Johnson as Icon


Tradesmen’s Tokens Depicting Samuel Johnson. 1793, 1796, and undated. *2003JM-216

Due to a shortage of official small-denomination copper coinage in the 1790s, the  practice of manufacturing private tokens briefly flourished in order to facilitate small commercial transactions. These three halfpenny tokens, issued in Lichfield and Birmingham, depict Johnson as a civic hero and counterpart to the royal portraits on official coinage.