John Morse: Pirates in Watford or a health warning?
Many Seventeenth century tokens feature designs showing the issuer’s
trade or occupation or heraldry. This is unusual as it shows a skeleton holding
an hour glass and an arrow. Why is this?
The simple answer is a pun. The issuer was a man called John Morse which
sounds like the word mors which is Latin for death.The reverse side has the initials of the issuer, IM, for John Morse
(Iohannes Morse in Latin), with a second I. Usually (if the issuer is a man),
the initials include that of his wife, but Morse was widowed, hence the
repetition of his initial (Unless his wife’s name was Irene or similar!).
There are references to John as a puritan preacher living in Watford. He
had some dispute with William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania. [i]
The use of such a morbid image seems strange for a religious preacher. Although
rare on tokens the image was well known in graveyards as you would expect, and
also on pirate flags like the skull and crossbones. The addition of an
hourglass meant that time was running out and an arrow hinted at violent or
This token was issued in 1666 the year of the Great Fire of London and a
year after the Great Plague. Watford is less than twenty miles from London and
survivors would have moved out to the countryside. Perhaps this token hints at
the need to prepare against sudden or violent death.So some tokens come with a health warning.
If you are
self-isolating because of the pandemic here is a health-related coin. It is
from Panama and is a 1/4 cuarto de balboa 2008.
The inscription is protegete mujer
Which means protect yourself woman
and is about breast cancer awareness.
Are there any health issues
There was a story in
2014 about the Royal Mint issuing coins clad in nickel.Instead of the copper-nickel alloy that had been
used since 1947, new 5p and 10p pieces were made from steel and coated with a
layer of nickel. However, some people suffer from a nickel allergy.
You should wash your hands if
you handle cash
In the Middle Ages a lot of
people died as a result of coins – they were executed for counterfeiting
It is dangerous to swallow
coins unless they are made of chocolate. If you do swallow one call a doctor
for advice. Do not wait until you go to the toilet to see if there is any