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The English public became attached to these censer pieces and used them up until 1920 and perhaps even later. Over the years, many thousands of the false shekels were cast or struck by German, Czechoslovakian, English and American manufacturers in several types of metal Examples can be found in gold, silver, tin, iron, brass, bronze, lead, pewter and, in later years, in aluminum. Many types were made of white metal (sometimes called pot metal) a soft alloy of copper and tin that looked like silver and was used in making inexpensive kitchen utensils. Some of the later yellow brass tokens were washed with a thin coating of silver or gold and these can be found today with the plating partially intact. Many of these tokens were meant to be worn and they often have pins or suspension loops attached.

The later censer pieces were not only used as badges by Christian pilgrims but also as illustrations of ancient biblical coins by church study groups in Europe and by Sunday Schools in America. On January 7, 1857, the New York Herald newspaper published a notice advertising the sale of such a "Sunday School" shekel which was labeled as a "facsimile of the shekel of the sanctuary". This American censer piece, made by a Mr. A. Nicholas, differed from its European cousins only in that, on the reverse, the word JERUSALEM appeared on the right side of the token rather than on the left, perhaps to give a reading of JERUSALEM THE HOLY. In fact, there are numerous variations in the designs of the censer pieces, over 200 are known to date, and a complete catalog of types has never been attempted. Most large museums and numismatic societies have small collections of these false shekels available for study.

The American censer piece, used in Sunday Schools, which can be dated to around 1857 from the notice in the New York Herald of that date. It is struck in silver, 35 millimeters in diameter and weighs 14 grams. It also was struck in bronze and brass. From the Kisch collection, Kisch B34.

The last design types of these tokens, fabricated from 1890 to 1920, were usually cast in brass or made of silver plated brass but solid silver examples are also known. The tokens were well made from dies or molds on nicely round blanks. Over the years, the design of the censer and the budding rod became highly refined and the lettering became more accurate. However, the manufacturers often copied the older tokens or imitations casting them in molds made directly from the first copies and many crude types exist. The last types of tokens fabricated are commonly found today, usually in coin dealers 'bargain trays' or 'junk boxes' because they are not highly regarded or desired by serious collectors.

This is one of the last types of censer piece and it may have been issued after 1920. It is struck or cast in silver plated brass, 33 millimeters in diameter and weighing 9.2 grams. This is the type most commonly found at coin shows today. Similar to Kisch D1.

The majority of the censer pieces were made during the great renewal of religion in the 19th century and were used to signify the wearers' belief and the truth of the words of the Bible. Displaying the token proclaimed an affirmation of faith just as if the wearer had gone on an arduous pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This intense religious revival affected many political parties, social organizations and church groups in England and the tokens also expressed a philo-Judaism that flourished among some of the intellectuals and politicians of Great Britain. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was only a political document but the members of the government who formulated it were strongly influenced by this surge of religious feelings. Most of them fully agreed with the sentiments expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his preface to the book 'Walks About Jerusalem'. In the end, the Balfour Declaration represented a Utopian political policy that could never be implemented but it set the historical precedent and guidelines for the establishment of the modem state of Israel.

Notes and Bibliography.

  1. 'Shekel Medals & False Shekels' by Bruno Kisch, in Historic: Judaica, Vol. Ill, Oct. 1941, New York. pages 67 to 101.
  2. The painting is noted by G. F. Hill in 'False Shekels' in his book The Medallic portraits o) Christ, Oxford Press, 1920, page 87. This painting is rarely illustrated in the catalogues of the Uffizi gallery but a detail of the picture showing the Censer Pieces was reproduced in an article by Hill in The Reliquary and illustrated Archaeologist, VIII, 1904, page 135.
  3. Apparatus Urbis ac Templi Heirosolymitani, Vol. Ill, parts I and 2, by J. B. Villalpandus, Rome, 1604, page 390 and plate facing page 378.
  4. Article on Palmer's bells by H. B. Walters in Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucester Arch- aeological Society, xxxiv, page 119. Also noted in Hill's 'False Shekels', footnote on page 90.
  5. 'False Shekels' in The Medallic Portraits of Christ by G. F. Hill, Oxford Press, 1920, page 78.
  6. 'Shekel Medals and False Shekels' as above, page 92.

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