Transcript No. 680
May 12, 1995
by Wayne Homren
Mother's Day is this Sunday. In many churches all over America,
proud Moms will beam as their children receive their First Communion. But did
you know that some church-goers once needed a "license" to receive communion?
The license we're talking about was known as a "communion
token." While the practice is obsolete today, many collectors still seek out
these old time badges of religious faith.
The communion ceremony in the modern Christian church
commemorates Christ's Last Supper. It's a time when parishioners reaffirm
their faith by ceremonially consuming bread and wine, just as the Apostles did
at the Last Supper.
This rite was guarded closely by members of the early church.
The Protestant branch of the faith began using communion tokens to guard
against outsiders, and to symbolize membership and faith. In many churches,
it was common practice to give a metal token to each parishioner who attended
a preparatory service, and was worthy to later receive communion. At the
actual communion ceremony, the parishioner would return the token in exchange
for the sacrament.
For hundreds of years, communion tokens were used in churches
throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and America. The early tokens were
crude hand-made affairs---bearing only the initials of the church or pastor.
Later tokens were more elaborate, often bearing a likeness of Christ's
drinking cup. Most were made of lead or pewter---but brass, ivory, porcelain,
and even silver were also used.
By 1900, most churches had stopped using the tokens---and today,
communion tokens are more likely to be found in museums than churches. While
European communion tokens are relatively common---most American tokens are
rare, and worth hundreds of dollars to collectors.
This has been "Money Talks." Today's program was written by
Wayne Homren and underwritten by Western Publishing Company, serving
collectors for more than 50 years. "Money Talks" is a copyrighted program of
the American Numismatic Association, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO