The Mary Anning Token

The Mary Anning Token - Side 1

One side of the Mary Anning token showing her name and the year 1810 in Roman numerals

This one-inch (25mm) brass “token” was found on Lyme’s eastern beach by Phil Goodwin, whilst metal detecting in 2014, after storms and during the new sea wall works. We think that it could have been made by her father or her brother for her 11th birthday.

Her father’s cabinet maker’s workshop was on the site of Lyme Regis museum. She could even have made it herself. Of course there are many other possible suggestions for its origin, and in any event we cannot prove it was hers. If it was Mary Anning’s own keepsake – and it’s a big if – it is a rare relic of the famous fossil collector, apart from the major fossils she collected for science, now sprinkled around the main museums. The “token” has no hole for attachment to a chain or for use as a tag, and the lettering is irregularly punched, using proper metal punches, “MARY ANNING MDCCCX” (1810) on one side and “LYME REGIS AGE XI” (11) on the other. The disc used could have been a blank from her father’s cabinet maker’s workshop. The denticles (teeth) on the edge are typical of such Georgian furniture metalwork. Mary Anning is the only known person of that name who would have been 11 in 1810 and who lived in Lyme Regis.

The Mary Anning Token - Side 2

The other side of the Mary Anning token with “LYME REGIS AGE XI” stamped on it

Other possible explanations for the “token” are:

As Mary Anning’s Own:

Poor Relief, Bread, Communion or School Token or Tally – the Annings were on poor relief after her father’s illness and death, shortly after the token was dated. No such other Lyme Regis tokens are known. Unlike industrial tallies and checks, these tokens were usually finely struck, like modern coins, unless Lyme was backward. Communion tokens are mainly Scottish, outside the tradition of the Congregational Church she attended in Coombe Street. If it were any one of these items, it would likely have a hole for use with a tag or chain, to avoid loss.

An item from a fair – fairs visited Lyme and no doubt Mary would have gone to them and maybe this was made on a fairground stall for her birthday, for her to put in a purse?

Not as Mary Anning’s Own:

Commemorative souvenir – as a souvenir, it seems too crude. In any case, the main reason for her fame was her big fossil finds, and the date of 1810 is before her first major fossil discovery.

Metal item made by someone, perhaps a test piece at school – possible. Would the dates be correct and in Roman numerals?

Hoax – it must be a possibility that it was made at some time after Mary Anning became famous and placed, maybe not on the beach, to be found and to deceive.

Please note:

The token was found and kindly donated to the Museum by Phil Goodwin.

The pdf of the paper by Mike Taylor & Richard Bull is © Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society and appears here with the permission of the Society’s Editor.

The pictures are by Mike Applegate.

It is on display in the Museum.

To read the paper, click the following link: The Mary Anning Token – Research Paper