues of small places such as Cley, Foulsham and Outwell/Upwell do not in general travel very far at all from their place of issue. They must have been acceptable only fairly close to where they were issued. Even the private tokens of the three large settlements of Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn tend to be found mainly in the relevant part of Norfolk. There is some spread but the tokens of Lynn’s private traders rarely travel to the East of Norfolk just as those of Yarmouth rarely travel to the West.

The Corporation issues, larger in size and backed by the authority of the Corporation, travelled further. Although it is likely that their acceptability as small change lessened the further they travelled from their place of issue, they still seem to have circulated for some distance. The distribution maps below show the state of play towards the end of May 2019. Future maps will no doubt reinforce the picture.

One point deserves comment. Enormous numbers of tokens have been found in Postwick. This is the result of the dumping of Norwich’s nightsoil in the area. Thus the Postwick tokens represent tokens lost in Norwich. Yarmouth and Lynn probably dumped their nightsoil in the sea – certainly no comparable site has yet been discovered in their environs.


Corporation distribution maps


Diss Corp. Tokens

King's Lynn Corp.Tokens

Norwich Corp. Tokens

Great Yarmouth Corp. Tokens

Private token distribution maps


Aylsham TokensEast Dereham TokensKings Lynn Private tokens Norwich private tokens

Upwell and Outwell tokens

Great Yarmouth Private Tokens


These maps are available in pdf format via the link below:

PDF: Detailed Token Distribution Maps