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John Skidmore – one of the most reprehensible dealers of the time


London – Holborn and Clerkenwell, John Skidmore (ironmonger and token manufacturer) Halfpenny 1795, Two men working at a forge, rev. iron fire-grate, edge diagonally milled, 29.5mm/9.97gm. (DH 480). As struck with almost full lustre and marvellous iridescence.   £90-140

A. H. Baldwins and Sons, a renowned name in numismatic history, is set to host a captivating auction on the 11th of October, featuring a rare and exceptional collection of late eighteenth-century token halfpennies. These tokens are a fascinating window into the political upheavals that swept across Britain during a tumultuous period, marked by the loss of its North American colonies and conflict with republican France.
John Skidmore sold fire grates and stoves at his showrooms at No. 123 High Holborn that were manufactured at his iron foundry in Coppice Row, Clerkenwell. As a subsidiary to his main line of business he also started to make and sell ‘tokens ‘and in 1795 issued his own token halfpenny (above) advertising his business. It would appear that the token side of the business was run by his second son Paul who is the P in the PSCo. Cypher in the Skidmore’s London Churches series. Skidmore generally used Charles James as his die engraver and from 1795 to 1797 he had many tokens issued which he sold to the enthusiastically collecting public. Dies were often mixed to create new varieties as can be seen in the following Skidmore ‘mule’ tokens. At the end of the century Paul Skidmore, with his brother Meremoth went to New York and opened up an ironmonger’s there which failed soon after. Meremoth returned to the family business in London but it is not certain what Paul did – is he the Paul Skidmore that is reported a few years later as living in Louisville, Kentucky – or had he died – either could explain the fact that he is not mentioned in his father’s will in 1822.
FROM LONDON TO LOUISVILLE: the journey of P Skidmore
John Skidmore, once described as “one of the most reprehensible dealers of the time” was born in Kingswinford, Staffordshire, in 1739 and married Nancy Jones in 1751. By 1784 he is listed as having a stove and grate business in Clerkenwell and subsequently a shop in High Holborn.
How his token business was organised is unclear but the majority of his medallic issues are identified by the monogram “PSC0” or the name P Skidmore. It has always been assumed the “P” stood for Peter, but no one of that name exists in the Skidmore family and in fact the son of “Skidmore and Son” is the eldest child, Meremoth, who was taken into partnership in 1795. John and Nancy Skidmore had six children, Meremoth and a daughter Sarah born before they left Staffordshire, additionally Gamaliel, another daughter and two more sons, were born in London. The eldest of this latter group was Paul Skidmore, who was born on 22 December 1775 and baptised at St James, Clerkenwell on 04 February 1776. It is known that he was apprenticed to bricklayer and tyler Samuel Gray in December 1789 and had an interest in art, as witnessed by a letter he wrote to the Royal Society of Arts in March 1796. Thereafter, the trail goes cold. He is not mentioned in his father’s will of August 1822 and it was presumed that he had predeceased him.
However, recent research has shown that he had made the long and arduous voyage to America and was trading with his brother as P&G Skidmore at 222 Pearl Street, New York in June 1798. Close to the East River, they were offering for sale jewellery and all types of metalware imported from England. Sadly, the business was unsuccessful. By 1801, Gameliel had returned home and Paul was embroiled in the first of a number of court cases for debt, which eventually led to his bankruptcy. He resurfaces over 700 miles away in Montgomery County, Kentucky in 1805 and the following year is based at the Bourbon Furnace in nearby Bath County. His journey west takes him via Lexington to Louisville where he starts the city’s first iron foundry in 1812 and that along with other reports, show that is was clearly successful. He married Matilda Frances Gwathmey in 1815, the daughter of a prominent local businessman.
Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is being the architect of “Farmington” a Jefferson style historic house built in 1816, which still stands today and is open to the public. His will was signed on 04 December 1817 in New Orleans and he died there shortly after. The New York Evening Post of 24 January 1818 reports his death somewhat inaccurately as: “At Louisville, Paul Skidmore, native of London”
The auction will take place on the 11th of October 2023, at A.H. Baldwin’s location at 399 Strand, London. Interested bidders can participate in person, by phone, or online through the company’s website.

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