copper alloy token displaying a double-headed eagle
Groningen token

This token, known as raadsteken, was issued in 1590 by the city council of Groningen in the Netherlands. Originally it was used by council members to obtain beer and wine at a pub which was conveniently located in the town hall where council meetings took place. Later the tokens were accepted more broadly, redeemable in exchange for three Dutch stuivers. During the Dutch War of Independence, the city of Groningen produced many of these tokens and they circulated as a form of currency.

The token prominently features an imperial double-headed eagle with outstretched wings and feet. Under the necks of the eagles, there is a six-pointed star to left and a circle to right. Between the two eagles heads is the letter “G” for the city of Groningen. Below the feet of the eagles is the date, 1590 astride the city shield of Groningen. The reverse is plain, and only has four dots or pellets which are a result of the tokens manufacture. 

The double-headed eagle, a symbol of strength and authority often seen in heraldic imagery throughout Europe, is specifically associated with the city of Groningen. A black bicephalous eagle is central to the city’s coat of arms. The symbol’s current use may be based on earlier city symbols used by Groningen that were influenced by the city’s membership in the Hanseatic League, a European commercial monopoly that facilitated trade in Groningen until the 1530s.

By 1609, the Netherlands was an independent country and all tokens were removed from local circulation. Notably, very few of this type of token have been found in archaeological contexts in England, indicating that these tokens were obsolete in both the Netherlands and England by the early 17th century. This may have provided an opportunity for the Virginia Company to purchase the coins for use at Jamestown. Seventeen of these tokens have been found at Jamestown, most dating to 1590, others dating to 1583 or 1591.

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