Simon Gray, "A Study of Australasian Trade Tokens"
Self-Published, Perth, 2013
Hardback, 216 pages
This book is an invaluable contribution to the study of the Australasian token series.
Collecting Australian tradesman's tokens can be a real exercise in self-reliance - the series has such a wide scope, and there is such a need for attention to be paid to the fine details of each token that it can be challenging to get enough information to make sense of it all.
"A Study of Australasian Trade Tokens" is one of the biggest contributions to the body of knowledge of Australian tradesman's tokens in many, many years. While Andrews and Rennik's have obviously been around for decades, I'd assert that Simon Gray's contribution builds on the information in both of those references, and adds some new information along the way.
That all of this information is presented in a structured way and in attractive, hardback format, is a real bonus. It is also profusely illustrated with colour images, where decent colour images have actually been available!
I've said before that the tradesman's token series really is a true collector's market - just how much a particular token will cost you is entirely dependent on supply and demand, prices move about accordingly.
I believe it's a refreshing and novel approach for a numismatic reference work to focus mainly on values for items in average circulated condition - the focus from this approach is on educating collectors that are entering the market for the first time about how much they might expect to pay for tokens in the grade they're most often seen in - it's of little use to a novice to know that a particular token will fetch $2,750 in Uncirculated condition if they're not likely to see one within the next decade. Far more constructive to let them know what an average one is worth, and then let them work out for themselves how much a better example will bring once they've built up some experience. More detail about the values in each grade would certainly be useful, however this book is intended as an illustrated reference, not just a simple price guide.
I also believe the real value in the book is the context it presents it's information in - Simon's taken at least a dozen pages to set the scene for the Australian token collector - he discusses their historical importance, lists the token makers and issuers, introduces the idea of a rarity scale as well as a grading guide, and provides guidance about the different ways tokens can be grouped and collected.
Make no mistake, if you're into tradesman's tokens to any degree, or if you're considering embarking into this rewarding area of our national numismatic heritage, you must get a copy of this book!
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